NORMAL – One of the owners of the Normandy Village complex addressed Normal Town Council members toward the end of the government body’s regularly-scheduled meeting Sept. 7 wishing to refute comments a Normal Council member made on his Facebook page concerning intentions over the owners’ planned use for the property.

Julie Hile addressed Council members, including Council Member Stan Nord who made a video recapping his concerns for what Hile and her husband, Bob Broad, had in mind for the property. In addressing Council members, Hile said, “Following the Aug. 16 Council meeting, one Council member made a series of misrepresentations regarding our action at and intentions for Normandy Village.”

Hile said Nord “appears to be seeking to discredit us as public servants and business owners.” She said the intention she and Broad have for the property after purchasing it several years ago was “repairing, preserving, and celebrating this special property.” Among the purposes she said she and Broad had for the property when they purchased it was to make it “a place where community members can gather and create future happy memories.”

In a video found on his Facebook page, first term Councilman Nord stood on Normandy Village property as he said, “The Town staff want to allow bars out here.” He then pointed to a small park nearby he referred to as a “children’s park.”

Nord went on to explain the concern over the property with a request for new businesses on the property. “This was all spurred by the owners of Normandy Village going to the Town and saying, ‘hey, it would be great if we could have bars and breweries out here.’” He said Hile and Broad “then got hooked in with a brewery to help start this whole initiative to allow bars to be out here.”

“Contrary to Mr. Nord’s repeated allegations, we have no intentions to open a bar in Normandy Village,” Hile told Council members. She added what she and her husband intend to do with property is continue to rehab the buildings on the property, and “expanding community activities within the greenspaces, and provide a peaceful and beautiful destination for neighbors, community members, and visitors.”

The property in question is known to locals as the former Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s School, or ISSCS. Founded in 1865, ISSCS began as a home and school for children of disabled and deceased Civil War veterans. The facility housed and educated children for more than a century, and permanently closed in 1979.

Financial Trend Report Looks Good Despite Pandemic: In spite of difficulties the pandemic presented for Normal, Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn presented Council members with a rather positive picture of how the Town has fared so far through the crisis. Huhn said his office looks to see how the Town did in various categories to determine the overall financial health of the Town. As it turns out, Normal has gotten through the pandemic period fairly well.

He showed Council members the Town has positive numbers concerning assessed property value, the number of requests for construction building permits, average prices of home sales, and the unemployment rate. In terms of assessed property value, Huhn said the Town discovered an equalized assessed value growth of at least two percent annually will help generate sufficient property tax dollars coming in to offset increases in expenditures.

The number of construction permits requested went up in 2020 versus 2019, as well, Huhn explained. In 2018, 835 construction permits were sought by builders. But that number dropped by 0.5 percent in 2019, to 831 percent. Those requests for building permits increased in 2020 by 6.7 percent, with 887 permit requests being asked for of the Town. Huhn added residential remodeling also saw a jump last year with 656 requests sought by residents from the Town, up from 571 requests in 2019.

Average home prices saw increases in 2020, too, according to the report. In 2021, Normal is currently experiencing what the report calls “a significant increase” in the demand for housing attributed to “continuing economic development associated with Rivian.” Because of that, the Town’s report adds, “This will likely result in home sales and pricing for future years.”

Unemployment in Normal jumped 2 percent from 2.3 percent in 2019 to 4.3 percent in 2020, the report added. The 2.3 percent figure was one of the Town’s lowest, Huhn said, and then he said because of the pandemic, the Town’s unemployment figure jumped to one of its highest in 2020. Huhn actually rates this subject as “positive – with caution,” explaining in the report, “the recovery of the unemployment rate is trending in a positive direction. Normal’s rate remains amongst the lowest compared to the eight largest downstate communities in central Illinois (south of I-80).”

Galesburg, Peoria, and Decatur all experienced higher unemployment numbers from 2020 into 2021. Galesburg saw a jump from 3.8 percent in 2020 to 8.1 percent in 2021, an increase of 3.8 percent; Peoria saw a jump from 4 percent to 8.8 percent in 2021; and Decatur’s went from 4.6 percent in 2020 to 10.2 percent in 2021.

The number of construction permits requested went up in 2020 versus 2019, as well, Huhn explained. In 2018, 835 construction permits were sought by builders. But that number dropped by 0.5 percent in 2019, to 831 percent. Those requests for building permits increased in 2020 by 6.7 percent, with 887 permit requests being asked for of the Town. Huhn added residential remodeling also saw a jump last year with 656 requests sought by residents from the Town, up from 571 requests in 2019.

Average home prices saw increases in 2020, too, according to the report. In 2021, Normal is currently experiencing what the report calls “a significant increase” in the demand for housing attributed to “continuing economic development associated with Rivian.” Because of that, the Town’s report adds, “This will likely result in home sales and pricing for future years.”

Unemployment in Normal jumped 2 percent from 2.3 percent in 2019 to 4.3 percent in 2020, the report added. The 2.3 percent figure was one of the Town’s lowest, Huhn said, and then he said because of the pandemic, the Town’s unemployment figure jumped to one of its highest in 2020. Huhn actually rates this subject as “positive – with caution,” explaining in the report, “the recovery of the unemployment rate is trending in a positive direction. Normal’s rate remains amongst the lowest compared to the eight largest downstate communities in central Illinois (south of I-80).”

Galesburg, Peoria, and Decatur all experienced higher unemployment numbers from 2020 into 2021. Galesburg saw a jump from 3.8 percent in 2020 to 8.1 percent in 2021, an increase of 3.8 percent; Peoria saw a jump from 4 percent to 8.8 percent in 2021; and Decatur’s went from 4.6 percent in 2020 to 10.2 percent in 2021.

Normal and the rest of the country may be in the midst of a global pandemic, but from a financial standpoint, the Town appears to be holding its own and even doing well in spite of the drawbacks the worldwide situation has produced for other communities. That was the gist of the annual financial trend report Normal Town Council members received during their meeting Tuesday, Sept. 7, held the day after the Federal Labor Day Holiday.

By Steve Robinson | September 7, 2021 - 10:51 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members learned Tuesday that the Town successfully went through another annual audit with no issues registered. And for the second year, the Town was recognized by for its efforts to maintain such accounting records by an independent organization. Town Council members met Tuesday in Council Chambers on the 4th Floor of Uptown Station, a day after the Federal Labor Day Holiday.

Jamie Wilkey, a partner with Naperville-based Certified Public Accounting firm Lauterbach and Amen, told Council members the Town received what auditors call a clean audit, or audit without issues needing to be addressed. Further, she said, the Town has received a certificate of achievement in financial reporting from Chicago-based Government Finance Officers Association. The Town received the honor last year, as well, for its efforts related to financial reporting and recordkeeping.

Wilkey explained the audit received what auditors call an “unmodified opinion.” She explained auditors enter an audit to make sure of two things: To ensure the Town’s financial statements, as they are presented, are materially correct; and to assess the overall environment where auditing measures take place.

She said auditors research samples of transactions done by the Town to complete the audit. In doing this, auditors are looking for items that might be considered issues or findings of concern the Town would then need to address and resolve.

Wilkey told Council members she was pleased to report the Town had no findings needing to be taken care of.

After Wilkey completed her report to Council members, they unanimously approved a resolution to accept the audited Town of Normal Financial Statements and Report on Internal Controls for the Year ending March 31, 2021. The Town’s fiscal year begins every April 1 and ends the following March 31.

Liquor Code Amended To Allow Liquor Sales At Normal Theater: Council members voted 6-1 approving an ordinance which would amend the Town’s liquor code so that alcohol could be sold at the Normal Theater and Town-sponsored events held in Uptown. Council Member Stan Nord cast the lone dissenting vote. Town Staff wrote a report to Council members explaining updating the ordinance allowing the change “would enhance the Town’s opportunities for hosting community/private events and add a consistent approach to alcohol at approved sponsored events in Uptown.”

Nord asked if the Town needed to assume responsibility if it sold liquor to someone beyond a legal limit or to someone who was not 21 or older as State law mandates. Town Corporation Counsel Brian Day explained current liability for the Town currently used at Town-owned Ironwood Golf Course would be used at the theater. He added the Town already has staff familiar with the legal requirements of serving alcohol, and that if Council approved the measure, the theater would need to apply to the Town for a liquor license just as any other liquor selling establishment does.

Nord proposed an amendment to the ordinance separating the types of events so Council members would have to take a vote on selling liquor at the theater and take a separate vote on selling liquor at public events for Council members to vote on. No Council member offered a second to his amendment.

Larry Schumacher Appointed To Historic Preservation Commission: Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McCarthy announced Larry Schumacher has been appointed to fill an open seat on the Town’s Historic Preservation Commission. His term will expire March 31, 2022. Retired from a 36-year career at State Farm, Schumacher and wife Laurel have two daughters. Once he retired, Schumacher, who has a background in construction, became a licensed home inspector and founded LS Home Inspections, LLC. He has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Illinois State University.

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular Council meeting of Aug. 16, 2021.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Sept. 1, 2021.

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Peoria-based Hoerr Construction, Inc. for the 2021 sanitary and storm sewer cleaning and televising contract in the amount of $1,181,816.30 and an associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution conditionally approving the final plat for Greystone Fields Subdivision 3rd addition (Parkside Rd.).

• An ordinance to restrict parking in the first block on the west side River Landing St. and Montgomery St. south of Shelbourne Dr.

NORMAL – A section of West College Ave. has become concerning for many business people and residents over the years. For both constituencies, the deterioration of the road, particularly as one travels from College Ave. to Rivian Motorway has had businesses in the area hoping the Town could find a way to repair it.

For Chip Henrichs, who owns a trio of warehouses which house businesses along College Ave., his concerns include, were they to be needed, fire engines and emergency vehicles needing to do a U-turn into on-coming traffic to service his businesses. For years, Henrichs said, he has wanted the Town to put a small through lane to avoid what has concerned him about that part of the street, but there has never been one put in. He said he has approached Normal about creating the through lane but it still remains unaddressed.

For Mike Swartz, manager of McLean County Fairgrounds, he checked out the proposed changes in the roadway to see if there would be any potential impediments the fairgrounds might face due to updating done to the stretch of College Ave. near the entrance from there to the fairgrounds.

Normal residents, particularly those concerned with the deteriorating state of a section of West College Ave., got a glimpse of where work to fix the aging infrastructure will be done and gave Town officials an opportunity to hear concerns the work on that stretch of road will impact their businesses. The deterioration the road has experienced in over three decades time has also had an impact on them was among the reasons they say they came out to the look at proposed work the Town wants done to the road.

Among the improvements Town officials want addressed when work begins are: Reconstruction of West College Ave., including intersections and entrances from U. S. Route 150 to White Oak Rd.’s west side; Put traffic signals at the intersection at U.S. 150 at Rivian Motorway and provide a northbound right turn lane; Provide a center two-way left-turn lane along the eastern side of the road; and provide a multi-use path on the north side of the street.

In a conference room across from Normal Town Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, local residents were given an opportunity to see where along the 1.5 mile stretch of West College Ave. the Town seeks to do work to improve a stretch of the road which has been a source of concern to many residents including Henrichs. The session lasted two hours but only a handful of residents like him availed themselves of the opportunity to see the layout of the plan, which stretched across a number of tables in the room.

West College Ave. serves as an access road for a trio of types of businesses which service people needing the businesses. Those businesses range from commercial to industrial as well as to private residences.

In addition to connecting to several businesses in the area, the road also provides access to the south side of Rivian. Those who looked over the layout were given an opportunity to write comments which would be passed on to the design team for the project. The Farnsworth Group engineering firm is heading the design phase of the project. Farnsworth Group staff were also on hand for the two-hour session.

Town Engineer Ryan Otto said the project to be done to this stretch of road is considered a rehabilitation project “so that it serves the needs of the community” like ones for Henrichs and Swartz. “We’re looking at a 30-year horizon to make it fit for truck traffic and all the businesses and the land that’s developable around the area.”

The project is in its initial planning phase, of which seeking input from the public was part of, explained City Manager Pam Reece. The pavement from White Oak Rd. to Rivian Motorway is of primary concern, Reece said. “The road has been on our radar for a while, but the worst end is the west end near Rivian Motorway, but we’ve incorporated we’ve included the whole length of the roadway because we want to have an improvement plan for the whole area.”

There are three phases to the project is expected to have a $9.3 million price tag and be done in three phases – planning; design and right-of-way/easement phase; and construction. Otto said once Town Council approves funding for the project, and getting past the planning and design phases, it’s expected to take two years from start to completion. The construction is slated to begin in spring 2023.

Reece said once the Town knows what it wants to do to improve the area, the Town can begin looking at security funding, Reece said. “We’re hoping to use some of our Federal surface transportation dollars among our sources,” she said. The Town would go through a program established by McLean County Regional Planning Commission to apply for some of the funding, she explained. In addition to that, Reece said, the Town would also use some Federal and State funding, as well as some of the Town’s Motor Fuel Tax funds for the project.

When seeking Federal funds on such projects, the community seeking Federal funds are asked to contribute a certain amount of local funding to the project, Reece said. But currently, she said, Normal does not know how much it will be asked to pitch in on this project.

Otto added that while the work is being done, the Town wants to reconfigure the road to meet the needs of Rivian and the surrounding businesses. “Anyone who drives out there knows it’s in rough shape,” Otto said explaining, “There’s a lot of concrete and joint deterioration, and a lot of potholes. So, we’re proposing rebuilding the entire road. It’s no longer something we can just mill off and resurface. It’s beyond that.” He characterized the condition of the concrete on that road as being “too poor” for simple patchwork to be done in order to fix it.

After the Town got a full assessment of how much the road needed fixing, Otto explained, they looked at what could be done to improve it by “reconfiguring it to meet the needs for Rivian and all the businesses that are currently there.”

By Steve Robinson | August 9, 2021 - 3:48 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Because of the impact he has had on a number of civic organizations which have helped others, it would not be a stretch to say mentioning the word community and the name Mike Matejka in the same sentence. And for his efforts, Matejka was named Normal’s Citizen of the Year during the annual Mayor’s Reception, held Aug. 4 in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center on Illinois State University’s campus. Roughly 200 invited guests attended the function.

Matejka told the gathering receiving the honor “was a shock and surprise,” explaining he first came to Normal in 1973 as a transfer student. At that time, he said, one of the first places he became active with was the Catholic Union Center, operated by Father Joe Kelly. Matejka said that was where he picked up the notion of helping develop an inclusive community and reaching out to others. He said Kelly didn’t refer to God or Jesus, but rather, referred to community in preaching to those who came there.

“I took to heart what Joe taught and its been a lifelong journey to do that,” Matejka explained, adding his journey “took a lot of twists and turns that anyone wouldn’t call a normal career path, but it’s been very satisfying.” Matejka also acknowledged Laborers Local #362 which he explained taught him that “we take care of our members when we take care of our community.”

Mayor Chris Koos began the tribute to Matejka by saying, “In his roles of civic leader, volunteer, social justice advocate, and recently he has shown he has shown to be an exemplary role model of positive change in civic engagement. He constantly steps forward to help contribute and offer ideas quickly.”

Koos added Matejka, who retired this year from his post as Governmental Affairs Director at Great Plains Laborers District Council after more than 40 years, where he served as editor of its publication, Prairie Union News for four decades. “If I had to choose one word to describe this person, I would choose the word community because few others believe in the best of our community, and he has emphatically added to the quality of life for a number of individuals in our community.”

A former Bloomington City Council member who has only been a Normal resident since 2013, Matejka told reporters after the ceremony, “We have to look at Bloomington-Normal as a community, not as separate entities. When we think of our community, I think Not In Our Town is something I certainly hope has made a significant difference for people.” Matejka helped found the local chapter of Not In Our Town in 1995. The group seeks solutions to problems while creating diverse communities.

He also said he hopes local labor unions are involved with and receive recognition for the efforts they add to the community, explaining union members are recognized for their efforts, as well, because, as he explained, “they are often forgotten. They are those everyday people who do the work they do and they need recognition and need support.”

Among the projects currently occupying Matejka’s time is aiding NIOT putting together a social justice history guide book. He said that book would chronicle locations of historic events related to issues of inclusion, racial matters, labor issues, and feminist issues that took place in the Twin Cities. The book would concentrate on events dating back to the Civil War, Matejka explained. Facts to be mentioned in the book include Normal having once had three African American churches. The book would also have a companion website, also being worked on.

Koos said the Town receives recommendations for the honor and selection of the person is often quick because it comes across as evident.

Matejka has been involved in a number of organizations over the years including McLean County Historical Society, Illinois Labor History Society, and the advisory board for Easterseals of Central Illinois. He also sits on the Stevenson Lecture Committee, and Autism McLean’s Autism friendly community initiative. This latest honor is part of a number of honors he has received over the past 20 years.

His wife of 39 years, Kari Sandhaas, said upon being contacted by the Town for biographical information, “I was excited to hear he had been nominated. She said she told Matejka “someone special he knew would be honored so we really needed to make it to that event.” She added that, as a couple, they shared “the value of contributing to our community.”

The couple has a daughter, Loretta.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved an ordinance amending the Town’s 2020-21 Operating and Capital Investment Budget, including increasing authorized revenue for that fiscal year in the amount of $7,155,284. In addition, a budget amendment was passed by Council members to authorize increasing expenditures in the amount of $8,433,924. The action was taken during the Council’s regularly-scheduled session held Monday night in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station.

Originally, budgeted revenue was anticipated to come in around $133,837,865. But the Town wound up with $140,993,149 entering its coffers resulting in a net increase for FY2020-21 of $7,155,284. In a report prepared for Council members by Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn, he explained the surplus as an increase in all Town funds “primarily relates to transactions associated with the Debt Service Project Reserve Fund, Vehicle and Equipment Replacement Fund, Motor Fuel Tax Fund and the General Fund.”

Huhn cautioned Council members about how to think about the increased amount merely being an increase in revenue. He said the increase came as a result of things such as interfund transfers between fiscal years within the Town’s pocketbook. He explained delays in projects which force a carryover of funds from one fiscal year to the next fiscal year creates what might look like an increase in monies received.

In fact, the $7.2 million increase breaks down this way: $3.7 million surplus funds moved from Debt Service and Project Reserve Fund (DSPR) using those surplus funds to support paying down bonds in FY2022-23; $3.2 million for use in the Town’s Vehicle and Equipment Replacement Fund; $1.8 million applied to the Town’s Motor Fuel Tax Fund which came from the State for the “Rebuild Illinois” program; $889,000 for the Town Library Reserve Fund; $655,000 for the Town Community Development Fund, in effect, an increase which relates to rolling over Federal grant funds to the new fiscal year.

This review essentially closes the Town’s financial records for fiscal year 2020-21.

Preliminary Development Plan, 3rd Edition For Kelley Glen PUD Discussed: Council members unanimously approved a pair of resolutions concerning Kelley Glen Planned Unit Development, beginning by unanimously approving a resolution reapproving its preliminary development plan for the property located at the corner of Henry St. and Raab Rd. Passing this measure is a nod from Council members to the developer to allow for an outward building of residential housing in that area. Located at the southeast corner of Henry Street and Raab Road, this particular PUD received Town Council approval as a Preliminary PUD in March 2003.

Council members then unanimously passed a related resolution giving conditional approval to the PUD’s 3rd addition final plat at the same location. Although the entire is nearly 54 acres in size, only roughly 25 acres of its west side has been annexed.

Incentive Package Approved For B-N Enterprise Zone Approved: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance which amended the Bloomington-Normal Enterprise Zone designating ordinance and authorized approving an intergovernmental agreement regarding the Zone. Council members heard from Patrick Hoban, chief executive officer of Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council who presented an overview regarding an economic incentive package which included property tax abatements as well as other economic measures for certain businesses.

The enterprise zone includes Bloomington-Normal-McLean County and Gibson City-Ford County. Members of Bloomington City Council has approved this while Ford County Board and Gibson City’s city council will find this on future agendas.

Council Unanimously Approves Ordinance Vacating Electric Ave. Right-Of-Way: A unanimous Council decision approved an ordinance vacating a public right-of-way on Electric Ave. As part of such a Town decision, public right-of-ways may be vacated when they no longer serve the purpose of providing public access to a property. Also as a result of such a decision, public and private utilities can be protected within an easement, providing access to utility providers when repairs or replacement are needed. Vacating the right-of-way also frees the Town of responsibility for maintenance, including snow plowing and street repair.

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

• Approval of minutes of special Council meeting of July 19, 2021.

• Approval of minutes of regular Council meeting of July 19, 2021.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of July 28, 2021.

• A resolution authorizing frame rail replacement and corrosion repairs to a 2011 Pierce fire engine.