NORMAL – Two first-time Normal Town Council members and a third who won a second term in April 2’s general election were sworn in to begin the regularly-scheduled session of the governing body’s meeting Monday night in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of Uptown Station.

The evening began with Council Member Kathleen Lorenz being sworn in for her second term, with newcomers Stan Nord and Karyn Smith being sworn in for their first terms. But from the outset, the session slowed due to a number of items brought about in public comments and a discussion about a related item to be paid by the Town.

Among five people who spoke in public comments were members of an organized group who are advocating prevention of possible changes proposed by the local public transportation service, Connect Transit.

Connect Transit has proposed ending the Olive Route, which, in part, serves residents on low incomes. That route is slated to cease running July 1. Christopher Calhoun, speaking on behalf of Bloomington-based Life Center For Independent Living, or LIFE-CIL, stated the organization has been made aware of barriers which keep disabled persons from having access to Connect Transit’s service. He said the disabled in the community “are facing increased barriers. He stated the organization does not support an increase in fares and route reductions as proposed by Connect Transit. The transportation company has proposed raising its initial boarding fare from $1 to $1.25 effective Oct. 1.

Calhoun asked Council members to work to see to it routes aren’t eliminated and fares aren’t increased until barriers disabled face to use the service are eliminated. He was joined by three other speakers who shared similar views.

As the omnibus vote agenda was presented for votes by the Council at one time, Nord asked to pull the budget to discuss an item related to transportation – a payment to Connect Transit of $75,158.33 for what the line item called “capital and operation subsidy.”

Nord said the funds should go to those who are helped by subsidized transit. “The focus needs to go back to those who need the service who can’t afford to or have no regular means of transportation,” he said. He recommended the Council withhold the funding until Connect Transit representatives address the Council.

City Manager Pam Reece explained to Nord that the amount in question was helpful to Connect Transit during two years of former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration when the State failed to produce an annual budget. That took place from July 1, 2015 to August 31, 2017, through fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and part of FY 2018.

Reece reminded the Twin Cities split what they pay Connect Transit for its efforts in a 60 percent-40 percent split, with Normal contributing the smaller percentage. When the Council voted on the overall budget, the tally was 6-1 in favor with Nord casting the lone opposing vote.

CDBG Action Plan Approved: There were questions concerning another omnibus item relating to the Town filing its Community Development Block Grant Action Plan for program year 2019. That item, after a brief discussion, was approved unanimously.

Ordinance Adds Brandt Enterprises To Enterprise Zone: Council members unanimously approved the expansion of an enterprise zone to include property on which Brandt Industries is planning an expansion of its manufacturing facility. Doing that would expand the enterprise zone bordered by Bloomington-Normal, McLean County, Gibson City, and Ford County. Brandt has estimated the cost of the constructed expansion to the facility will cost $35 million.

Brandt Industries purchased the property formerly owned by Kongskilde Industries in 2018.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting of April 15, 2019.

• A resolution authorizing procurement and fiscal management authority for the 2018 Transportation & Land Use Connection Grant to the Town Staff in the amount of $40,340 and authorizing an appropriate budget adjustment.

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