By Steve Robinson | June 19, 2017 - 10:35 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – With high speed rail to consider, the Town of Normal has spent the last few years pondering how rail passengers who will need to use both the north and south tracks at Uptown Station will get from one platform to the other.

As a result of a 5-2 vote by Normal Town Council members at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night, the question of how was resolved: They gave approval to begin researching construction of an underpass between the two tracks. An underpass was one of seven options presented to residents at a fact-finding session the Town put on with the firm the Town hired to research the matter, New York City-based WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff this spring. Council Members Kathleen Lorenz and Scott Preston cast the dissenting votes.

Town officials narrowed to seven the potential options for a crossing then from those, believed their best option for getting from the north track to the south track was an underpass. At one time, both an overpass and an underpass were among the options being deliberated on.

On April 27, the Town held a public session showing residents options open to the Town and encouraged comments. The majority of those persons who spoke then told Town officials they favored the option of an underpass. Lorenz and Preston were concerned about the fact the number of choices of possible options available to the Town, of which there were seven, were not narrowed down further.

Normal’s 2014 Uptown 2.0 plan which was commissioned by the Town and done by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff first recommended construction of an underpass which would have a $12.7 million price tag. An overpass, the research showed, would cost Normal $8.6 million. Mayor Chris Koos has said State or Federal funds would be needed in order to pay for such construction.

Among 41 comments Town officials received following the April meeting showed 29 residents who responded favored construction of an underpass.

Bruce Nelson, project manager for WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Wayne Aldrich, the Town’s Director of Public Works, recapped the seven options that Normal officials had to choose from to begin the discussion.

Aldrich and Nelson explained that once the vote was taken to decide which of the seven alternatives would be chosen and pursued, the Town would need to spend the next six to nine months working with the National Railroad Association, after which a Federal government report would be released on the subject.

After that report is released, Aldrich said, “We get down in the weeds to start the design phase.”

“We’re making a 25-year decision here,” Council Member Jeff Fritzen said to start Council dialogue. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like and I can’t decide based on appearance.” He added “funding uncertainty” on the part of the Federal government also has a role in the matter.

Aldrich said an underpass doesn’t create as much of a construction headache as any other option might. He added underpass construction would be “less disruptive” to commuters than an overpass.

Concerning funding, City Manager Mark Peterson said, “When the Federal government is involved in such a project, it means the government pays up to 80 percent and we’d pay 20 percent. Those are the kind of projects they look for.”

Following the session which lasted slightly over two hours, Lorenz said she would have liked to have seen the options the Town had to choose from reduced from the seven that were presented to the public and Council members. “We paid a lot of money for this study and it’s a 25-year decision, so we want to make sure we get it right. The outcome of the study didn’t convince me this was the only path to take.”

Seven residents asked to give public comment and both sides of the issue – in favor and not in favor of the underpass – were presented as a result. Former Normal Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli said he favors a “no build” option. He said what the Town is considering with the underpass option, “isn’t about safety. It’s about (having) a centerpiece.”

But college student Wes Ward told Council members he was in favor of the underpass being proceeded with. “There will be gains from such debt” related to constructing the underpass, he said. He added he believes the Mayor’s contention that Normal can handle such debt related to the project, making it work.

Following the meeting, in response to Lorenz’s concerns, Koos said, “When we went through public review, public support was overwhelmingly in favor of an underpass. When WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff presented this in a public setting, an underpass was preferred.”

Addition To Constitution Trail Centre Approved: Council members unanimously approved a final development plan and conditionally approved a final plat for a fifth addition to Constitution Trail Centre. At that site with approval, a Sky Zone Trampoline Park will be opened on 2.233 acres of the property.

Last Meeting For Retiring Town Clerk Wendy Briggs: She has served three mayors, two city managers, and seen 19 Town Council members sit on the dais in 32 years in the Clerk’s office, 28 of them serving as Town Clerk. But Monday’s meeting was the last one for Wendellyn “Wendy” Briggs. She will retire at the end of June. Town Deputy Clerk Angie Huonker will be promoted to Town Clerk effective July 1.

Briggs worked in the mid-1970s for City Manager David Anderson and in the Town Clerk’s office, leaving to work in a law firm before returning to work for the Town Clerk’s office in 1985, being promoted to the Town Clerk post three years later. She received a proclamation for her dedication presented to her by Koos and given a standing ovation by Koos and Council members.

“I truly appreciate being able to work for all of you and help in any way I can,” Briggs said.

Janessa Williams Appointed To Human Relations Commission: Council members unanimously approved the appointment of Janessa Williams to the Town’s Human Relations Commission. Williams is filling a vacancy left by the recent resignation of Alberto Espinosa. Williams first moved to Normal in 1973 to attend Illinois State University where she received a degree in Accounting. After living in the Chicago area for 16 years, Williams returned to Normal in 2004 to work at her alma mater. Among her endeavors away from her work, Williams has established a Umoja Celebration at ISU, a graduation event which represents African American tradition, heritage, and culture.

Agenda Items Approved: Other omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting on June 5, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures as of June 14, 2017.

• A resolution authorizing an extension to an existing license agreement with Connect Transit for access to Uptown Station.

• A resolution accepting the low bid and awarding a contract to Astoria, Ill.-based K. K. Stevens Publishing Company for printing the Normal Parks & Recreation Department’s seasonal program guides: Fall (48 pages); Winter/Spring (44 pages); and Summer (64 pages) at the cost of $27,154.33 (plus postage).

• A resolution waiving bids and authorizing the renewal of a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 through the State Joint Purchasing Program from CDW-G at an annual cost of $67,984.46.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement for technical planning services with McLean County Regional Planning Commission.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with the University of Illinois for groundwater lever monitoring.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of a three-year extension to the SCADA integration services contract with Normal-based SCADAware, Inc.

Town of NormalNORMAL – As part of their omnibus agenda, Normal Town Council members voted unanimously to approve a resolution changing which Town official will handle matters related to Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). Since he became City Manager in 1998, Mark Peterson has handled the duties associated with representing the Town on IMRF matters.

But after the Council’s unanimous vote during their meeting Monday in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, the responsibilities of handling IMRF matters will become part of Deputy City Manager Pamela Reece’s responsibilities.

IMRF have been part of Reece’s duties previously, but Peterson had final approval. Dealing with such matters now becomes part of Reece’s job scope. A Council resolution in 1998 gave Peterson authority concerning IMRF after he succeeded David Anderson as City Manager when Anderson retired.

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting on May 15, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures as of May 31, 2017.

• A motion to approve recommended Harmon Arts Grant Awards.

• A resolution to award the bid for the installation of a standby generator for the North Booster Station located at the intersection of Raab Rd. and School St., to Wm. Masters, Inc. at a total cost of $73,480.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and accepting a proposal from Deer Creek, Ill.-based Municipal Emergency Services for the purchase of replacement self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) in the amount of $344,560 and approving an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution authorizing a lease amendment with Subway Real Estate, LLC for premises located at 11 Uptown Circle, Suite 100 in Uptown Station.

• An ordinance establishing prevailing wage rates.

Town of NormalNORMAL – At Monday’s Normal Town Council meeting, Council members unanimously approved a resolution which conditionally granted an amended site plan for Grossinger Motors, located at 1430 Ft. Jesse Rd.

During the meeting held iin Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, there was no discussion before the vote was taken. Council Member Jeff Fritzen was not present for the meeting.

The owner of Grossinger’s has proposed a new sign package for the property which includes new wall signs on the building as well as free-standing signs. The signs will be a little larger for the property than they had been before, with the wall signs increasing by 12 sq. ft. and the freestanding signs increasing in size by 180 sq. ft. There had been five free standing signs when the dealership had a previous owner. Grossinger proposes adding one additional sign so that there would be six on the property.

Normal Planning Commission held a hearing on May 4 concerning Grossinger’s plan during which no members of the public spoke. The Planning Commission voted 6-1 to approve the plan. Their approval forwarded the proposal on to the Town Council.

Mayoral Recount Coming?: For Mayoral challenger Marc Tiritilli, “it’s not so much what’s next as what’s going on.” A discovery recount that took place three weeks ago still had the teacher who works in Bloomington’s District #87 down to incumbent Chris Koos by 11 votes. Koos was sworn in for his fourth term prior to the start of the Council’s meeting on May 1.

The stage Tiritilli and his team are in currently, he said following the meeting, “is of gathering information. If I want to take this to a judge and say, ‘I want to challenge the election,’ I would have to have a basis for doing that. Discovery is a way of possible looking at that information.”

Tiritilli said he is looking at voter books election-wide just to see how the election was conducted. So far, everything looks very good, he said. “I’m just being thorough with the process.” Tiritilli must decide by a May 25 deadline whether or not to formally challenge the election results. For him, “It’s just a matter of being as thorough as possible before making a big decision.”

“We went through the discovery recount and it showed everything in order,” Koos said. “So, in my opinion, it’s done.”

Henson Appointed To Human Relations Commission: Council members unanimously approved Janae Henson to a seat on the Town’s Human Relations Commission, filling the vacancy left when Charles Smith resigned from the Commission. Henson is married and the couple have two children. She is currently employed with State Farm Insurance. Prior to her employment at State Farm, Henson was Station Manager at WJBC AM, and also served as Director of Marketing for Radio Bloomington.

Local Liquor Commission Approves Licenses For Portillo’s, 2 Others: Council members, acting in their capacity as the Normal Local Liquor Commission, approved licenses for three establishments. First, they unanimously approved Class M (Brewpub), Class H (Outdoor Garden), and Class I (Wine Tastings) to Destihl Brewery, LLC doing business as Destihl Brewery, 1200 Greenbriar Dr.

Next, Commissioners unanimously approved a Class E (Hotel) license to Normal Lodging, LLC, doing business as Radisson, 8 Traders Circle. That was followed by approving Class C (Consuming Beer and wine – on premises) and Class H to Portillo’s Hot Dogs, LLC doing business as Portillo’s Hot Dogs, 202 Landmark Dr.

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

• Approval of the inauguration and seating of the President of the Board of Trustees and three trustees for the Town of Normal of May 1, 2017.

• Approval of the minutes of regular meeting held May 1, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of May 10, 2017.

• A resolution awarding a bid to Bloomington-based Diamond Vogel Paints for the purchase of pavement paint and beads for an estimated total cost of $37,075.

• A resolution awarding the bid for concrete to the low bidder, Bloomington-based Stark Materials Co., Inc. at a price per cubic yard of $96.63 for high early mix and $87.50 for S. I. Mix.

• A resolution authorizing the purchase of a Smithco Sweep Star 60 riding self-propelled sweeper from Joliet-based Burris Equipment.

• A resolution to accept bids and authorize Town Staff to enter into a contract with TSI Commercial Floor Covering, Inc. for the replacement of carpeting on the second floor of the Children’s Discovery Museum and fitness room flooring at the Community Activity Center in the amount of $57,220.

• A resolution to waive the formal bidding process and authorize Town Staff to renew an elevator service contract including associated contract modifications with KONE, Inc. in the amount of $28,133.04

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the City Manager to execute a contract for the installation of shade structures for the athletic fields at Champion Fields through the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance at a cost not to exceed $95,000.

• A resolution to reimburse Young America Realty for emergency repair expenses incurred at 504 W. Willow St. related to a sewer main blockage.

By Steve Robinson | May 1, 2017 - 10:52 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – With her formally being sworn-in by Town Clerk Wendy Briggs prior to the start of Monday’s Normal Town Council meeting, Chemberly Cummings made history, becoming the first black woman to serve on the Town Council. Cummings came in third in a four person race for seats on the Council in the April 4 election, garnering 2,998 votes, or 23 percent of the vote.

Also sworn in were Normal Mayor Chris Koos, and Council incumbents Kevin McCarthy, who finished as the top vote recipient in the election with 2,652 votes, or 28 percent of the vote; and Scott Preston, who finished second in the four-person Council race with 3,377 votes, or 27 percent of the vote. Both men took the oath of office just before her, standing alongside Cummings.

Cummings had plenty of moral support for her swearing in and first night on the Council. About a dozen local alumni of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority came and sat in Council Chambers to encourage Cummings, as did her husband, Quincy. Cummings belonged to Delta Sigma Theta as an undergrad attending Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.

Cummings said one of the first things she said she will need to learn is “how the different departments within the Town operate, what the directors see for the department’s future, and finding out what each department director’s vision is.”

Preliminary Recount Has Koos Winning By 7 Votes: The McLean County Clerk’s Office held a sample recount on April 18 which showed Koos won the Mayoral election by 7 votes in the April 4 election. Challenger Marc Tiritilli.

Site Plan Approved For S. Cottage Ave. Property: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance and a resolution regarding a property located toward Normal west side. First, Council members changed the zoning of property sitting at 1000 S. Cottage. With their vote, the property that had been designated C-1 Office was changed to R-1B Single Family Residential. In addition, the zoning classifications of surrounding buildings vary widely from single family to B-1 General Business.

In addition, and related to the property at South Cottage Ave., Council members unanimously passed a resolution conditionally approving a preliminary development plan for planned unit development to go up at the east and south sides of the South Cottage Avenue address.

Before these two were approved, Council members approved three resolutions and an ordinance relating to this property. First, Council members unanimously approved a resolution revoking the South Cottage Village Planned Unit Development. Once that was completed, the next three items on the Council agenda passed quickly. First, Council members unanimously approved an ordinance rezoning the South Cottage Ave. property Planned Unit Development, designating it to be zoned as S-2 Public Lands and Institutions. That designation allows for multiple family dwellings, according to the report submitted to Council members by Town Planner Mercy Davison. The Public Lands and Institutions designation allows for multiple family dwellings, according to the report submitted to Council members by Davison.

Next, Council members unanimously approved a site plan for 1000 South Cottage. That was followed by the governing body unanimously approving an ordinance rezoning the property

ISSCS Redevelopment Agreement Amended: Council members unanimously approved a redevelopment agreement regarding the former Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Childrens’ Home property, currently looking to be renovated by Nicolas Africano. An asbestos removal project is slated to start on the former ISSCS administration building on May 5, according to Town Staff’s report. As a result, Africano had asked the date for the demolition of the building be pushed back to Oct. 1.

Fritzen becomes Mayor Pro Tem: A Council member since 2003, Jeff Fritzen was named Mayor Pro Tem of the Council. He will preside over meetings when Koos is not present.

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

• Approval of minutes of regular meeting held April 17, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of April 26, 2017.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of refuse container lids from Charlotte, N. C.-based Schaefer Systems International, Inc. in the amount of $15,043.50.

• A resolution to award the bid for the water treatment plant clarifier number one recoating project, including alternatives, to Troy , Ill.-based RP Coatings, Inc. at a total cost of $385,000.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of a new command staff vehicle for Normal Fire Department through the State joint purchasing vendor, Greenfield, Ill.-based Morrow Brothers Ford, in the amount of $27,984.

• A resolution authorizing extra work payment in the amount of $60,052.33 to Bloomington-based Rowe Construction, a division of United Contractors Midwest, Inc. and approve an associated budget adjustment of $47,901.33 for the storm sewer crossing construction at Broadway Ave. and Oak St. related to the high speed rail project.

• A resolution to appropriate $250,000 of the Town’s Motor Fuel Tax Funds for timber pile repairs on Belt Dr. bridge .

• A resolution authorizing the execution of a lease agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad Co. for the passenger rail platforms at the Uptown Station contingent on a one-time maximum fee of $15,000.

Town of NormalNORMAL – Of seven options for a railroad crossing, to be used to get passengers from one track to the other at Uptown Station, engineering consultants working with Town of Normal officials are recommending an underpass. At a meeting held March 27 in Town Council Chambers on the fourth floor of the station, the underpass option also appeared the favorite among some of the 70 people in attendance.

Outside of Council Chambers and before the session began, easels holding artists’ conceptions of all the varying options were in place with representatives from both the engineering firm, New York City-based WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, and the Town standing by to answer questions.

Inside a nearby conference room, slides of the different concepts continued to roll as some attendees filled out comment cards which representatives from the Town and the engineering firm will pore over.

Inside Council Chambers, attendees made their thoughts on a means of getting from one side of the tracks to the other clear – they were in favor of using an underpass. An underpass was also what WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff recommended to the Town.

In response to a question from resident Alan Swanson, Carrie Desmond, an engineer with WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, said Union Pacific Railroad prohibits train station platforms from being connected to the tracks.

Julie Hile, owner of a consulting company, The Hile Group, and also in the audience at this event, responded by saying a study done by Operation Lifesaver found there were 2,000 casualties at railroad crossings in 2015. According to its website, Operation Lifesaver is a nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization dedicated to reducing collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and trespassing on or near railroad tracks.

Hile added the railroad industry wants to get crossings up and away from any way people could possibly hurt themselves.

Normal resident John Craft said he would like to see the Town keep the grade crossing at Linden St. He added he thought building an overpass, rather than an underpass, would be more financially responsible on the part of the Town.

The Town is paying WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff $1.4 million to do the research needed for the project. Among seven options the engineering firm presented the Town for this project included construction of an overpass and doing nothing, leaving things stand. When a study commissioned by the Town called Normal 2.0 came out in 2014, that report listed the cost of an overpass at $12.7 million while listing the cost of an underpass at $8.6 million.

Residents can find the options being considered for the crossing on the Town’s website, www.normal.org, and may submit comments before May 27. Normal Town Council members will decide on the option to be used at a June meeting.