By Steve Robinson | December 22, 2020 - 10:37 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

NORMAL – The Town of Normal has always taken pride in the fact that, even when there were daunting construction projects such as the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and the Hyatt Hotel in progress, the Town’s bond rating remained at a high level for creditors to make note of and residents to have some pride in. Toward the end of Dec. 21’s Normal Town Council session, City Manager Pam Reece let Council members know the Town was notified by Fitch Ratings, a top credit rating company with offices worldwide, has reaffirmed the Town’s triple-A bond rating.

“I cannot tell you how excited we are to hear that news,” Reece told Council members during the Council session held remotely as a result of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. “We did not ask them to do a review. It was just one of their standard reviews.” She thanked Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn and the Town Finance staff for their efforts. She also thanked “all the Town departments who worked very hard to be fiscally responsible, also to the elected officials.”

Reece said receiving the Triple-A bond rating “is an affirmation that supports that we have ample reserves, and what the credit bureau calls superior budgetary flexibility.” She said the credit bureau noted “the Town takes an active role in economic development.” She thanked all those involved in helping to achieve the rating.

All Council members offered Reece and the staff congratulations on the achievement. Fitch first assigned a Triple-A rating to the Town in April 2010.

Capital Investment Plan Presented: Huhn presented Council members with the Town’s annual report concerning its Capital Investment Plan (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2021 through 2025. Huhn explained to Council members the Town has about 130 projects the Town would like to see addressed totaling $100,008,233 in cost. The largest item to be addressed with those funds, roughly 47 percent, will address needs concerning water and sewer utility service. Council members voted 6-1 to approve the plan with Council Member Stan Nord casting the lone opposing vote.

The second biggest concern which will be addressed, taking up roughly 30 percent of the funds is transportation development. Huhn said that will include maintaining roads, bridges, sidewalks, and curbs. The next category of items to be addressed using 18 percent of funds is capital assets which primarily includes all types of vehicles used by varying Town departments including police, fire, and facilities management. Parks and open space development will receive 3 percent of the funding, while public facilities will be addressed using 2 percent of the money.

Children’s Museum Update: Council members heard from Beth Whisman, Town Cultural Director and director of Children’s Discovery Museum concerning what CDM and the Normal Theater, both of which have been shuttered since the pandemic began in March have been doing despite those closings. Whisman said CDM has given away 8,000 Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math – or STEAM – activity kits to keep students engaged.

She said STEAM kits have been provided to a number of local agencies which children benefit from including: Unit 5 and Bloomington School District 87; Unity Community Center; Bloomington Day Care; YWCA; Bloomington-Normal Boys & Girls Club; Heartland Head Start; and Scott Early Learning Center.

Whisman said the closure has given CDM staff time to work on protocols necessary for when the Museum can open its doors again to visitors per Restore Illinois guidelines. She said CDM has received over $28,000 in grants for education outreach. She added that “when you have 140,000 visitors on a regular basis coming through your building, it’s rare that you have a few months to do big projects all at once.”

She informed Council members CDM staffers have used time while the museum was closed to the public to making improvements to both exhibits and to the building itself. She added the Museum store “has been vital to the Museum, keep a front door the public, providing access to our take-home kits and curbside service as well as our in-store sales opportunities.”

CDM has managed to maintain their revenue streams through its annual Halloween event and sales of its “Camp In A Box” kits, Whisman added. She said CDM will continue to offer its “Daily Dose Of Play” online as a means of keeping kids active once the weather gets colder once playtime is forced indoors.

One Committee Appointment, Two Committee Reappointments Announced: Before the Council session closed, Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McCarthy announced the names of new members to two separate public boards and the reappointment of another individual to the McLean County Regional Planning Commission.

Michael Pettorini has been reappointed to the McLean County Regional Planning Commission. He was originally appointed to the Commission to fill a vacancy in March and as a result of this reappointment will now be serving a full term which expires Dec. 31, 2023. A 30-year resident of McLean County now residing in Normal, Pettorini is employed by State Farm with expertise in matters centering on facilities management, project management, and property management.

Rachel Lund has been appointed to serve on the Normal Planning Commission. Lund will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Dave Shields, who resigned from the Commission due to relocating out of Normal. Lund’s term on NPC expires March 31, 2023.

Through her employment at State Farm Insurance, Lund is involved with the Women’s Networking Group as well as the User Experience Research Group. She has previously worked as an Engineer of Human Systems Integration at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, VA. Her accomplishments while at NSWC Dahlgren included serving as Department Chair of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Social Media Manager of the Human Factors Engineering Technical Advisory Group.

Mandava Rao has been appointed to serve on the Board of The Twin Cities’ public transit system, Connect Transit. Rao will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Mike McCurdy, who resigned from the Board due to a job-created relocation out of Normal. Rao’s term on the Board expires June 30.

Rao was named Normal’s Citizen Of The Year in 2016, and a year later, was also recognized by Telugu Association of North America (TANA) with a prestigious service award at their 21st national convention for rendering services at national level.

Rao has numerous civic activities to his credit including being a founding member of the Minority and Police Partnership, an active leader within Not In Our Town, past president of the McLean County Indian Association, and has served as chairperson of the Town of Normal’s Human Relation’s Commission.

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