NORMAL – The furor over the death of a Minneapolis, Minn. black man while in police custody on May 25 has engulfed the country in riots over the past couple of weeks. As it turned out, the Twin Cities has not been spared from this situation, with looters vandalizing and removing merchandise on Sunday from, among other businesses, Target at the Shoppes At College Hills Mall. On Monday, during public comments, both the head of the Town’s Human Relations Commission and Council Member Chemberly Cummings addressed an incident in which a black man in Minnesota died in police custody.

During public comments, Janessa Williams, Chair of Normal’s Human Relations Commission, said such events as have happened in Minneapolis are things “we cannot be naïve enough to believe cannot occur in our town.” She added the recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breanna Taylor in Louisville “are the latest reminder of America’s original sin against black people in America.”

Williams said the deaths were “the current impetus for people taking to the streets to protest such atrocious behaviors which continue to happen far too often. We cannot become numb to the murders of black people who have not been convicted of an offense other than being black in America by police officers who continue to perpetuate these murders.”

In comments before the close of the meeting, Cummings addressed the local rioting saying the rioting, “proves we are not immunized or inoculated from the infection of racism, nor residual and collateral damage that arises from it.”

Sale Of Town Property Approved: By a 6-1 count, Council members approved sale of property the Town has owned to a private citizen located at 1404 Fort Jesse Rd. Council Member Stan Nord voted in opposition to the sale, in part because the purchaser is the spouse of a Town employee. The buyer will pay the Town $25,000 for the property plus 2019 property tax on the property totaling $2,116.96.

The Town received the title to 1404 Ft. Jesse Road as part of a settlement with the developers of the Office Park. After receiving the property, the Town listed it with a commercial real-estate agent. The property was on the market for two years until 2017. By December that year, the Town entered into a redevelopment agreement with a developer who was going to build an auto body repair shop on the property. According to a report provided Council members by Town Corporation Counsel Brian Day, under that agreement, the Town sold the property to the developer for $30,000 in exchange for the construction of the project. That agreement provided that the developer would sell the Town the property back if he was unable to perform under the agreement. The developer had a business setback, and the property was returned to the Town.

“We don’t seem to get this piece of property sold and keep it sold,” Council Member Kevin McCarthy said. “It’s not generating us anything and it’s taking up taxpayer dollars. Either we sell it and we take what we take in on property tax or we let go of this issue until there is some specific plan going on in that area.” He added it didn’t make sense for Town Staff’s time to continue being spent on the matter.

“The decision tonight is someone has made an offer and do we keep it or accept that offer,” Mayor Chris Koos added.

Nord said the Town had “an obligation to try and get the most value we can for this taxpayer asset,” adding he was contacted by a Town resident who did not know the property was for sale because no sign was posted indicating it on the property. Further, he said he was concerned because the potential buyer of the property is married to a Town employee, which, he said, “brings a lot of questions to this sale.” He suggested he would like to see the property listed with a realtor to avoid potential speculation on the part of the general public. He said he was of the understanding no sign was on the property indicating the property was for sale.

Mayor Chris Koos was quick to object to one of Nord’s points on the subject, stating, “I will take exception with the fact that a spouse of a Town employee somehow should be denied the opportunity to bid on property.”

In voting to approve the sale to go through, Koos prefaced his vote by adding, “I’ll agree with Mr. Nord that the property is selling at a very low price and it would be nice to get a fair price for it, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.”

Council Approves Amending Town’s COVID-19 Emergency Declaration: Thanks to a unanimous vote by Council members, it will be possible to dine outdoors again in Normal. Council members unanimously approved amending the emergency declaration ordinance passed by Council members March 23 which granted Koos and City Manager Pam Reece power to make decisions that may be outside the typical scope of the Municipal Code.

In order to assist local businesses in adapting to Governor Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan Phase 3 progression related to COVID-19, Town staff has been working closely with restaurants to establish guidelines for outdoor seating which would go into effect May 29. In order to accommodate outdoor food service, including alcohol sales so that restaurants can meet that start date, Town staff issued guidelines that require formal authorization by Council, allowing the Mayor, who also serves as Town Liquor Commissioner, and City Manager to make decisions to address business operations.

The ordinance passed in March allows the Town to quickly respond to changing circumstances associated with COVID-19. Reece told Council members once Phase 3 is complete, Phase 4 of the State’s reopening plan for restaurants, which will include indoor dining, is slated to begin at the end of this month.

Council Approves Agreement For Emergency Medical Service To Hudson: Council members unanimously approved a resolution for authorizing an intergovernmental agreement between the Town and Hudson Fire Protection District, which would allow Normal Fire Department to provide emergency medical services for the Hudson Fire Protection District. HFPD provides emergency medical service to the Village of Hudson and the surrounding area. In a memo to Normal Town Council members, Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer explained many rural service providers such as HFPD is impacted by increasing minimum wage rates and turnover associated with staff gaining employment in larger departments.

Under the proposed agreement, the HFPD will pay the Town $225,000 for services in the first year, with a 3 percent increase in both the contract’s second and third years. The Town will agree to provide EMS service 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

If an agreement between the parties is worked out, this would be the second smaller community NFD EMT units would respond to, as Towanda began receiving such service in 2014. HFPD responds to calls covering roughly 50 square miles, including the Village of Hudson, Humer told Council members. Their territory includes Lake Bloomington, Lake Evergreen, and surrounding areas, Humer explained.

In 2019, Humer said, there were between 140-150 calls for assistance made to HFPD, of which NFD lent assistance 47 times with “paramedic-level transport.” He said if the patient required IV’s or medication, NFD was able to assist, in addition to getting the patient to a hospital.

“We’re only talking about 100 more calls per year,” if this is agreed to, Humer told Council members at a work session last month. He added Hudson receives money courtesy of a tax levy for emergency medical services of roughly $300,000.

Council Approves Contract With Company Serving As Political Advocate: Council members unanimously approved a six-month contract with Turing Strategies, LLC, a company which, according to a memo written to Council members by Reece, will “seek out available funding opportunities for capital projects, engage with state agencies and stay abreast of legislative issues impacting the municipality.” The Town will spend a total of $24,000 on the contract for the period covered.

Council Approves Contract With Phoenix Investors: Council members unanimously approved executing a development agreement for the North Normal Warehouse Development area with Phoenix Investors for property located at the southeast corner of the intersection of N. Main Street and Kerrick Road. The 68.9 acre site contains an unfinished 500,000 sq. ft. warehouse and distribution building that started construction in November of 2007 and stopped in October 2008 prior to completion.

According to a report prepared for Council members by Assistant City Manager Eric Hanson, in an attempt to support completion of the project, improving the existing warehouse for use, the Town approved a Tax Increment Financing area in 2013 with an expiration of 2036. When adopted in 2013, it was expected the project would require an investment of approximately $10 million to complete the warehouse. Hanson indicated in his report that “Since no activity has occurred in the 2013-adopted TIF, the TIF will expire in December 2020 unless TIF-eligible investment occurs prior to that date.”

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

• Approval of the Minutes of the Public Hearing of May 18, 2020.

• Approval of the Minutes of the Public Hearing of May 18, 2020.

• Approval of the Minutes of the Regular Council Meeting of May 18, 2020.

• Report to Receive and File Town of Normal Expenditures for Payment as of May 27, 2020.

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