By Steve Robinson | October 16, 2017 - 10:55 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Council members, by a 5-2 vote, approved a resolution authorizing approval of sales tax sharing agreements with Phillips Edison & Company for Greenbriar and College Station Plaza Shopping Centers. Both retail areas are located along Veterans Parkway. Greenbriar Shopping Center houses Fresh Market Grocers, and College Station Plaza houses Bed, Bath, & Beyond. While they are owned by the same company, the shopping centers are divided into two legal entities.

Council members Kathleen Lorenz and Scott Preston cast the opposing votes.

Phillips Edison & Co. is seeking help because of financial strains caused by Dick’s Sporting Goods relocating from their shopping properties to Empire Crossing Shopping Center in Bloomington. Phillips Edison & Co. hopes additional dollars brought in with the Council’s positive vote will help them to pay for facility improvements which they believe, will help them retain existing tenants whose leases will expire in the next few years.

Phillips, Edison & Co. has, according to a Town Staff report, already spent $400,000 on capital improvements to the facility. The Town Staff report estimates that by approving the agreement, there would be a net revenue gain to Normal over a 10-year period of $4.8 million.

An executive with Phillips, Edison & Co., Scott Adair, told Council members the company if the company doesn’t perform as expected by the Town, the company would not receive the anticipated incentive. The arrangement between the company and the Town wouldn’t be about “a handout,” Adair said. “It’s about a partnership.” He told Council members the company has capital of its own “but it’s not in excess.”

Capital used by Phillips, Edison & Co. on the two shopping centers would be used to upgrade new tenants’ spaces, not on existing tenants. “If they don’t generate the revenue, they won’t get the rebate,” City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members.

Following the meeting, Preston explained his opposing vote, saying, “The thing I kept coming back to is that Phillips, Edison & Co. would or would not undertake these investments themselves without our incentives.” They have enough capital to make investments into their properties, Preston explained, adding that because of that, they don’t need financial assistance from the Town.

Prior to the presentation, Council members heard from former Normal Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli and former Normal Town Council Candidate Ron Ulmer, both of whom spoke in opposition to the proposed agreement.

Council Approves Motion To Receive 20-Year Solid Waste Management Plan: Council members unanimously approved a motion to receive a 20-year resource and recovery, or solid waste, management plan submitted to them by the Ecology Action Center. Michael Brown, executive director for the Ecology Action Center gave a brief presentation on McLean County’s history of dealing with solid waste. In the past month, he has given the presentation also to members of Bloomington City Council and McLean County Land Use Committee. Each of those bodies also voted to receive the plan. Following those votes, there is now a 90-day comment period for the public to look over and make comments concerning the plan.

The finalized plan will be brought back to Council members for final approval sometime early next year.

Children’s Museum Director Resigns: Monday’s Council session was the final one attended by Cultural Arts Department Director and Children’s Discovery Museum Executive Director Shelleigh Birlingmair. A Town press release announced she has resigned to accept a Development position at Advocate-BroMenn/Advocate Eureka. Birlingmair has been with the Town since last October. Birlingmair’s resignation is effective at the end of October.

County Planning Commission, Council Hold Work Session: Prior to the Council session, Council members held a joint work session in Council Chambers with members of the McLean County Planning Commission. Vasudha Pinnamaraju, executive director of McLean County Regional Planning Commission and a team which included professionals from the Town and other community groups, presented to Council and Commission members an update on what the community can do to help its citizens as the Town moves into its next 25 years.

Among the suggestions made by a team that worked on a report which put subjects into focus was that infrastructure improvements and public safety go hand-in-hand. A draft of the plan is currently available online at the Town’s website, www.normal.org. At their Nov. 9 meeting, Normal Planning Commission members will vote to send the report on to Normal Town Council for final approval. That could happen as early as the Council’s Nov. 20 meeting.

Liquor Commission Imposes Fine, Receives Payment Installments: Prior to the Council session, Council members, serving as the Normal Local Liquor Commission, heard a settled case report concerning a fine paid by Kroger Limited Partnership 1, doing business as Kroger J-347, 1550 E. College Ave., for furnishing liquor to an underage person on July 26. Because this was the second offense in two years for the store, the Town imposed and Kroger paid a $1,000 fine.

Also during this session, Commissioners were informed there were 12 liquor license holders who needed to pay their annual license fee to the Town. Mayor Chris Koos explained to the gathering six licensees had paid their fee in two installments while four others paid in full by the Town’s Sept. 30 deadline. However, as of the deadline, there were still two license holders who had paid the Town and have been sent balance due notices.

Commissioners also approved minutes from a regularly-scheduled meeting held July 17 and a special session called on Aug. 21.

Uptown Holiday Lights Ceremony Held: Between the work session and Council meeting, Town and Illinois State University officials held their annual Uptown Tree Lighting Ceremony. The ceremony, as in years past, has formally been the kickoff event for ISU’s Homecoming celebration. ISU has various events scheduled leading up to Saturday’s Homecoming festivities.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Oct. 2, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Oct. 11, 2017.

• A resolution to waive the formal bid process and award a contract to Charlotte, N. C.-based GameTime C/O Cunningham Associates, Inc. for the purchase of modular playgrounds under the U. S. Communities Purchasing Program for Fell Park and Underwood Park in the amount of $112,500.74.

• A resolution approving executive session meeting minutes from July 17, Aug. 11, Aug. 21, Sept. 18, and Oct. 2, all 2017.

• A resolution conditionally reapproving a final plat for the J&M Planned Unit Development – Phase I at Cottage Ave. and Village Ct.

• A resolution conditionally approving the final plat of the resubdivision of One Normal Plaza Planned Unit Development by expedited process (former ISSCS Administration Building).

By Steve Robinson | October 2, 2017 - 10:00 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a resolution allowing the Town to spend an additional $35,000 in construction costs related to the replacement of traffic signals at the intersection of Towanda and Vernon Avenues. The Town has already spent $220,000 on the project, its share of costs with the project, jointly paid for with the City of Bloomington.

The cause for the extra expense was due to needing to replace transverse contraction joints in the concrete which “were in very poor shape” according to a memo from Town Engineer Gene Brown to City Manager Mark Peterson.

That repair also let for Council members to unanimously approve a supplemental resolution to appropriate an additional $35,000 of Town Motor Fuel Tax dollars which the Town would use to pay for traffic signal improvements at the Towanda-Vernon intersection. Council members originally approved the $220,000 expenditure for this project in February.

Council Tours New Normal Fire Station #1: Prior to the meeting, Council members received a guided tour of the new Normal Fire Department’s Station #1, located at the corner of Main and Dale Streets. Fire Chief Mick Humer and two of his senior officers gave City Manager Mark Peterson, Mayor Chris Koos, and Council members a guided tour of the new facility which should begin operations sometime later this month. Once in operation, the new station will replace the existing Fire Station #1, located at the intersection of College Ave. and Blair Dr.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Sept. 18, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Sept. 27, 2017.

• A resolution to award the bid for a service truck with utility body for the Water Department to Bloomington-based Sam Leman Ford at a net cost of $37,133.47 including a trade-in allowance.

• A resolution to award the bid for a backhoe loader for the Town Water Department to Martin Equipment, Inc. at a net cost of $45,115 including a trade-in allowance.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding procedure and accept quotes totaling $69,734.58 from Dell for the purchase of computer equipment.

• A resolution to accept water treatment plant chemical bids for November 2017 through October 2018.

• A resolution accepting the base bid, Alternative 2, Alternative 4, and authorizing a contract with Decatur-based CraftMasters, Inc. for the replacement of low slope roofing systems at the Community Activity Center in the amount of $88,900.

• An ordinance adopting a revised purchasing policy manual.

By Steve Robinson | September 18, 2017 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members approved a resolution allowing the Town to offer an incentive for certain employees within a certain pay classification to retire. Called the Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI), the offer to retire early will help the Town in its effort to reduce personnel costs.

Employees who are eligible for VSI need to meet certain requirements. Those include: Being employees who are not in bargaining units who hold certain pay grades; Have completed 15 years of service with the Town as of Dec. 31, 2018, and will be 55 years old by that date; and are eligible to receive pension benefits from Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) by that date upon separating from their employment with the Town.

Employees taking advantage of Normal’s VSI offer would receive, upon retirement, a year’s worth of health and dental benefits at the same rate as current employees. Town employees have until mid-October to commit to a firm retirement date. Given those parameters, the Town has 18 employees eligible to consider the VSI offer.

A public comment on the subject came from former Town Council candidate Ron Ulmer, objecting to the early retirement program. Ulmer added he didn’t want to see the Town allow for early retirement “in any way.” He said a government’s problems are “frequently caused by spending.”

Agreement Approving Closing Of Maple Hill Rd. Rail Crossing Passes: Council members unanimously approved authorizing executing an agreement with Illinois Commerce Commission which would permanently eliminate the Norfolk Southern Railroad crossing on Maple Hill Rd. This road has been closed since the late 1990s as a result of low traffic through the area combined with high maintenance costs. Norfolk Southern Railroad still maintains the crossing signals in that area and requested the crossing be vacated.

The Town’s agreement with Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) includes incentive payments from Norfolk Southern and the Grade Crossing Protection Fund. The Grade Crossing Protection Fund is overseen by ICC. Also in the agreement, the railroad provides an incentive payment for the crossing closure of $15,000, as well as a $5,000 reimbursement to the Town for costs associated with installation of permanent traffic barriers at the crossing.

For its part in the agreement, the Town will be obligated to, among other conditions in the agreement, install and maintain permanent traffic barriers near the railroad’s right-of-way line.

Land Acquisition Discussion Questioned: Council members were slated to go into executive session to discuss property acquisition at the conclusion of the public meeting to discuss property acquisition. That prompted public comment from former Mayoral candidate Marc Tiritilli. Tiritilli asked the Town to cease its use of the Fairview Building, which is owned by the county, as well as the Town’s considering purchasing the building. The county is considering demolishing the building, which is located at 905 N. Main St., and is known to some in the area as a result of one of its prior uses as the Tuberculosis Sanitarium.

Dave Shields Appointed To Normal Planning Commission: Dave Shields has been appointed to the Normal Planning Commission, filling a vacancy created when Arlene Hosea left so she could become a member of the Normal Township Board. A resident of Normal since 2011, Shields is a 35-year employee of State Farm Insurance, currently working in their Strategic Resources area.

Shields is a 2015 graduate of the Multicultural Leadership Program and also has served on the Town’s 2040 Vision Committee. He has also been a volunteer with Not In Our Town and Illinois State University’s Friends Of The Arts program.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Sept. 5, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Sept. 13, 2017.

• A resolution to award the bid for an 18-inch replacement valve for the water treatment plant to Deer Creek, Ill.-based G. A. Rich & Sons at a total cost of $162,100.

• An ordinance amending Section 15.6-19 (C) of the Town Zoning Code (Permitted uses in the M-1 Restricted Manufacturing District).

By Steve Robinson | September 5, 2017 - 10:03 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – By a 6-1 vote, Normal Town Council members approved a resolution accepting a proposal for service from GovHR USA to assist the Council in recruitment and selection of a city manager. To pay $20,000 needed for their services, the Town needed to have an adjustment in its general fund account approved by the Council. Council Member R. C. McBride cast the lone opposing vote.

McBride stated he was concerned about the scope of the search and wondered if the Town would have been able to conduct it more expediently. Mayor Chris Koos explained one of the reasons the firm was being hired was for its skills involving background work on applicants.

The expense will cover costs incurred by the Northbrook, Ill.-based firm which would include professional fees, reimbursable expenses and advertising costs. The Town is hiring the firm in light of City Manager Mark Peterson announcing he will retire next March after 30 years with the Town, 20 of them at that post when he steps down.

GovHR USA was founded and is headed by Heidi Voorhees, who has worked in the field of recruiting and municipal consulting since 2006. GovHR’s proposal includes a national search process which is slated to begin in the middle of this month and take roughly 12 weeks from start to finish.

Audit Report, Financial Statements Presented, Approved: Council members received the results of the annual audit conducted by Warrenville, Ill.-based accounting firm Lauterbach & Amen. The report’s details, as presented to Council members by Jamie Wilkey, a principal with the firm, explained the audit of the Town’s financial and procedural operations received positive marks. The audit process took six months to complete.

Wilkey complimented Town officials with “being well prepared and professional,” adding the audit turned up no negative conclusions. This was the first year for this firm to conduct the audit. “A clean audit doesn’t happen by accident,” City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members. He said obtaining that result was a credit to the Town’s staff.

Council members also unanimously approved a resolution accepting the audited financial statements and the audit report, which covered Town documents in the period that ended March 31. Council members also unanimously approved a resolution to accept the Federal Compliance Audit Lauterbach & Amen did for the Town covering the period that ended March 31.

Annual Financial Trends And Conditions Report Presented: Andrew Huhn, Town director of finance, presented the annual Financial Trend and Conditions Report to Council members. The Town’s total outstanding debt at the end of fiscal year 2016 was $92.20 million, partly the result of an $8,835,000 bond issue that year used to help pay for some community capital projects and supporting construction of a new fire station, which is close to completion.

Huhn explained while the Town has the lowest tax rate among eight nearby communities, including Peoria and Champaign, and is the result of the Town’s spending habits and maintaining a watchful eye on its tax levy.

Included in the mix of positives and negatives which filled the report was good news concerning an increase in property value, which saw a 3.1 percent jump from the previous year; A two point drop in the unemployment rate, sliding to 3.8 percent; and property tax rates, which continue to stay lower than other larger downstate cities in spite of a small increase last year.

The negatives were found to surround transportation, specifically air travel and Amtrak. Both Central Illinois Regional Airport and Uptown Station saw decreases in use in the past year.

Council OKs New “Stop For Pedestrians” Signs For Constitution Trail: Council members unanimously approved a motion authorizing use of signs reading, “Stop For Pedestrians In Crosswalk” to be placed at crossings on Constitution Trail at Locust St., Willow St., Lincoln St., Shelbourne Dr., and Raab Rd. Town Staff recommended the signs be used as part of the Town’s support of Town’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The signs would be placed in advance of the trail crossing in the center of the roadway.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Aug. 21, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Aug. 30, 2017.

• A resolution to approve bids award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating Co., Inc. in the amount of $132,714.75 for sidewalk improvements on Beech St. , Fell Ave. , and University St .

• A resolution waiving the formal bid requirements for a sole source provider and authorizing the execution of a contract with Richmond, British Columbia, Canada-based WhiteWater West Industries Ltd. for professional engineering services and refurbishing of the Fairview Family Aquatic Center drop slides.

• A resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into an agreement with Tampa-based Benefit Technology Resources for the acquisition of the bSwift benefits administration system.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding procedure and accept a quote from Central Illinois Truck to repair a 2004 Pierce Fire Engine in the amount of $69,374.

• A resolution authorizing a third amendment to the billing service agreement with Riverview , Mich.-based AccuMed Billing Inc. for ambulance billing.

• An ordinance amending parking restrictions on Orr St. between Hanson Dr. and College Ave.

• An ordinance amending Division 14 of Chapter 22 of the Code of Ordinances to change distance requirements for video-gaming establishments.

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members received a report from a subgroup of members of the Normal Vision 2040 Committee during the governing body’s regularly-scheduled meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station Monday night. The subgroup which addressed Race and Law Enforcement proposed the Town establish a public board which would work to address grievances between police from members of the community.

Such a board would have an ongoing existence and would manage feedback presented to them by citizens relating to interaction with police officers, explained Christina Schulz, a subgroup member. She was among four subgroup members, including Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner, who addressed Council members. No such board the subgroup recommended exists in the Town presently.

Such a Board could be created through the Town Council passing an ordinance which would create it, the sub-group members pointed out.

Currently, citizens with complaints related to NPD can bring them to the department directly, with the potential of getting as far up the chain of command as Bleichner, if needed. Bleichner said that should that fail to resolve an issue, citizens can register their concern with his boss, City Manager Mark Peterson.

When citizens and police have recently clashed, as in Charlottesville, Va., where one woman was killed by a pro-Nazi protester, the Vision 2040 Committee sought to be both mindful and proactive to help both residents and NPD. One way to do that, the sub-group’s 12-page report suggests, is to, among other things: Acknowledge racism exists; and maintain a culture change that positively impacts the community. In addition, the sub-group encouraged NPD to continue reaching out to diverse populations within the community.

The sub-group, which includes civic leaders such as Unit 5 School Board Member Joe Cleary; Dontae Latson, McLean County YMCA CEO and President; and Council Member Kevin McCarthy, suggested, among other things, that public listening sessions and social gatherings of various kinds could be used as a means of bridging any divides among diverse group of citizens in the community and police.

Bleichner told Council members a Community Relations Board is not being proposed because “the Town is reeling from a community event.”

Peterson said the subgroup’s idea tried to tackle “one of the most contentious problems in society.” Peterson concluded saying he wanted Normal “to become ground zero for eradicating racism.”

Final Plat For OSF Office Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution conditionally and partially approving an amended final development plan for office space being sought at Constitution Trail Centre. The 76 acre planned unit development is located on the northeast corner of Main St. and Raab Rd. Normal Planning Commission held a hearing on the matter Aug. 10 where no members of the public spoke. Planning Commission members voted 5-0 to approve that phase of the project and pass it to Council for approval.

In addition, Council members unanimously approved a final plat for the project which is on 1.666 acres which could be used for further development.

Liquor Commission Approves License: Council members, serving in their capacity as Normal Local Liquor Commission unanimously approved a liquor license application submitted by Fine Eatz, LLC, doing business as Swinger’s Grille, 1304 Cross Creek Dr. The license requestor sought both a Class D (All liquor – on premises consumption) and a Class H (Outdoor Garden-Sidewalk Café) license. The request came as a result of a change of ownership.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Aug. 7, 2017.

• Approval of the minutes of the special meeting of Aug. 11, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Aug. 16, 2017.

• A motion to initiate a zoning text amendment to include churches and other places of public worship within the list of permitted uses in an M-1 Restricted Manufacturing Zone District.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and accepting a quote from Des Moines, Iowa-based Seneca Companies for the installation of electronic leak detection equipment at the Town of Normal fuel dispensing pumps at a total net cost of $24,738.71.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a contract with Bloomington-based McLean County Asphalt Co. in the amount of $225,007.50 for the Ironwood Golf Course cart path reconstruction project including authorization to undertake additional golf cart improvements up to a total project maximum of $300,000.

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Lincoln-based The Stone River Group for electricity services bidding and authorizing the City Manager to execute a service agreement with the lowest responsible bidder for supply of electricity for residential and small commercial retail customers under the Town of Normal Municipal Electric Aggregation Program.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $146,320 for the improvement of Orlando Ave. from Northbrook Dr. to approximately 450 feet east of Northbrook Dr.

• A resolution approving a salary schedule adjustment for classified employees to reflect a cost of living adjustment.

• A resolution approving waivers from the Uptown Design Review Code, Chapter 15, Division 17, for a Starbuck’s sign for the Hyatt Place Hotel at 200 Broadway.

• An ordinance prohibiting parking on the 500 block of Dale St.

• An ordinance vacating the Maple Hill Road rail crossing of the Norfolk Southern Railroad contingent on Illinois Commerce Commission approval of a rail crossing closure incentive payment.

• An ordinance amending Section 15.6-20 (C) of the Town Zoning Code concerning permitted uses in an M-2 General Manufacturing District – kennels, with or without dwelling unit for superintendent.