By Steve Robinson | December 4, 2017 - 10:05 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – With a unanimous vote, Normal Town Council members approved an ordinance authorizing the 2017 property tax levy. The 2017 levy totals $12,958,494, which is an increase of $783,694 from the 2016 levy, an increase of 6.44 percent. Council members reviewed the levy at their Nov. 6 meeting and directed Town Staff to prepare the ordinance. A public hearing was required to be held prior to the vote because the increase in the property tax was over five percent.

General fund operations and Normal Public Library operations funding were the only two of the levy’s six components that have no dollar increases mentioned. They are the only funds that have local control, as well.

The other four components do have increases and break down this way: The police pension contribution was increased by 13.64 percent, or $275,600, to $2,296,600; Fire pension contribution was increased by 21.17 percent, or $364,200, to $2,084,200; and Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund contribution was increased by 8.71 percent, to $1,721,930. The Town’s annual Medicare/Social Security contribution registered the smallest increase of less than less than one-half percent, to $1,351,964. The Town, by State law, must maintain contributions to these four funds.

The measure passed but not before local residents had their say during the public hearing. Eleven residents spoke before Council members, most of them opposed to the increase. Craig Stimpert told Council members that he has “the utmost respect for police and fire service employees, and Town employees but he pointed out the Town has increased property taxes each year for the past 11 years.

Ed Neaves, treasurer for Illinois Realtors Group, which represents realtors Statewide, told Council members, “We’re asking government to do no harm to realtors trying to sell a house. Quit going back to property owners every time you need money.” Stimpert and Neaves were among 11 residents who addressed Council members about the proposed increase, the majority of them opposed to it.

During the Council discussion following the public hearing, Council Member Chemberly Cummings told the gathering of between 40-50 residents present about the statute which the Town operates behind which allows for consideration of raising property taxes. She also credited the audience members who spoke for having “trust in a roomful of people to share your heart, and we appreciate that.”

Council Member Kevin McCarthy told the gathering the Town’s general fund has not had an increase to its coffer in 12 years, belaying concerns about how the new money coming in would be used.

The Town of Normal only has control of roughly 17.3 percent of a resident’s tax bill, a report prepared for Council members by Andrew Huhn, the Town’s director of finance. The remaining governing bodies controlling the tax bill (and their percentage of control in 2016) include: Unit 5 School District (60.8 percent); McLean County (10.6 percent); Heartland Community College (6.8 percent); Normal Township (2.7 percent); Normal Water Reclamation District (2.1 percent); and Central Illinois Airport Authority (1.4 percent).

Property Taxes From Certain Bonds Approved For Abatement: Council members unanimously approved 11 ordinances authorizing abating of 2017 Property Taxes for debt service. The ordinances abated over $5.7 million in property taxes for the following bonds: 2008 bonds issued in August 2008; 2009 bonds issued in July that year to refund the 2003 bond; 2009(A) bonds issued in July that year; 2010(A) bonds issued November that year; 2012 bonds issued September that year to refund 2004 bonds; 2013 bonds issued November that year to refund 2005 bonds; 2014 bonds issued November that year; 2016(A) bonds issued March that year to refund 2006 bonds; 2016(B) bonds issued March that year; 2017(A) bonds issued March that year to refund 2007 bonds; and 2017(B) bonds issued March that year to refund 2007 bonds. The total amount of the bonds was $6,543,152. But there were Supranational/Sovereign/Agency bonds, or SSA bonds, totaling $796,899 that was not abated. As a result, the total of the bonds abated was $5,746,253.

Latest Community Investment Plan Approved: Before Council members finished out the roughly 2 ½ session, they received an update from Andrew Huhn, Town Finance Director, concerning the Community Investment Plan for the Town for Fiscal year 2017-18 through FY 2022-23. The proposed plan for that calendar period includes a total of 183 capital projects that are to be completed over a six-year period beginning with this fiscal year. Those projects, Huhn explained, total roughly $94.6 million.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Nov. 20, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Nov. 29, 2017.

• A motion extending the Diabetes Disease Management Program for one year.

• A resolution requesting permission to close a portion of U. S. Highway 51 for the annual Jaycees Christmas Parade.

• A resolution authorizing the renewal of a joint agreement with the City of Bloomington and the Ecology Action Center for an energy efficiency program.

• A motion to authorize an amendment to the FY 2017-18 Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) budget for the general fund.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $59,799 for the Adelaide Street sanitary extension project along West College Ave.

• A resolution authorizing the City Manager to accept a bid in the amount of $904,063.06 from New York-based Presidio Networked Solutions Group, LLC for the purchase of network infrastructure.

• A resolution to conditionally approve a final plat for the Miller Storage Subdivision (2717 N. Main ).

• A resolution approving a property tax settlement agreement.

• An ordinance approving a redevelopment agreement for the property located at 1404 Fort Jesse Rd.

By Steve Robinson | November 20, 2017 - 10:01 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Without an objecting vote, Normal Town Council members passed an ordinance approving the Town of Normal 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The unanimous vote took place during the governing body’s regularly-scheduled meeting Monday in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station. A subgroup of members from Town of Normal 2040 Committee met with Council members addressed Council members in August.

This meeting, Mercy Davison, Town Planner, told Council members the committee now had its proposed comprehensive plan which laid out, among other things, three primary trends in land use for the Town to consider. These items have shown themselves to be desired among Normal residents in the past 50 years.

The first is a desire for the Town to be able to accommodate increasing walk- and bike-oriented lifestyles of residents. Doing this would accommodate a moderate number of businesses located within biking or walking distance of businesses, employers, and services, the report indicates.

The second is a desire on the part of residents from the Town for a need for alternative transportation, the result of a decline in auto ownership and usage the Town has noted in recent years.

The third is noted by the committee in terms of less use of what it called “real life retail,” the result of people doing a hefty percentage of their shopping online currently. The committee report notes that, as a result of online sales “it is almost certain that the current amount of commercial and retail spaces in our community will be more than sufficient for years to come.”

Davison also noted that the Town’s population has doubled between 1970 and 2015, and that in that same period, land use has multiplied by two-and-a-half times in the same period. But she said, the Town’s east side “lacks serious public infrastructure. She said that means buildings, roads, and power supplies will be needed to accommodate an anticipated additional 14,000 people who could live in that part of Town over the years between now and 2040.

She cited for Council members a study done by McLean County Regional Planning Commission which said housing in the area was reasonably affordable. However, the Commission also noted there are very few options available to aid homeless people and limited housing options available to persons between ages 18-64 who are disabled. Most people in this last group, Davison said, live with family while they wait for a place of their own.

Mary Jefferson Reappointed To Regional Planning Commission: Council members unanimously approved reappointing Mary Jefferson to the McLean County Regional Planning Commission for another three-year term. Her current appointment expires at the end of this year, and her reappointment will keep her seated on the Commission until Dec. 31, 2020.

Jeffrey Kroesch Appointed To Sister Cities Committee: Council members unanimously approved appointing Jeffrey Kroesch to the Asahikawa Sister Cities Committee. A former exchange student, Kroesch is an Illinois State University graduate currently employed as an eighth grade Language Arts teacher at Bloomington School District #87.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Nov. 6, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Nov. 15, 2017.

• A resolution authorizing the execution of an intergovernmental agreement for the police shooting range facility with the City of Bloomington.

• A resolution approving a lease extension for the Ecology Action Center at 202 W. College Ave.

• A resolution to approve a final plat for Lot 1 of resubdivision of Lot 7 in the fifth addition to North-Land Commercial Subdivision (Menards).

• A resolution to approve a final plat for the resubdivision of Lots 9 & 10 in the seventh addition to North-Land Subdivision (Duff St.).

By Steve Robinson | November 6, 2017 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a motion to authorize preparation of the Town’s 2017 Property Tax Levy. Town Staff is estimating the levy be established at $13,016,100 in fiscal year 2018-19, an increase in the Town’s tax rate of 6.38 percent.

The Town’s 2016 tax rate was $1.4115. The projection for this year assumes property assessed valuation will increase by one-half percent. Actual assessed values of property will not be determined until next April.

The majority of the increase will help the Town keep its obligation to continue funding police and fire pensions responsibly, according to a report given Council members which was prepared by Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn.

Through its “Truth In Taxation” statute, the State mandates communities like Normal to meet at least 20 days before approving the property tax levy ordinance in order to determine the amount of the levy. Town Staff will present to Council a levy to consider and vote on at their regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 4. The Town, as will all other taxing jurisdictions in the county must submit an approved levy to the County by Tuesday, Dec. 26.

But before Council members approved the measure, they received comments from constituents who expressed differing opinions on the effect of the increase. Normal resident Craig Stimpert reminded Council members Illinois pays the nation’s second-highest property tax, second only to New Jersey . “Residents are being taxed to death,” Stimpert said. “How can Normal consider a tax increase?” He also wondered “when is this going to stop?”

Resident Dave Shields publicly credited the Town for how it researches solutions facing the Town and reminded the Town “has a history of conservative financial decisions.” Another resident, Julie Hile, told Council members she sees the Town meeting the pension obligation as upholding “a sacred trust.”

During Council members’ deliberations on the matter, Mayor Chris Koos said deciding on the increase was not “a comfortable decision,” and Normal “doesn’t want to go down the path of the State of Illinois on our obligations.” He reminded 40 people in the audience in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station that wanting to approve this is “not a comfortable decision.”

Council Member Jeff Fritzen said the Town is responsible for delivering necessary services like police protection and fire and emergency services. People sometimes take such services for granted, Fritzen said, but added, “When people have such a need for those services, you don’t want to settle for second rate.”

“The State of Illinois hasn’t done its job on pensions,” Council Member R, C. McBride said. “We shouldn’t go down that same path.”

The State of Illinois gave communities a mandate to have police and fire pensions at 90 percent funding by 2040. The Town used that marker to challenge itself to have its police and fire pensions 100 percent funded by that same deadline.

“I wish I could tell you this will be the last property tax increase you’ll ever have to consider,” City Manager Mark Peterson told Council members. But he quickly added there will be future increases in pension costs which could prompt the Town to consider raising property taxes. He said there have been pension increases in the past and likely, he said, there will be increases in the future.

Council Declines To Release Remaining Funds For Feeney Property Upgrade: By a 4-3 count, Council members declined to approve a resolution which would release the remaining money in redevelopment funds for a project at 208 Parkinson. Until September 2016 when Council members approved a measure offering to contribute $40,000 to property owner Chuck Feeney to help him upgrade the property, the property had sat vacant for 15 years.

Once the resolution was passed, Feeney received $25,000 of the money toward work that had been done up to that point. Feeney began plans for the renovation in February 2016 and it was estimated, before the Town’s contribution, the project would cost around $300,000.

The building underwent a remodel and is now being used as an office by Stout Chiropractic. However, while the building’s look is improved, the Town felt the improvement fell short of what the Town and Feeney agreed upon. Chief among the concerns was a drainage and storm water retention area which still sits where Feeney proposed a sunken patio.

Mayor Chris Koos, and Council Members Kevin McCarthy, Kathleen Lorenz, and Scott Preston voted against releasing the remaining money while Council Members Chemberly Cummings, McBride, and Fritzen voted in favor of releasing the remaining money for the project. “It just seems like there was a change in scope for the project from what was originally presented,” McCarthy said regarding his concerns about the project.

“What was delivered varied too much from what we agreed to a year ago,” Lorenz said after the meeting.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of Oct. 16, 2017.

• Approval of Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of Nov. 1, 2017.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Springfield-based Halverson Construction Co., Inc. in the amount of $113,045.74 for timber pile repairs on the Belt Drive Bridge .

• A resolution to approve bids and award a contract to Decatur-based Bodine Electric in the amount of $125,277.73 for communications and traffic signal upgrades on College Ave. and Mulberry Street from Oak Street to Main Street .

• A resolution authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute a sublease with Amtrak for platforms at Uptown Station.

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.