NORMAL – During their regularly-scheduled meeting Monday night, Normal Town Council members received an update concerning programs available to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The overview of what is available to businesses was conducted by Patrick Hoban, chief executive officer of Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council.

The meeting took place with all council members, and other participants present, doing so from remote locations.

Hoban began by stating that the shelter-in-place order issued by Gov. J. B. Pritzker which began March 21 and expected to run through April 30, “has taken its toll on Illinois, especially on Bloomington-Normal, with over 21,000 college students.” He added someone he knew told him the current atmosphere people are living in is “our new normal, but I don’t believe that unless we start our recovery process.”

Hoban said among the first things B-NEDC did was to partner with the McLean County Chamber of Commerce and Bloomington-Normal Convention and Visitors Bureau. That trio of groups have created a website, www.bnprepared.org, which informs businesses on available resources they can find at this time.

Among the programs available to businesses Hoban mentioned are Economic Injury Disaster Loans offered directly by Small Business Association for amounts up to $2 million. These loans are available to businesses with under 500 employees. They can be paid back over 30 years at a rate of 3.75 percent, he explained. Businesses can borrow up to $25,000 without collateral, Hoban added.

Another loan available to businesses Hoban mentioned is the Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan which businesses can use to borrow up to $10,000. Both loans are for businesses employing under 500 employees.

A third one Hoban mentioned which would be of help to not just businesses but financial institutions is the Paycheck Protection Program. Hoban explained it is fully forgivable and 75 percent of it can be used for payroll. He said any business interested in this program will need to contact their local lender.

Hoban added the State has created a program to help businesses at this time. He said one program they created was the Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund which will loan businesses with under 50 employees and taking in less than $3 million in revenue up to $50,000.

“To summarize – and I can’t stress this enough – call your banker so you can find out what you can qualify for,” Hoban added.

In answer to a question from Council Member Karyn Smith, Hoban said one way the public can help businesses at this time is to purchase gift cards from the merchants. City Manager Pam Reece added that there are businesses that are accepting prepayment for services with the understanding patrons will avail themselves of the services offered once the pandemic concludes.

Council Received Updates On Projects Listed On Omnibus Agenda: Council members received an update on a few projects listed in the Town Council’s omnibus agenda during a nearly hour-long session from Reece. Chief among the reason for completing the projects now, she said, was that they were capital improvement projects needing to be completed to meet deadlines.

First among the projects was a water main replacement project to be completed in neighborhoods centered on Bryan Dr., Adelaide St., and Wilmette St. in Normal. Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. at a total cost of $865,400 plus up to a potential $15,000 bonus for early completion, brought in the accepted bid for the project.

Reece explained to Council members installing the water main “will improve the water quality in those neighborhoods.” In addition to new water main installation, new fire hydrants will also be installed in those areas, she said.

Reece added that a street resurfacing contract which was awarded to Bloomington-based Rowe Construction Co., a Division of United Contractors Midwest, Inc., was the sole bidder for the project, submitting a bid in the amount of $942,755.07. She said it has been the Town’s experience that Rowe usually is the sole bidder on such projects, adding, the company is usually, also, the lone bidder on projects put up for bid by the City of Bloomington.

The streets being resurfaced in this project have been rated by the Town and were ones considered needing priority by the Town, Reece said.

Council members also unanimously approved a resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. for the Glenn Avenue Bridge Replacement Project in the amount of $872,788.47. “That project originally had been budgeted for a couple of years, meaning to replace the bridge in 2019, but ran into some challenges in terms of getting the project done then,” Reece explained to Council members.

She added the project is expected to come in under budget and, with Glenn Elementary School adjacent in that area where the work will be done, the Town is looking to see the project started as soon as Normal-based Unit 5 School District concludes the spring semester and completed by August.

Finally, Reece added the Town is hoping to be able to see a project involving numerous sidewalk improvements gets completed this year. To that end, Council members unanimously approved a resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Bloomington-based J.G. Stewart Contractors, Inc. for the 2020 Miscellaneous Sidewalk Improvements – 50/50 Sidewalk and ADA Ramps Project in the Amount of $454,480.90.

Reece said multiple locations in the community would see improvements done and at a price under budget.

Council Member Nord Questions Spending On CDM Exhibits: Reece also mentioned to Council members the impact completion of another project approved by resolution would have on the community, to authorize Children’s Discovery Museum Executive Director Beth Whisman to amend the Design/Build Agreement with Lincolnwood, Ill.-based Luci Creative, LLC for the new “Healthy Me” exhibit in an amount not to exceed $419,475. Reece reminded Council members the governing body authorized spending on updating the exhibit at that price in July 2019.

At the time that original resolution was passed, Reece told Council members, the governing body voted for the Town to spend an amount not exceeding $300,000. But, Reece explained, in the course of the Wilmette, Illinois-based company’s design of that exhibit, the Town consulted with educators and health care professionals who made recommendations which prompted the Town to expand the information contained in the exhibit. As a result, the Town sought, and received a unanimous Council vote with the increased price tag.

“We believe that project will result in a higher quality exhibit and meet the needs of the Museum for years to come,” She said. Reece added the Children’s Discovery Museum Board has agreed to reimburse the Town for the expense. Council members unanimously passed the resolution without discussion. It is hoped that if there are no delays, that exhibit will be ready for display in August.

Smith asked Reece if, with the Town shutdown and the Museum closed, would that help the Museum with its timing to complete the exhibit. Whisman said the current situation should have no effect on the Museum’s scheduled debut for the exhibit.

But prior to the vote unanimously approving the spending measure, and citing that the CDM Board has not had a meeting since the community and country began contending with a pandemic, Council Member Stan Nord offered a motion to table voting on the measure until the Council was able to hear an update from CDM Board members, “in case they wanted to tweak this exhibit.” He also pondered whether CDM would be starting any work on new exhibits during the current circumstances.

Smith seconded the tabling motion, but it failed on a 6-1 count with Nord being the only one seeking for the measure to be tabled, while Mayor Chris Koos, and Council Members Kevin McCarthy, Scott Preston, Kathleen Lorenz, Chemberly Cummings, and Smith voting against it.

Whisman informed Council members funding for the exhibit was approved knowing the cost was going to increase. She added the money needed for the project has been secured by the Museum Board through pledges. “The Board was comfortable with an amount up to $420,000,” she explained. She included that the dollars for the exhibit are coming from private fundraisers and gifts secured by the CDM Foundation.

Cummings: “Take Pandemic Seriously”: Cummings informed Council members she had received reports of small group gatherings in the community despite local authorities’ insistence on people not gathering in groups larger than 10 or observing social distancing to cut down on the spread of Covid-19. “I don’t want it to get to the point to where it impacts your household, so I am pleading with our community to take this seriously – this is not vacation time. We have to be smart about this as a community.”

No Landscape Waste Pick-Up At This Time: McCarthy reminded residents that curbside services provided by the Town – trash collection, recycling, and brush are being picked up on a weekly basis during the pandemic. He reminded the only service the Town is now doing currently is landscape waste collection.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council meeting held March 16, 2020.

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