NORMAL – Shutting down indoor dining in the Twin Cities as a result of a recent rise in Coronavirus cases in the State prompted comment from Normal Town Council members as the governing body met virtually Monday night. Effective as of Wednesday, Illinois Department of Public Health, announced indoor dining will be restored provided the central Illinois region’s COVID testing positivity rate falls below 6.5 percent for three consecutive days.

Should the rate stay above 8 percent over the next 14 days, the state may impose additional restrictions. As of Monday, the region in the State which includes the Twin Cities and McLean County restaurants recorded a positivity rate on Monday of 9.7 percent.

The circumstances will also reduce the number of gatherings allowed to 25 people or 25 percent capacity, with the exceptions of schools and polling sites. Restaurants and bars were the businesses IDPH zeroed its restrictions toward when they were announced last week.

During discussion of IDPH’s mandate, Mayor Chris Koos told Council members, “I’ve heard from citizens on all sides of this issue,” he explained. “Some want tighter controls and others want fewer restrictions. The reality is there is no singular approach that will widely support or satisfy everyone.

“I think I speak on behalf the entire Council when I say we are concerned for our restaurants and businesses,” Koos continued. “The current restrictions will make it difficult for some to survive.” He added once the pandemic began in the spring, the Town has been trying to balance “the health of our community with economic realities.”

Koos acknowledged while the community has a low positivity rate for the disease, Normal is in a geographic region where those rates are higher, adding the Town is aware the State’s only barometer for determining when to shut down was the positivity rate.

Koos announced that in an attempt to keep restaurants and other such establishments to “be a strong part of our economy,” he was joining other local leaders in the State to take a “multi-pronged approach” on behalf of these businesses. He said there are ideas being considered by mayors in the State who are part of Illinois Municipal League to try to improve situation for those businesses.

Among the ideas Koos said are being considered to approach the State with are: IML-member Mayors are trying to encourage the State to use broader metrics in evaluating the need for COVID shutdowns. He said this group of Mayors believe increased exposure to COVID are the result of private gatherings, something Koos said he is encouraging to limit participation in as a means of preventing spreading the virus.

“We all need to support our local businesses,” Koos said, encouraging residents during such shutdowns “to order delivery or pick up curbside, dine local, spend local.” He added he was reaching out to State and Federal legislators in an attempt to convince them providing an additional stimulus package should be considered to help businesses. “We want our restaurants to continue to be successful,” he concluded. He said actively working with State and Federal leaders changes which would benefit the businesses in order for them to stay open.

Should the Town receive any complaints concerning restaurants or bars, Koos said, those would be forwarded to McLean County Health Department. He added when high positivity rates were indicated in August and September, the community worked together. “That’s what we need to do now,” Koos said. “We need to protect the health of our community and help small businesses by working together to find solutions that will keep them viable into the future.”

Among a number of things in a statement she read to the Council, Council Member Karyn Smith said she believed it was important to “get the virus under control before we can support our businesses.”

Agreement With Midwest Fiber Prompts Discussion: By a 6-1 count with Council Member Stan Nord casting the lone opposing vote, Council members approved a resolution authorizing the Town extending a supply and processing agreement with Midwest Fiber until Dec. 31. That company provides daily collecting and processing of drop box materials.

The cost to the Town is $7,500 per month under terms of the existing agreement, which includes waste collection seven days per week. The proposed two month extension required the Town pay an additional $15,000 to support the recycling agreement, which would require the Council to approve a budget adjustment of that amount to complete the agreement.

City Manager Pam Reece said the Town was seeing if both the City of Bloomington and McLean County would be interested in entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the Town which would allow City and County residents to have access to the recycling and share the cost with the Town.

She said such discussions among the three parties have not begun yet, but could be achieved before the current contract expires.

In response to a question from Nord, Reece said the $15,000 that would be spent would be in addition to what was spent when Council originally approved a contract originally with the company six months ago.

Nord said entering into this agreement “was not critical” in part because of a revenue shortage experienced by the Town, adding there were other locations residents could take recyclables.

Nord said he has had conversations with people who work in waste hauling who wondered why this job had not been put up for bid by the Town, adding he would like to see the Town put up the assignment for bids. Council Member Kevin McCarthy said it sounded to him the City and County were interested in becoming involved in the agreement which, he said, “would be worth the couple of month of conversation to arrive at an agreement.” He added such agreements would reduce the cost of operating the program for the Town.

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

• Approval of minutes of regular meeting held Oct. 19, 2020.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Oct. 28, 2020.

• An ordinance to conditionally vacating easements on Lots 152, 153, and 154 of the Heather Ridge Subdivision located at 2107-2129 Heather Ridge Dr.

• A resolution conditionally approving the final plat of the Cyphers Subdivision (Heather Ridge) by expedited process.

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