By Steve Robinson | May 19, 2020 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – Two public hearings were held prior to Monday’s regularly-scheduled Normal Town Council session Monday, done remotely as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The first hearing was related to a proposed amendment to Town’s Community Development Block Grant plan. The second hearing related to a proposed revision of CDBG’s Consolidation Plans for a period from 2020-2024.

After nearly a year’s worth of consulting with the members of the community, Town Council approved the 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan as well as incorporated 2020-2021 Action Plan for filing with the Federal Housing and Urban Development in January. As part of the recently passed Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Town has been notified by HUD that it will be receiving a special, additional allocation of CDBG funds, referred to as CDBG-CV (Coronavirus), for Program Year 2020-21. These funds are to be solely used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 locally.

The Town’s CDBG-CV allocation is in the amount of $246,067. With the addition of these new CDBG-CV funds, the Town’s total CDBG allocation for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 will be $664,358. Federal regulations required the Town to publish the Consolidated Plan, any revisions to it, and conduct at least one public hearing on the plan’s contents.

Only one person spoke at the hearing, Normal resident Ron Ulmer. Ulmer explained he saw a crevasse between what was required of the Town to meet Federal regulations, such as holding a hearing to get citizen input and what Ulmer saw as what the Town wants to do with the funds.

“The Town of Normal is required by law to solicit public input,” Ulmer stated. “The Town does not want to hear from taxpayers, and either ignores input unless the taxpayers support what the Town have already decided what they want to do.” He also took issue with an article in The Pantagraph which said the Town was working with the City of Bloomington on the matter. The City of Bloomington received $329,000 in Federal funds for dealing with the virus. Ulmer wanted to know why Normal was dealing with Bloomington “before requesting citizen input?”

No citizens spoke at the second hearing.

Cost Of Burying Utilities In Uptown Unearths Discussion: With some exceptions, utilities in Uptown Normal are primarily underground. Council members voted 6-1 to approve an ordinance authorizing putting underground certain utilities along East Beaufort St. in Uptown, specifically in the alley located adjacent to the railroad tracks from Uptown Circle to Linden Ave. The ordinance also approves to award a bid to Bloomington-based Anderson Electric who submitted a base bid of $182,675. Anderson Electric was one of three contractors who submitted bids on the project. Council Member Stan Nord cast the lone opposing vote.

In August, Council approved a brewpub on the former site of a key shop at 127 E. Beaufort St. to be operated by brothers Ryan and Steven Fiala. In February, the project developer contacted the Town after discovering costs associated with electric power service were higher than anticipated, including needed installation of a new transformer and underground electric lines.

Town staff investigated the issue and learned that the building footprint was directly under the existing overhead power lines. Because of the conflict with the overhead power lines and the power requirements for the new building, the power provider, Ameren Illinois, requires overhead power lines be buried underground, and existing poles be removed. The existing overhead powerlines are owned by Ameren and stretch from Linden Street along the north side of the alley to behind the building which combines Emack and Bolio’s Ice Cream Shop and Firehouse Pizza.

In discussing whether to pass the ordinance, Council Member Kathleen Lorenz said the project to put the utility underground “is no different than any other projects that have already happened in Uptown. The money is available and eligible for the Tax Increment Financing fund, and some money will actually be reimbursed to the TIF Fund as a result of this project.

The overall project cost estimate of $249,300 in the TIF fund will be partially recouped by an estimated $91,000 growth in earned assessed valuation, which returns to the TIF fund, and $26,509 from the Fiala Brothers’ developer.

Nord said while he “didn’t necessary take issue with utilities going underground,” he took issue with the Town “doing more with money at a time when money is so tight. At some point, to give incentives to get businesses to come into Uptown becomes too expensive.”

Without the measure passing, City Manager Pam Reece said in response to Nord’s comment, it was likely the project would not be completed “because a transformer can’t just simply upgrade a transformer.”

Parking Restrictions For Subdivisions Near Normal West High Eased: Council members unanimously approved amending parking restrictions for two residential subdivisions near Normal Community West High School. Residents living in the Park West and Greystone Fields subdivisions near the school had contacted and were surveyed by the Town concerning easing parking restrictions in the area. In a report to Council members prepared by Assistant City Manager Eric Hanson, it was explained that while current restrictions concerning parking during the school year are appropriate and have worked since those subdivisions came into existence in 2001, neighbors would benefit from having more parking in front of their homes on weekends and during school break periods.

Enterprise Zone Boundary Modification Approved: Council Members unanimously approved an ordinance approving a modification to the Bloomington-Normal Enterprise Zone as requested by chocolate manufacturer Ferraro, located on Bloomington’s southwest end. The company sits on approximately 54.24 acres of property located at 2501 Beich Road in Bloomington and a .716 acres connecting strip. Amending the Enterprise Zone, to include Ferrero, will, according to the report provided to Council members by Hanson, will permit the company to receive sales tax exemption on the purchase of building materials for an expansion project. The proposed expansion, Hanson explained, is contiguous to the Enterprise Zone and is located within the City of Bloomington. Since Ferrero is not located within the corporate limits of Normal, the Town has no incentives to offer the company, but in supporting the expansion of the Enterprise Zone boundary to include that area is vital for the growth of Ferrero and complies with theEnterprise Zone Act and the intergovernmental agreement.

Street Resurfacing Project Awarded To Rowe Construction: Council members unanimously approved accepting a bid for and awarding a contract to Bloomington-based Rowe Construction in amount of $1,535,647.15 for work to be done on the Town’s 2020 Motor Fuel Tax street resurfacing project.

On April 6, 2020, Council authorized a contract with Rowe Construction for resurfacing of non-MFT projects. That contract included resurfacing all or portions of University St., Marquette Dr., Timothy Ct., Hanlin Ct., Victor Place, Karin Dr., Kingswood Dr., Walton Place, Hundman Dr., and College Park Ct.

Street segments to be resurfaced as part of this proposed MFT project remain the same as those presented to Council in January and March, when Council authorized the MFT resolutions associated with this project: Hovey Avenue – White Oak Rd. to Cottage Ave. (newer concrete pavement sections will be omitted); Parkside Road – Erin Dr. to College Ave., and Fort Jesse Rd. from Landmark Dr. to Greenbriar Dr.

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

• Approval of the minutes of the Special Meeting of May 4, 2020

• Approval of the minutes of the regular Council Meeting of May 4, 2020

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal Expenditures for payment as of May 13, 2020

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