NORMAL – Sometimes it has to do with one’s skills. Sometimes it might have to do with one’s ability to reach out within the community. Whatever reason a person is given an appointment to a Board or Commission related to the community, in Normal, there rarely is debate over an appointee. But as their session, conducted remotely, drew to a close on July 6, Normal Town Council members pondered how future appointees should be selected.

The post seeking to be filled was a vacant seat on the Connect Transit Board, overseeing group of the Town’s public transit system, and which had been vacant for the last couple years. As a result of a Mayoral appointment, the post was filled as Mayor Chris Koos named Timothy McCue, a Normal resident currently serving Area Coordinator for Illinois State University’s Housing Services. McCue has spent more than 20 years as advocate, educator and public speaker on issues of accessibility, mobility and disability experience in multiple states.

The post McCue has filled has become one which no one seemed to want given what appeared to be the perceived political climate inside Connect Transit, some observers noted.

McCue was among four appointees for Boards and Commissions and 15 people reappointed for six Boards or Commissions.

“This has been quite the volatile topic for quite a number of months,” Council Member Karyn Smith said in leading off the discussion. “It would have been appreciated to be able to speak to this individual and found out their thoughts on certain policies of the Connect Transit Board.” She said she has been contacted by residents who wanted Council members to provide guidance to Connect’s Board.

Koos admitted one of the reason the Board seat has been “so empty so long is because it has been so heavily politicized…that frankly, people I reached out to have told me because of that, there was no way they would consider the appointment.”

He pointed out that over the course of “50 years or better, these appointments have been Mayoral appointments.” He said who he appoints to that body has shown he has appointed who he thought was best. “I have never been challenged in 18 years concerning appointments,” Koos added. “Tonight, I am being challenged.”

He singled out directly Smith and Council Member Stan Nord, both of whom have disagreed at times with Council decisions, for questioning the appointment. Concerning Connect, Koos said, “I have had to go up and find people” to serve on this Board, citing the transit company’s internal political structure.

Koos said if Council members aren’t comfortable with his appointments, the subject of how they should be handled can be put on the Council’s Retreat agenda, a function which normally takes place in mid-winter or early spring.

To Smith, he added, “I do take it personally that you do feel I am not able to make an appropriate appointment to the Board,” adding he had invested time talking to McCue and those who know him to make sure he was the person Koos wanted to put in place on the Connect Board. Before there was discussion concerning the process, Koos cautioned Council members he would not entertain any comments directly associated with McCue’s appointment.

“The ultimate ‘buck stops here’ for 50 years has been with the mayor,” a process Council Member Kathleen Lorenz said she supports, partly because of efficiency.

Before the appointees were announced Smith said she had no doubt in Koos’ being able to choose qualified candidates. She added there is a public perception issue needing to be addressed when the Mayor and Council members hold their retreat.

Two Resolutions Related To Community Development Block Grants Approved: Council members unanimously approved two resolutions both related to Community Development Block Grants. The filings were of CDBG Program’s revised 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan, and the second filing was of the Program Year 2020-2021 Action Plan. As a result, the Town will receive $246,067 in new CDBG funds for expenses related to dealing with Coronavirus funds, and $15,000 in fiscal year 2020-2021 CDBG funds which needed to be reallocated from program administration for in-home education assistance to low- to moderate-income households during the summer months

Amended Policy Prohibiting Sexual Harassment Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution approving an amended policy prohibiting sexual harassment. In 2017, the Illinois General Assembly enacted Public Act 100-556, establishing sexual harassment policies with respect to State government. That statute also required local governments to pass a resolution or ordinance establishing a policy prohibiting sexual harassment.

At that time, the Town Council voted to adopt an ordinance establishing a policy that retains the provisions of the Town’s long-standing prohibitions of sexual harassment while including additional information required by the new State law.

Public Act 101-0221, issued August 2019, amended the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act and requires the establishment of a mechanism specifically for reporting and independent review of allegations of sexual harassment made against an elected official of the governmental unit by another elected official of a governmental unit.” The updated version of the law retains parts of the 2017 law with required additional provisions.

Sugar Creek Bank Updating Project Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution awarding a contract to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. in the amount of $630,505 to furnish and install roughly 2,300 lineal feet of channel bank grading to build a stabilized channel cross section along the North Branch of Sugar Creek from Blair Drive to College Avenue.

The proposed project includes removing over-growth trees, brush, and debris along the creek, reshaping of the creek embankments to improve hydraulic flow, and repairs needed to pipe culverts. Areas of erosion and sedimentation will also be addressed along with access improvements for future maintenance. Construction on this project is slated for later this month with completion slated for some time in the fall.

Illinois Fire Juniors Soccer Club Updates Council On Proposed Land Purchase: In the last few years, youth soccer players and their fans have been looking to relocate since being asked to vacate land used by Central Illinois Regional Airport because the airport’s governing body, Central Illinois Airport Authority, wanted to use the land for other uses.

That left the Illinois Fire Juniors Soccer Club to seek another location for games. At this session, Tim Kock, president of Illinois Fire Soccer Club, joined by Jeremy Kelley, the Club’s secretary and chair of their capital campaign, announced they had found land which would be large enough for what they want to do – a multi-sport complex. The land borders North Towanda Ave., East Raab Rd., and Shelbourne Dr. Kock said the announcement to Council members was “the first step in coming to an agreement with the landowner and the Town and allow us a chance to invest more money in this project.

The Club envisions putting 10 soccer full-size fields and seven smaller fields within the complex, Kock explained.

The Club had been in talks with Normal City Manager Pam Reece, Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleeson, and were preparing to make a presentation to the McLean County Planning Commission.

Connect Transit Updates Council: Council members received an update concerning from Isaac Thorne, general manager of Connect Transit, the in-town bus service for the Twin Cities, and Julie Hile, a Connect Transit Board member. Thorne updated Council members on steps the busing provider had put into place since mid-March in light of Covid-19. Those included cleaning and disinfecting buses every four hours. In addition, the company suspended collecting fares when the pandemic began in mid-March. Thorne said fare collection recently resumed.

Hile said the transportation provider is looking to receive what the company described as “sustainable funding” from the Town of Normal in the amount of $100,000 this year and the same amount in 2021.

Resolution Supporting Small Development Center Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing annual support by the Council for the Small Business Development Center.

Small Business Development Center supports small businesses and entrepreneurs in McLean County. As a result of the vote, the Town will contribute funds to the SBDC in the following amounts: In Fiscal Year 2020-21: $44,854; in fiscal year 2021-22, $44,854; and in fiscal year 2022-23, $44,854.

Special Use Signage Permit With Variation Declined: Council members voted 6-1 to decline an ordinance for a special use permit for signage requested by 1320 E. College Ave. for a second freestanding sign. Mayor Chris Koos, joined by Council Members Kevin McCarthy, Kathleen Lorenz, Scott Preston, Chemberly Cummings, and Karyn Smith voted in favor of the measure while Council Member Stan Nord cast the lone opposing vote.

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular Council meeting of June 15, 2020.

• Approval of minutes of the public hearing of June 22, 2020.

• Approval of the minutes of the special meeting of June 22, 2020.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of July 1, 2020.

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