By Steve Robinson | September 4, 2019 - 9:34 am
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Because of a 5-2 vote from Normal Town Council members, the community will get its second brewpub, this one to be located in Uptown. Council members’ vote gave approval for brothers Ryan and Steven Fiala’s proposed plans for a brewpub to be established at 127 E. Beaufort St., the former location of Bill’s Key And Lock Shop. Fiala Brothers Beer LLC will create craft brews and operate a full-service kitchen according to the report provided Council members by Assistant City Manager Eric Hansen.

The Fiala brothers would renovate the former key shop and make it into a two-story structure for their new venture.

Under the proposed agreement, the Town would aid the project by reimbursing the Fiala Brothers a portion of food and beverage tax dollars taken in – the Town levies a 2 percent food and beverage tax and a 1 percent local tax – reimbursing the brothers up to $150,000. The Fiala brothers would transform the former one-story key business into a two-story structure.

But not all public comments made by eight people who spoke before Council before the matter was discussed were positive. Former Council Candidate Karl Sila addressed the proposed agreement referring to it as “a bribe to get anybody in there for the next five years.” When the discussion on the brewpub began, Mayor Chris Koos started by taking aim at Sila’s remark saying he took “personal offense” to it, adding he thought Sila’s comment was “pretty strong language.”

The property in question falls within the Town’s Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district. The TIF agreement, established in 2000, is not set to expire until 2023. That was something Council Member Kathleen Lorenz noted with her remark that, “The TIF has a little more life to accomplish” things for.

“We’re not giving away money here,” Council Member Kevin McCarthy said. “They have to show a certain profit. “Craft beer is big business. It brings money into the community and moves it around.”

But Council Member Stan Nord disagreed, stating he didn’t see “a net gain for customers,” citing what he called “a scarcity of parking” in Uptown where the proposed brewpub would be located, directing his comment to City Manager Pam Reece. Reece responded to Nord’s comment by saying, “Town Staff has addressed that issue as we have with other development agreements.”

Reece cited that when the TIF began, Uptown had a total of 1,200 parking spaces. She said more spaces have been added in the years since to where there are now 2,000 of them.

When the vote was taken Nord and Council Member Karyn Smith cast dissenting votes while Koos and Council Members Scott Preston, Chemberly Cummings, Lorenz, and McCarthy voted in favor of establishing the agreement with the Fiala brothers.

Following the meeting, Lorenz admitted there “is a growing distaste for Uptown spending. That’s what Stan and Karyn were mirroring. But we need to make informed decisions that weigh the facts of economic development with the sentiment of the electorate. That was the difficulty of this vote.”

Smith said afterward, “Town government should not be in the business of subsidizing businesses for sales tax. Since State Farm created hubs, restaurants are cannibalizing each other.” State Farm has operations hubs in Atlanta, Ga., Dallas, Texas, and Phoenix, Ariz.

The Town’s first brewery is Destihl, located at 1200 Greenbriar Dr.

In addition to Sila, public comments on the brewpub matter came from Patrick Hoban, newly-hired chief executive officer of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council.

Town Audit Report Presented, Accepted: By a unanimous vote, Council members accepted the audit report on the Town. The audit was done by Naperville-based Certified Public Accounting firm Lauterbach and Amen. Jamie Wilkey, a partner with that firm, told Council members there were “minor issues” needing to be addressed by the Town, adding that such a conclusion is unique for a town Normal’s size. Otherwise, Wilkey described the end result of her work as a “clean audit” for the Town.

Real Estate Purchase Contract Approved: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing execution of a real estate contract for the purchase of Lot #2 of Ohlendorf subdivision in the amount of $39,000 from McLean County Land Trust #202 in care of William Ohlendorf, and authorizing an associated budget adjustment.

The land in question was formerly occupied by houses at 301 and 303 Stewart Place and 206 E. Vernon St. All three houses have been razed and the land is slated by the developer for future development. Purchasing the land will help the Town to improve maintenance access to Sugar Creek to Vernon Ave. In the report prepared for Council by Town Engineer Ryan Otto, he explained the purchase will also aid the Town in its efforts to complete a reconstruction project for the Vernon Ave. culvert, which the Town has planned to start in 2022.

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

• Approval of minutes of regular meeting held Aug. 19, 2019.

• Report to receive and file Town expenditures for payment as of Aug.28, 2019.

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

• A resolution authorizing the City Manager to solicit bids through the Town’s energy broker for electricity and natural gas commodities for Town-owned accounts and execute energy service agreements with the lowest responsible bidder or bidders.

• A resolution accepting bids and authorizing the execution of a contract with Pontiac, Ill.-based H. J. Eppel & Company, Inc. in the amount of $29,600 for the Constitution Trail asphalt resurfacing project.

• A resolution to accept proposals and award a contract to Kone, Inc. for replacement of the water treatment plant freight elevator in the amount of $219,450.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the purchase of refuse containers from Charlotte, N. C.-based Schaefer Systems International, Inc. in the amount of $27,454.75.

• A resolution authorizing the renewal of the employee group health, dental, life/AD&D program.

• A resolution approving an agreement with Chicago-based Morneau Shepell for Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services.

NORMAL – It was a piece of news Normal Town Council Member Chemberly Cummings saved for comments and announcements toward the end of Monday’s Normal Town Council session Monday in Council Chambers. But it is a prestigious first for Normal.

Cummings announced she has been selected as one of 41 local and State officials to be part of the eighth annual Edgar Fellows Program.Those community officials selected will gather in Champaign August 4-8.

The Edgar Fellows Program is an initiative designed by former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar to inspire respectful and collaborative leadership to address the state’s major challenges. Forty-One participants selected this year were chosen from a field of 169 nominees and reflect Illinois’ political, racial, ethnic and geographic diversity. They include elected and appointed officials from all levels of government, leaders of non-profit organizations and individuals who are making their mark in the business world.

The 2019 class will bring the number of fellows who have completed the program to 313. After completing the initial program, fellows continue to meet at least twice annually at alumni gatherings designed to increase their knowledge and help build their professional networks.

Street Resurfacing Project Prompts Questions: Other than approval of minutes of the Council’s Aug. 5 meeting and approving payment of expenditures, the only other omnibus item which would be looked at and approved had to do with the accepting of bids and awarding of a contract to Bloomington-based Rowe Construction Co., a division of United Contractors Midwest, Inc., of $792,662.17 for the base bid and alternative #1 for the 2019 General Street Resurfacing Project.

Council Member Karyn Smith, while motioning that the measure be approved, questioned why there ever only seems to be one company – Rowe – who ever applies for the assignments. Town Chief Engineer Ryan Otto explained the Town has tried to make other potential contractors aware of such assignments but that when bids come in for the jobs, Rowe turns out to be the only company submitting bids for them.

Final Plat For Grieder II Subdivision Conditionally Approved: Council members unanimously approved the final plat of the Grieder II Subdivision expanding property which currently sits at 2242 W. Raab Rd. That expansion would expand eastward as a result. The subdivision takes up 2.54 acres of land and the owner of the proposed subdivision owns the surrounding 75 acres. Such a subdivision request would require a preliminary plan for the Town to review but, in this case, the applicant is requesting the requirement for the preliminary plan be waived.

When this project came before Normal Planning Commission on Aug. 8, no members of the public testified and the measure passed unanimously, 5-0.

Sarah Sturgill Appointed To Children’s Discovery Museum Board: Sarah Sturgill, an optometrist with Bloomington-based Gailey Eye Clinic, has been appointed to the Children’s Discovery Museum Board. Ms. Sturgill serves patients at both locations of the clinic, in Bloomington and Danville. She will be filling an open seat which has an initial term which expires on June 30, 2022.

New Economic Development Council CEO Introduced: Council members were formally introduced by City Manager Pam Reece to Patrick Hoban as the new chief executive officer of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council. He has held similar positions prior to coming to the Twin Cities, most recently in Tinley Park.

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

• Approval of minutes of regular meeting held Aug. 5, 2019.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Aug.19, 2019.

By Steve Robinson | August 5, 2019 - 10:39 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Time was, when you wanted to get a six-pack of your favorite beer or another sort of liquor, it required you to get in your car, drive to the store, you’re your car, go into the store, find the aisle or designated cooler with your favorite beverage, choose said beverage, pay for it at checkout, and then go back to your car.

Monday night, at their regularly-scheduled session in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, Normal Town Council members voted unanimously to shorten that journey to getting your favorite brew or flavor of liquor. With two Council members absent, the five remaining members of the governing body unanimously approved an ordinance amending the Town’s Liquor Code regarding delivering of alcohol, service locations, and movie theater licensing.

As the ordinance was drafted by Town Staff, the amendment would permit both curbside and delivery of alcohol provided the retailer holds a Class A (All Liquor – Off-Premises Consumption) license, and the facility seeking the Class A license must be 10,000 sq. ft. or greater.

In addition, licensees must meet a number of requirements, including: Must register their curbside/pick-up service with the Town Clerk, and have their employees attend basset training – something that employees will be required to do if the employees are making deliveries of alcoholic liquor.

The new Town amendment to the liquor code would prohibit delivery if the customer receiving the delivery is intoxicated. The employee making the delivery must confirm the recipient of the delivery is 21-years-old or older.

The ordinance amendment states curbside deliveries may not occur outside the hours relating to the Class A license, which would be from 7a.m.-1a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays, and from 7a.m. through 1:45a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The ordinance contains reciprocal language so Bloomington liquor holders with a facility of 10,000 sq. ft. or greater may make deliveries within the Town of Normal.

Nord Defends “Lone Wolf” Status: During final comments by Council members before the meeting adjourned, Council Member Stan Nord responded to comments Mayor Chris Koos made in a letter to Bloomington officials in which he referred to Nord as a “lone wolf” for Nord meeting with Bloomington Fire Department officials on his own concerning trying to merge Twin Cities’ fire departments. Nord is also accused by Koos of attempting to lure a Bloomington business to occupy space in Uptown Normal.

During closing comments before the meeting adjourned, Nord responded to Koos’ criticism, stating he’s proud to be a lone wolf when it comes to protecting taxpayers from wasteful spending. Nord added he would not ask Koos to apologize or to take back the false statements which were sent to the City of Bloomington and then then became public knowledge through the media.

Council Member Kevin McCarthy added to the discussion objecting to Nord’s claims of Town government not watching its spending habits when taxpayer dollars are being used, going so far as to remind Nord the Council cut jobs to reduce spending.

When the meeting began with a vote on the omnibus agenda, Nord asked to discuss seven of the eight items on that agenda. Items on the omnibus agenda are approved on a single vote. Two of the items Nord pulled for discussion from the omnibus agenda were items he said fellow new Council Member Karyn Smith had asked him to ask about, although Smith was not present for the session.

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

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Council meeting held July 15, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of July 31, 2019.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and executing a three-year agreement with Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based All City Management Services, Inc. for school crossing guard management services.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an intergovernmental agreement with Illinois State University pertaining to fire protection services.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the execution of a contract with Lombard, Ill.-based Just In Time Pool & Spa Service in the amount of $132,460 for the Fairview Family Aquatic Center zero depth entry pool resurfacing project.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. for the 2019 sump pump discharge and storm sewer improvement project in the amount of $575,000.

• An ordinance establishing parking restrictions along both sides of Shelbourne Drive from School St. to Charlotte Drive for the implementation of bike lanes.

• An ordinance repealing the adoption of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code, Town Municipal Code Section 11.4-1G.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members were observed at their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday, not just by community members wanting to witness government in action, but also by 10 members of the local branch of the international group known as Friends Forever. Local Rotary Clubs helped facilitate Normal becoming one of the American communities where five Israeli high school students and five Arab students meet to work on joint community projects in communities throughout the United States. This was the seventh visit made to the Twin Cities by students from Friends Forever. the group sent students here on their first visit to the Twin Cities in 2013.

At Monday’s session, Council members heard from two Israeli citizens – an Israeli young woman and an Arab young man – as they informed Council members about the experiences they have been having in the program. The teens will be in this country, and the community for two weeks, observing and becoming involved in community projects.

Council members heard from a teenage Israeli young woman named Hod Malka and a teenage Arab young man named Sari Okal. The pair spoke of their lifestyles in their homeland to the gathering among other subjects.

Council members also heard from a young man who is an alumni of the program, identified as Yoav. “I am here tonight to help out the program,” Yoav said. “I am helping draw up the schedule for this year’s group.” He said since his involvement a few years ago as a participant, “I decided to step up and take a big role in this moment and decided to be a leader.” He added being in the program gave him the confidence to decide to become a leader. He said he has been working with 10th graders helping them “understand their place and help them work out their differences.”

Operating And Capital Investment Budget Approved: Council members unanimously approved the Town’s Operating and Capital Investment Budget for fiscal year 2018-2019. The Town adjusted its budget upward by over $3.3 million over the previous fiscal year. The Operating and Capital Investment Budget for the current fiscal year stands at $128,996,652. The upward change in the total of the budget relates to a change in spending for vehicle and equipment needs, and refinancing some of the Town’s debt to a lower interest rate, according to a report submitted to the Council by Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn.

Amended Final Development Plan For One Normal Plaza PUD Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution approving an amended final development plan for the Planned Unit Development at One Normal Plaza, located at 613 Oglesby. According to the report given Council members by Town Planner Mercy Davison, a potential new owner for the property seeks to open an event rental business at that address. To complete the process, it was required the development plan for One Normal Plaza be amended. The proposed business would rent tents, tables, and chairs, among other items, and either make deliveries as needed or have customers pick up goods at the location.

Normal Planning Commission held a hearing on the request to amend the development plan at their July 3 meeting. The applicant’s attorney was the only person who spoke at the hearing, where commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of amending the plan for it to be returned to the Council.

Resolution Supporting Connect Transit Working Group Approved: Council members unanimously passed a resolution which showed the Council to be in support of the mission of a working group being established by Connect Transit, the in-town public transportation provider.

The working group is examining transit in the community and the future of transit here, but part of the evening included criticism from a former Mayoral candidate concerning one of Connect Transit recent actions – to seat the son of a transit board member onto the working group panel. Former Normal Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli criticized Connect Transit for placing the son of Connect Board Member Julie Hile on the working group. Hile’s son is disabled and relies on Connect Transit’s service.

Tiritilli also criticized Connect Transit’s decision to employ a facilitator for the working group at a cost of over $53,000. Tiritilli argued that cash could have put to better use by every full-fare Connect Mobility rider free rides for a year. Connect Transit’s website indicates the cost for using the mobility service ranges from $2 to $4 each way depending on the length of the trip.

Luis Figueroa Appointed To Normal’x Human Relations Commission: Luis Figueroa was introduced as being recently appointed to the Town’s Human Relations Commission. An employee of Country Financial, Figueroa is a graduate of Illinois State University currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling at Lincoln Christian University. He will be filling an open seat on the Commission which is set to expire March 31. After that, Figueroa will be eligible for reappointment to a full four year term on the Commission. Figueroa’s wife, Amanda, teaches at Colene Hoose Elementary School. The Figueroas are expecting their first child.

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

• Approval of minutes of regular meeting held July 1, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of July 10, 2019.

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Peoria-based Hoerr Construction, Inc. for the 2019 sanitary and storm sewer cleaning and televising contract in the amount of $354,070.80.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing a project change order from Bloomington-based George Gildner, Inc. in the amount of $31,112.67 for the Ridgemont Area Water Main Replacement Project, add three additional days to time of contract and authorize an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing the Children’s Discovery Museum Executive Director to execute an agreement with Lincolnwood, Ill.-based Luci Creative, LLC to design/build the new “Healthy Me!” exhibit in an amount not to exceed $350,000.

• A resolution conditionally approving the final plat of the Fiala Brothers Subdivision (119, 121, 123, and 127 E. Beaufort).

• Supplemental resolution for Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) project closeout in the amount of $506,062 for the Raab Rd. – NCHS to Towanda Barnes Rd. Project and final Town payment.

• A resolution retaining confidentiality of executive session minutes from June 19, 2017, and Feb. 18 and Apr. 15, both 2019.

By Steve Robinson | July 1, 2019 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – With Rivian Motors now operating at the former Mitsubishi Motors North America plant in west Normal, officials for the electric car manufacturer thought changing the name of the street where the plant resides ought to reflect that.

At Monday’s Normal Town Council meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, there was considerable discussion centering on how the name change potentially could affect travelers trying to find the plant through Global Positioning Software and other means before Council members cast votes deciding in favor of the change.

With Mayor Chris Koos away on business, Council members voted 4-2 to approve Rivian’s request. Council Members Stan Nord and Karyn Smith cast the opposing votes while Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McCarthy, and Council Members Kathleen Lorenz, Scott Preston, and Chemberly Cummings voted in favor of the measure.

Currently, the plant is located on Mitsubishi Motorway along Rt. 150 on Normal’s west end. Receiving first local, national, and now a global business presence prompted Rivian to make the request of the Town. But Nord pointed out his concerns for making such a change, stating such changes have a “ripple effect” on motorists – everything from needing to make sure the change is updated in GPS to changing signage in and around town for travelers requiring neighboring businesses to change the address on their paperwork.

A local business owner himself, Nord said it takes time for the change to get on the minds of residents. He called making such a change a “daunting task which takes years to adjust to.”

City Manager Pam Reece said businesses in the vicinity of the Rivian facility had been sent certified mail from the Town asking representatives to attend a meeting so that the owners of the businesses could address any concerns about the change. The meeting took place in May, and of the dozen businesses surrounding the plant who were notified of the session, Reece said, only representatives from two businesses attended, but gave no input.

The Town researches for such changes thoroughly, explained Ryan Otto, Town Engineer, when he addressed Council members during the session. He said while there is a four-digit cost figure to change signs from one name to another, the Town also consults with the Normal Post Office concerning matters related to mail going to a location where the street name gets a new moniker. In addition, Otto explained, the Town also works to make sure the changes of this kind are directed toward emergency medical personnel to help them arrive at locations after a change takes effect.

Smith wondered if having the meeting with the local businesses in the shadow of Memorial Day might have meant the meeting’s timing was related to how many showed for it.

“It’s a small thing to show our support of a business within our community,” McCarthy said. Cummings added, “We are not a backwards community. We have technology which will get people to these locations. We have issues we can be talking about, but in no way do those include a discussion over a street name.” She added people who use smartphones for directions would receive data updates on their devices.

Prior to the discussion that ensued, Nord first moved Council members consider postponing voting on the name change until a future meeting but withdrew the motion, opting for more discussion.

In addition, Council members unanimously voted to change the name of another street close to the plant, Sakura Lane, an access road. As a result of the vote, that street will now be known as Electric Avenue.

Liquor Commission Approves Licenses: Prior to the Council session, Council members, meeting in their capacity as the Normal Local Liquor Commission, approved a pair of liquor license applications – one for a new establishment and one for a business experiencing a change of ownership. The new business which was unanimously granted a license is Reynoso Corporation, doing business as Mexa-Maya Mexican and Central American Restaurant, 1113 N. Main St. As a result, the restaurant sought a Class D –All liquor, on premises consumption license.

Commission members also unanimously approved a liquor license for H.T. Trading, Inc., doing business as Kochi Sushi, 1540 E. College Ave. That business sought and received a Class C – Beer & Wine only, on premises consumption license.

Commissioners also approved setting a hearing date for businesses found to be in violation of Town Liquor Code. 35 Years, LLC Landmark, doing business as Marie’s Place, 1520 E. College Ave.; 35 Years, LLC Patriot Center, doing business as Marie’s Place, 115 Susan Dr.; and 35 Years, LLC University Park, doing business as Marie’s Place, 1702 W. College Ave.

The locations were found to be in violation of liquor code and a hearing will take place on July 15, prior to the scheduled Normal Town Council session. Once the Town Hearing Officer makes recommendations, the Liquor Commission could receive the case for considering license approval.

During a Normal Local Liquor Commission meeting on March 18, Town Deputy Corporation Counsel Jason Querciagrossa summarized for Commissioners an audit conducted by Normal Police on those establishments which related to Class O liquor license requirements, and the food permits issued to the locations by McLean County Health Department.

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

• Approval of the Leadership and Governance Workshop of June 7, ‘2019.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of June 17, 2019.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of June 26, 2019.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing a contract with Champaign Signal and Lighting Company for maintenance of traffic signal control equipment, highway lighting, and utility locate services. The contract expires July 31, 2020.

• A resolution conditionally approving the final plat for the Ohlendorf Subdivision by expedited process (301-303 E. Stewart Place).