NORMAL – While Normal Town Council members voted to approve awarding a bid for a water main project to Gibson City-based SNC Construction in the amount of $417,505.59 plus a potential $5,000 bonus for early completion, before voting to approve the resolution, there was some discussion which preceded the Council’s 6-1 vote approving it, with Council Member Stan Nord casting a lone opposing vote.

Town Water Director John Burkhart indicated to Council members SNC Construction is a new contractor in dealing with the Town, but he added at some point in their company’s experience, all companies have first time experiences working for municipalities. Burkhart’s report to Council members explained the project will provide an additional supply source for water to the Town and would minimize any service interruptions.

Nord said he had an issue with the timing of the project and that the Town would be experiencing a couple of expirations of Tax Increment Funding districts which would be a loss of income to the Town. “If we must spend the money in the water fund, I’d rather we spend it on something which is a current problem for our citizens,” he said. Two things he suggested were to eliminate lead piping from the current water system or simply just save the money.

Burkhart said the work to be done should not interfere with the road being worked on being used. He added the Town is continuing an inventory of what lead piping the Town has, which he said, “to date, number less than 35.”

“Staff is trying to stay ahead of projects when it makes sense,” Council Member Kevin McCarthy said. “I’m not in favor of putting this off.”

Resolution Regarding Grant For Extending Constitution Trail Approved: By a 6-1 count, Council members approved a resolution pledging financial commitment and acknowledging Town support for a grant from 2020 Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, applying for an extension of Constitution Trail between Adelaide St. and Parkside Rd. Nord cast the lone dissenting vote on the measure.

Applicants may apply for up to $2 million in grant funds.

Mayor Chris Koos and Council Member Kevin McCarthy both explained because these two streets empty onto streets leading to main road arteries of the Town, adding them to Constitution Trail was important. Koos said adding this extension where it will be will help get people to both Parkside Junior High School and Parkside Elementary School, Normal Community West High School, and Maxwell Park. Nord said he wanted to see the Town seek another source of income which wouldn’t involve taking money from sources used to pay for Town roads, such as its Motor Fuel Tax Fund.

Resident Patrick Dullard, president of the group Friends Of Constitution Trail, addressed Council members, encouraged Council members to support the extension. He reminded the group invested nearly $5,000 in engineering fees to see what could be done to extend the trail. He reminded those dollars were collected before any formal request for the Town to put tax dollars into the project was even brought to the Town’s attention.

Resolution Amending Rules For Comments At Council, Board Meetings Passes: Council members unanimously approved a resolution amending two aspects of existing rules for public comments at Town Council meetings as well as at meetings of other Town Boards and Commissions. The first item is to provide a maximum of 30 minutes related to any item on that specific meeting’s agenda.

A second public comment period, not to exceed 15 minutes, will be added to the end of the agenda and allow residents an opportunity to address Council members on any matter germane to Town issues.

Nord told Council members he has heard from residents who wished to address Council members on a matter and were told they could not because their topic was not germane to the Council meeting agenda. He also took issue with making residents wishing to address items not germane to that night’s meeting wait through an entire meeting before they can speak. “Someone then has to decide what’s germane and not germane,” he added. “We should just let them come in and let them speak.”

Koos explained the thinking behind the changes was that “The Council meeting is not a public hearing, the Council meeting is a business meeting. I and the majority of the Council feel we’re going to take care of business that comes before us in that evening.” He reminded also that meeting minutes or bills to be paid are not action items to be addressed in public comments.

He added that people who want to talk about their issues with the Town can do so once the formal business session concludes.

Council Member Scott Preston said he had no problem with citizens addressing non-germane issues at Council sessions, whether it was before or after the regular Council session. “I will say that all comments germane to Town business is something that is important to me,” Preston said. “Making sure that all comments are germane to Town business, whether on the agenda or not, is something that is important to me.”

Koos added that there is no set rule for how communities handle allowing citizens to participate through public comments at such government meetings.

Having public comment at the end of such meetings would also allow Council members to mingle afterward with those who spoke at the end of the meeting, particularly if the citizens are expecting a response from Council members. But McCarthy countered on that point, saying Council members aren’t always the only people in attendance at such meetings. He said sometimes people scheduled to give presentations to the Council or citizens’ groups also sit in Council sessions, too. He said his preference would be that those who attend who have business with the Council receive priority at meetings.

Council Member Kathleen Lorenz reminded citizens have an opportunity to reach out to Council members on any topic through phone calls, 1-to-1 conversations, and email. Nord proposed a motion to remove the need for germane comments and allow for all public comments to be done at the beginning of meetings for 30 minutes. That proposal failed because no Council member would second it.

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