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Normal Town Council: $5 million approved for new fire station, Connect Transit fiscal health strong

Written by on April 18, 2023

NORMAL, Ill.- The Normal Town Council held their second town meeting of the month on April. 17.

Both council members and the general public were given a presentation by Connect Transit on Monday evening, which covered numerous items under their Fiscal Year 2024 proposal given to the council. Connect Transit General Manager David Braun led the presentation. It highlighted key points of their proposed budget which reflect their decreased fuel costs from their new electric fleet, additional state grant funding, and increases in costs due to various economic factors.

Braun guided the council through the various key focuses, changes and updates to their proposed budget, including a steady increase in service hours for most of the bus routes across the board throughout Bloomington Normal. The Red, Lime, Green and Purple lines lead their budget ranging from 9,260 to 16,956 service hours allotted for each line for 2024. It represents the amount of hours buses are driven on those lines through the year. The Sapphire line, which focuses on transporting personnel to and from the Rivian Motors plant, is planned to drastically decrease in service hours, with over 4,000 hours being cut to decrease to 6,804 hours for the route.

Braun also highlighted how, despite increased funding from the state through various grants and electric bus implementation to lower fuel costs, the vast majority of costs saddled by the transport hub is from labor and benefits given to drivers, representing 76 percent of their liabilities. The report also showed that ridership with the primary bus service remains strong at over 175,000 riders the last two month period. It is only 80 percent of ridership from before the pandemic.

The council also approved of a plan to construct a design-build with CORE Construction to build a fire station for the town. The council budgeted that the project would cost $5 million, with $2 million coming from grants and surplus bonds, with the remainder to be made up from the general fund. The station would be built at Shepard and Hershey Road.

The town is also set to upgrade its two water parks with new slides, with the project set to begin after the peak season ends around the fall. Normal’s water parks, Fairview Family Aquatic Center and Anderson Aquatic Center, would see their $192,000 renovations completed by Halloween said City Manager Pamela Reece.

The council also approved the appointment of Brad Ropp for the Normal Planning Commission at Mondays meeting. Ropp will fill as the interim position for Andy Byars, who is leaving the commission to serve as a new member of the Normal Town Council. Byars will be replacing the position of Stan Nord. Nord completed his final council meeting Monday.

Before the meeting concluded, Nord made a speech to the council chambers stating the importance of serving those underrepresented within the community and to follow up with community members who still have problems with the town. Nord served on the council from 2019 to 2023, where he contentiously brought up issues with transparency and honesty of the inner workings of local government to the community, much to the dismay of the council.

Among other business, the council

  • Approved of a $475,000 upgrade to build energy efficient lighting for parking decks and garages near College Avenue and Beaufort Street.
  • Rezoned numerous ISU properties to reflect the campus’ zoning. The university owned properties are located at 402 W. Locust St., 701 and 709 N. Main St., 715 and 755 W. Raab Road.
  • Approved of numerous Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant funds totaling $500,000 which would allow the Police Department to purchase various equipment, including body armor, surveillance and response trailers, and scanning systems, among others.
  • OK’d a proposal for Rivian Motors to build a parking lot at 100 N. Rivian Motorway.
  • Approved a $315,000 contract to repair a well, which was damaged from an eruption on March 14.
  • Approved the spending of $200,000 for a new aerial lift bucket truck to be used by the parks and recreation department.

The town’s next council meeting will be at 7 p.m. on May 1, 2023.