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Normal Council OKs 5-year plan to spend $157M on hundreds of capital projects

Normal Finance Director, second from right, speaks at the Normal Town Council meeting, Dec. 20, 2021, in the council chambers at Uptown Station.
Michele Steinbacher
Normal Finance Director Andrew Huhn, second from right, speaks at the Normal Town Council meeting, Dec. 20, 2021, in the council chambers at Uptown Station.

Normal’s latest five-year Community Investment Plan, outlining about $157 million worth of capital projects, and the plan's online dashboard, earned the town council’s stamp of approval Monday night.

On a 6-1 vote, the council approved the plan that proposes more than 400 projects, and details how to pay for them over the next several years. The projects range from equipment needs, to transportation and water distribution projects.

Council member Stan Nord voted against the plan.

Normal Finance Director Andrew Huhn, told the council this year's Community Investment Plan incorporates American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

About $65 million is planned for transportation projects, including the $24 million underpass scheduled to be constructed near Uptown Station.

Several council members said they were excited to see the increase in capital projects. Council member Scott Preston noted this year's plan represents about 60% more in capital spending than the previous five-year Community Investment Plan.

Normal City Manager Pam Reece said the five-year document allows the town leaders to look ahead, and then incorporate the ideas into the town's annual proposed budgets.

But council member Karyn Smith noted the town council doesn't adopt its annual budget until March. The Community Investment Plan, rather, is a set of staff recommendations that gives the council and community a mechanism for reviewing the proposals. "This is not a done deal," said Smith.

Online dashboard unveiled

Huhn also walked the council through the Community Investment Plan's new online dashboard, created by the town's technology specialists.

"This is an incredible tool," said Mayor Chris Koos, applauding Normal Innovation and Technology Director Vasudha Gadhiraju and her staff for the interactive map.

It uses geographic information systems (GIS) technology to allow town leaders, community members and other interested parties, to explore the proposed projects.

Huhn said some filters include year, type of project, and geographic area of Normal. A bar chart shows how the proposed $157.2 million in projects are scheduled.

Nearly $30 million in capital projects are planned for fiscal 2022, and more than $46 million in 2023.The remaining $81 million in capital projects are spread across fiscal 2024 to 2027.

Incorporating GIS to show a visual representation, as well as funding details about each project, is a way to make the town’s plans more transparent, said council member Kevin McCarthy. “This represents a quantum change in our technical abilities,” he said.

Huhn noted previous plans were distributed as spreadsheets. Links to those can be found on the new online dashboard.

Council member Chemberly Cummings said she also appreciates the brief one-minute video tutorial available to site visitors. That shows how to navigate the map, and use the other analytical tools, and filters.

North Normal subdivision changes

Also on Monday, the council OK’d several changes for three subdivisions, reflecting the town’s efforts to accommodate more new housing construction in 2022.

For the Vineyards Subdivsion, near Raab and Airport roads, the council OK’d amending an annexation agreement, and OK’d changes in plans regarding several lots on the Shephard Road addition to the neighborhood.

The council also conditionally approved an addition to Pheasant Ridge Subdivison on Raab Road, and an addition to North Bridge Subdivision, at Pipeline and Ziebarth roads.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved a roughly $300,000 contract with George Gildner Inc. to replace the town’s north booster station, per the water department’s request. The station will ensure adequate water flow for consumption and fire department use.
  • Approved Normal Police Department plans to share a police shooting range facility with Bloomington police.
  • Approved updates to its electric, building, fire and misdemeanor codes.
  • Took early steps to address outdoor dining changes, and how it relates to off-street parking and loading regulations. With Monday’s vote, the matter goes to the Normal Planning Commission.
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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.