NORMAL – For a majority of the time they are together passing ordinances in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, Normal Town Council members are normally seen as unified on many matters, with a few votes where one or two members oppose a measure. But with the Coronavirus-19 creating fears of catching a contagious and for some, a deadly illness, Council members were in unison at a special session Monday night, just not all present in Chambers.

In spite of the separation, Council members unanimously voted to approve an ordinance giving Mayor Chris Koos and City Manager Pam Reece authority to make as-needed emergency discretionary decision making powers in light of the current crisis. Even though the vote was unanimous, only Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McCarthy and Council Member Karyn Smith were physically present for the vote. Koos, and Council Members Kathleen Lorenz, Scott Preston, Stan Nord, and Chemberly Cummings used a current State law which allows, with prior permission, Council members to vote at the meeting by phone.

Koos said the ordinance was first written in 1969 and the Coronavirus situation is the first time any mayor has had to use the ordinance due to a particular set of circumstances. In addition, the ordinance permits a mayor to cancel any board or commission sessions.

“These are unusual times we’re facing,” Koos said. He thanked Council members for their efforts, as well as the efforts of Town staff and residents “who are working collectively and separately to make this Coronavirus as minimal as they possibly can.” He added the situation the Town faced as a result of the virus meant facing situations where a decision had to be made within a number of hours.”

Koos said he had been hearing about the impact this situation with the disease could have had on personal freedoms. He responded to that by saying, “I heard the concerns. There was a lot of concern about freedoms and rights. The Town of Normal has no authority to supersede the State of Illinois Constitution or the Federal Constitution. I will also say I believe in personal rights. I believe in personal freedoms. I spent a year in combat in Vietnam defending those freedoms.” He said neither he nor Council members nor Town staff take such matters lightly.

He added the ordinance allows the Town “to be nimble – to be able to act quickly for the benefit of the residents of the Town.”

The Town said public comment would be asked for, in person and in writing. One person, Rob Howard, told Council members he was concerned the Coronavirus situation for several reasons, one of which was the Town imposing a strict curfew upon residents. The Town received nearly two dozen emails, a number of them cautioned for the Council to avoid passing any measures which would infringe on citizens’ civil rights as it contended with the virus.

In addition to Howard, nearly two dozen people submitted written comments about the Town taking this action, most of them unfavorable. “I wholeheartedly disagree with the proposed emergency measures,” wrote resident John Otto. “While I understand the times call for precautions, I believe giving the power to regulate free commerce, like buying and selling of ammunition and firearms, as well as gasoline, as outlined in Section 25.2-12 of Town Municipal Code is an over reach and entirely unnecessary.”

At the Town Council’s March 16 regularly-scheduled meeting, the governing body voted to delay water service shut-offs. At their next regularly-scheduled session April 6, they will decide whether or not to carry through with scheduled utility hikes. Utility rates were slated for an increase on April

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously conditionally approving a site plan for 2012 W. College Ave., a property owned by Council Member Stan Nord during their March 16 meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station. Nord, elected to his first term as a Council member last April, removed himself from the Council dais prior to discussion on the matter began. Normal Planning Commission members granted a conditional approval to the site plan at a meeting held March 5.

Among the improvements Nord sought permission for included: A gravel area sought for storage of outdoor containers; A storm water detention area; A means to protect the property from a nearby stream; Permission from the Town for additional landscaping including adding five white cedar and five cottonwood trees; Permission to put new facing of current signs; And a bike rack.

The report submitted to Council members on the resolution for the site plan, submitted by Town Planner Mercy Davison, also said the current street infrastructure could handle the sorts of loads Nord’s company was expecting, but that the existing asphalt driveway “may not hold up well under the strain of the additional truck traffic.” The report stated if deterioration of the driveway were to happen, it would need to be repaired or replaced.

The discussion on the matter began with Council Member Kathleen Lorenz asking if the matter could table it until Nord could have his legal representative present for a Council discussion. The Council vote to table the matter failed as a result of a 3-3 deadlock in voting, with Mayor Chris Koos, and Council Members Kevin McCarthy, and Lorenz voting for tabling the matter, while Council Members Chemberly Cummings, Karyn Smith, and Scott Preston voted in opposition to doing so.

Water Rate Hikes, Shutoffs Postponed: Council members also voted unanimously to postpone any scheduled shut-offs of water of residents behind in their payments and City Manager Pam Reece recommended to Koos that the Town consider postponing a scheduled utility rate hike due to concerns regarding COVID-19 virus. Reece said all customers who had their water turned off as a result of payment issues have had their taps turned back on.

Liquor Commission Receives “Marie’s” Update: Council members, serving in their capacity as members of the Normal Local Liquor Commission, held a meeting prior to the Council session. During that Commission meeting, Koos reviewed for Commissioners that two gaming parlors owned by 35 Years, LLC Landmark, doing business as Marie’s Place, were found not to be serving food to patrons. “That has gone through a number of hearings,” Koos said. He added that at a Liquor Commission meeting on March 18, 2019, Commissioners elected to take no action on renewing the business’ licenses but rather, decided for the matter for a hearing to be conducted before an administrative officer.

Koos said the administrative officer was to make recommendations to him for further consideration. He added a hearing did take place but was suspended while legal representatives for the business owners and the Town hashed out legal matters. He added that at the time of the hearing, sale of the business was being pursued.

Koos added that following a gaming parlor audit conducted by the Town on Feb. 19 this year, “the licensee’s establishment was again found to be out of compliance with the requirements of the liquor license.” He said that during a hearing on that matter on March 9, the hearing was adjourned so that “jurisdictional issues” could be discussed. The hearing officer had the hearing’s continuance slated for on March 19. Koos added that after that day’s hearing, he expects to receive the hearing officer’s recommendation on the matter.

In addition to that matter, Koos reported all liquor holders, 72 in total, ranging from bars to restaurants to hotels to gaming parlors to The Corn Crib baseball stadium, had paid their liquor license renewals in full.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the public hearing held March 2, 2020.

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting held March 2, 2020.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 11, 2020.

• A resolution rejecting bids for the Maxwell Park OSLAD Grant renovation project.

• A resolution authorizing staff to execute a three-year contract with Bloomington-based American Pest Control, Inc. for integrated pest management (IPM) services for an annual cost of $10,572.

• A resolution authorizing a contract extension with Washington, D. C.-based Cardinal Infrastructure, LLC for professional services related to Federal advocacy and funding.

• A resolution authorizing a contract with Winchester, Ind.-based Culy Contracting, Inc. for the Uptown Normal cistern rehabilitation project in the amount of $154,120.

• A revised resolution to appropriate $1,550,000 of Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds for the resurfacing of various streets for the 2020 MFT street resurfacing project and authorize the Town Engineer to sign the IDOT general maintenance form.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a service agreement with the lowest responsible bidder for the supply of electricity for residential and small commercial retail customers who do not opt out of such a program.

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

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

NORMAL – Toward the conclusion of Monday’s regularly-scheduled meeting of Normal Town Council Monday, City Manager Pam Reece informed Normal Town Council members of the steps the Town has in place for the next couple of weeks in an attempt to ride out this national medical crisis.

The Town has established a separate website for residents to monitor the situation concerning Coronavirus-19, also known as Covid-19. To do its part to prevent the spread of the disease, the Town announced a decision Monday that as of March 17, there would be no further public access to Town offices in Uptown Station. Reece said while the public will not have access to Town offices on the second and third floors. She did say the first floor, where commuters are able to catch interstate and in-town buses, and Amtrak trains, will remain open to the public.

With the Illinois Primary scheduled for Tuesday, the day after the meeting, the Town did keep three voting precincts at Ironwood Golf Course Clubhouse, Fairview Aquatics Center, and the Community Activity Center running. The only change required under the circumstances was using Fairview Aquatics Center in place of an original polling site, McLean County Nursing Home.

Other municipal facilities operated by the Town, Reece said, would be closed as of March 17. “Until further notice, public facilities will be closed,” she added. “We will be available by phone and online to serve citizens. We just want to limit the public interaction between employees and citizens.”

Reece added the goal of these actions is to “minimizing the quantity and the timeline of patients who are getting ill and needing medical care.”

The Town is taking its cues for informing the public about the disease from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Reece explained. She recommended residents go to the website of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) which also is continuously updating information to keep citizens current on the disease. Reece said these two sources’ websites can be accessed by going to the Town’s website, www.normal.org. Reece added the Town will use its website as its primary source for getting important information out to the public.

“Our goal is to reduce the risk of transmitting a virus. We certainly want to respect the practice of social distancing, and we encourage citizens to adhere to CDC and IDPH recommendations.

She added McLean County Health Department “has been an exceptional resource for us” and that the Town has been maintaining contact with the Health Department as this crisis has evolved. As of Monday, McLean County has had zero positive cases of Coronavirus-19, Reece informed.

She said the Town, in an effort to reduce contact between people in an attempt to reduce potentially picking up the bug “are cancelling a variety of classes and programs, generally in response to CDC guidelines. She said cancellations were also in response to programs Normal-based Unit 5 School district put into play to minimize the potential for spreading the virus. Last week, Gov. J. B. Pritzker ordered schools statewide closed from March 17-30 because of the Coronavirus.

The Town’s Facilities Management department will continue servicing public areas and work spaces, Reece explained, adding, “Many of our operations continue whatever the circumstances,” and public works and water departments will continue to operate. In relation to water use, Reece said the Town would delay shutting off water of those who are behind in payments, and recommended a scheduled utility and waste fee increase slated to begin April 1 be pushed back to July 1.

That last action would take Council approval, Reece said, addressing Mayor Chris Koos, and would most likely be placed on the agenda of the Council’s next meeting scheduled for April 6.

Koos responded to the idea by telling Reece, “That’s the prudent thing to do and sends a good message to our residents. We are mindful of the situations they may be facing personally and we need to do something about it.”

NORMAL – The question Normal Town Council members debated Monday at their regularly-scheduled meeting in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station: Should the Town of Normal agree to give Illinois State University’s Art Gallery at the west end of the Uptown Station parking deck free rent for the next five years? It was a question debated around the Council dais and there were Council members who found the notion of continuing the agreement, which began in 2013, had pluses and minuses.

After a lengthy discussion, Council members voted 4-3 to approve the measure which would maintain the lease under current conditions. Those conditions date back to 2013 when the Town and ISU executed a lease permitting the University to use the west-end ground floor portion of Uptown Station parking deck for gallery space. Total amount of lease payments the Town received from ISU tallied $2,081,658. The original lease expired last October and the two sides met then to extend it until this month.

Approving the contract at Monday’s session were Mayor Chris Koos, along with Council Members Kathleen Lorenz, Chemberly Cummings, and Kevin McCarthy. Council Members Stan Nord, Karyn Smith, and Scott Preston voted in opposition to the measure.

ISU pays its own expenses for the space, but Nord raised the issue of no property tax coming in from the museum because the University is a tax-exempt entity.

McCarthy reminded that all events at the gallery are open free to the public, and with people coming to see the gallery, local businesses, shops, restaurants, and nearby hotels benefit by being visited by patrons using those facilities.

Koos said ISU invested a “lot of money to improve a raw space from the floor up. It was oddly configured for retail. There was no interest in the space from business. And since it’s been there, there has been community involvement there.” He reminded ISU paid $2.1 million to place the gallery at that location.

City Manager Pam Reece told the meeting, the Town picks up the tab for general maintenance costs. She added if ISU wanted to reconfigure the site to, for example, put a wall in, the University would need the Town’s approval.

Making a profit seemed to be on Smith’s mind as she explained that Rivian Automotive, which is scheduled to roll out their first electric vehicles sometime later this year, is approaching having 1,000 employees and that ancillary businesses with employees coming to town or already living here will become consumers in Town, which she said will help the Town profit.

Preston said he didn’t find an “out clause” for either side from the way he read the five-year lease contract Council members voted on.

Council Approves Ordinance Making On-Street Café Seating Permanent: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance which amended a section of Town Code concerning on-street café seating, making it permanent after a two year test run. Town Council members unanimously voted to establish a pilot program for street café seating in May 2018. On North Street, Stave Wine Bar, 111 W. North St., is an example of on-street café seating.

Under the program, any on-street café can operate between April 1 and Oct. 1, and once installed would be required to operate five days a week, weather permitting.

Among the rules for such establishments, referred to as “parklets” because they are primarily in established parking spaces in front of the business operating it, the owner must provide parking blocks on all sides not adjacent to a curb; must be associated with a business that serves food; and hours of operation would be restricted to between 6a.m-12 midnight.

The Town sent a questionnaire last October to five businesses which surround Stave seeking input. According to the report provided Council members by Town Planner Mercy Davison, five of six businesses replying responded calling Stave’s operation a positive for those experiencing Uptown. One respondent did express a concern about the amount of garbage on-street operations produce.

Adult-Use Cannabis Operation Approved: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance granting a special use permit for adult-use cannabis at 501 W. Northtown Rd. The business at that location, The Green Solution, submitted a request for a special use permit so they could operate a dispensary at that location. The business currently operates a medical use dispensary at the location, something permitted by State law. The adult-use ordinance concerning cannabis does not permit consumption at the Northtown Rd. facility.

The State would not approve an adult-use cannabis permit for The Green Solution until the Town provided zoning for the business. Among special use standards by the Town the business had to meet were: Providing the hours of operation and an anticipated number of employees and customers; An anticipated parking demand and the number of parking slots to be considered private; A site plan, and a sign plan.

The operators of the business informed the Town they will operate from 8a.m.-10p.m., the business will have video surveillance at all times, and that the business will not have a drive-through, according to the report provided Council members by Davison.

Business Trip Expenditure Questioned: Nord questioned a line item in the Town budget concerning paying for six staffers of the Children’s Discovery Museum to attend an annual conference of the Association of Children’s Museums which is scheduled to be held in St. Louis in May. He contended the Town should not send that many Town employees to such a meeting. ACM annual conferences rotate cities in which they are held, the last one being held in Denver last year, Reece explained. The Town spent $3,905 in registration for those staffers, including Children’s Discovery Museum Director Beth Whisman and five CDM staffers, to attend the four-day event.

Reece said that many staffers attending the event would allow for them to cover many aspects of what would be presented at the conference and would qualify as professional development time for those Town Staff members. Council members unanimously approved the item.

Ordinance Abating Taxes For Special Service Area Questioned: Also during the portion of the meeting concerning omnibus items, Smith pulled an ordinance which would abate the levy of 2019 property taxes for a section of the Town identified for tax purposes as Special Service Area Number One. This area specifically pertains to The Shoppes At College Hills, and the Special Service Area has existed since the shopping complex was built in the 1970s becoming familiar to shoppers as College Hills Mall.

Smith asked about what obligation the Town had concerning the bond. Koos explained while the Town is the issuer of the bond, it has no obligation on it, only the owners of the shopping complex do. Reece added to the conversation explaining the bonds end in December 2024.

Chizuko Tsukamoto Appointed To Sister Cities Committee: Council members heard of the appointment of Chizuko Tsukamoto to the Town’s Sister Cities Committee, an announcement made by Mayor Pro Tem McCarthy. A long-time resident of McLean County, Tsukamoto holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Illinois State University, focusing on finance. She has had employment with both Seven Seas Travel and Mitsubishi Motors, and currently is working for Komatsu America as a translator and a safety instructor. Tsuksamoto will be filling a vacant seat on the committee with her term expiring March 31, 2022.

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting held Jan. 21, 2020.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Jan. 15, 2020.

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

NORMAL – In recent months, the Town of Normal sought input at public forums concerning how the Town should spend Community Block Development Block Grant dollars. There were a wide range of ideas proposed by citizens in those events. On Monday night, at their regularly-scheduled session Tuesday in Council Chambers, Normal Town Council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the filing of the Town’s CDBG for 2020 through 2024 and the action plan for 2020 and 2021. The meeting was held Tuesday as a result of Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.

Town Associate Planner Taylor Long informed Council members explained the CDBG is a five-year plan and that the funds anticipated for the Town should start coming in during the summer. He further explained that over the next five years, the Council will be consulted how they desire to spend CDBG dollars. In addition, most likely every January, the Council will receive an update on how CDBG money has been spent by the Town and will be asked for input concerning other needs the grant money could be used for.

In a memo Long wrote to Council members regarding CDBG, Long explained the grant is based on a formula from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and requires the Town to develop a five-year consolidation plan which acts as a guide for how the money would be spent.

Based on feedback from residents, Town Staff proposed the following objectives for the Consolidation Plan include, among other things: Youth education activities, down payment assistance, sidewalk and ADA ramp improvements, and job training/workforce development.

Long explained that Illinois State University students living off-campus in town will be counted as part of the 2020 census, which will help the Town in terms of counting residents and contribute to funds the Town can receive as a result.

Council Hears Presentation From Climate Action Campaign: A group seeking the Town’s help as well as help of other government entities in preparing for what they see as weather extremes which could affect the area in the future gave a brief presentation before Council adjourned. Members of the group Climate Action Campaign included retired Illinois State University Professor Bill Rau, who addressed Council members saying concerns about changes in extreme temperatures affecting the area are a direct result of climate change. Rau had support from four citizens who spoke in the meeting’s public comments section.

While Council members took no action on the matter, Council Member Stan Nord told the gathering the matter needs to be looked into by the Town.

Lawsuit Over Uptown Mural Dismissed: A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by artists who created the Uptown mural the artists filed against the Town and the developer of the Trail East project. City Manager Pam Reece said following Monday’s meeting that the judge did that, essentially because the judge ruled the artists have no case because the mural still exists and the Town has shown a willingness to move it from its current location at 104 E. Beaufort St.

A group of artists filed a lawsuit last spring concerned the mural would be demolished when construction begins on the $30 million Trail East project in Uptown. Normal officials have given reassurances to the artists the mural will be moved and not destroyed. Normal and Trail East developer Bush Construction sought a halt to the lawsuit asking the judge to end the suit in November. The future location of the mural is still unknown.

It’s still unclear where the mural will be moved. That delicate process will cost around $100,000.

The mural has served as the centerpiece in a larger discussion concerning the project versus preserving buildings which are part of the Town’s history.

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

• Approval of minutes of the rescheduled regular meeting held Jan. 6, 2020.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Jan. 15, 2020.

• A resolution authorizing an agreement for construction materials testing services for the 2020 construction season with Bloomington-based Ramsey Geotechnical Engineering, LLC (RGE).

• A resolution to appropriate $1,550,000 of Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds for resurfacing of various streets for the 2020 MFT Street Resurfacing Project.

• An ordinance accepting permanent easements in connection with the Glenn Ave. Bridge Reconstruction Project.