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.

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