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Bloomington Council OKs $5 Million To Resurface Streets

Bloomington Public Works Director Kevin Kothe presents a report on street budgets during the Monday's remote Bloomington City Council meeting.
Bloomington Public Works Director Kevin Kothe shares a map of planned resurfacing projects, during Bloomington City Council's virtual meeting Monday, May 24, 2021.

The Bloomington City Council Monday night approved spending the bulk of its annual roadwork budget on a $5.1 million street resurfacing plan.

Also during the virtual meeting, the council voted to bring the Bloomington Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to downtown and learned how the city plans to share $700,000 in federal housing assistance grants.

The council voted unanimously for Rowe Construction, part of United Contractors Midwest, to complete the resurfacing. Technical bidding requirements were waived.

Public Works Director Kevin Kothe said while last year’s resurfacing focused on major stretches such as Hershey and Six Points roads, this upcoming project list is much longer, as crews will hit more neighborhood streets.

The Rowe contract represents about 70% of the city’s $7.2 million street budget.

Bloomington also has approved spending about $2.2 million on various sidewalk and alley projects, he said. The council will vote later on spending $700,000 to cover the city’s pavement preservation projects; Kothe said that list is still being finalized.

City Manager Tim Gleason said the city website has a page dedicated to sharing the progress on Bloomington’s road projects.

Convention bureau heading to arena

The council approved a lease with the Bloomington-Normal Area Visitors and Convention Bureau — allowing it to relocate to downtown’s Grossinger Motors Arena.

“We thought our arena could be a perfect location — higher traffic and more visibility,” said Gleason. The plan is a year in the making, he said.

The bureau will make the move this summer, from its current location at Central Illinois Regional Airport. The five-year lease is set at $2,100 per month. It provides administrative offices and conference space that formerly housed VenuWorks, the former arena management firm. The bureau plans to update the space, and cover those costs.

On a related matter, because the city ended its relationship with that company in June of last year, it changed its policies for city staff to oversee the facility.

The council formally changed city code to allow Bloomington employees to handle entertainment facility contracts and agreements at the arena and the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

Community Block Grants plan

As part of Monday's meeting, the council held a public hearing on its 2021 action plan for how it will use its federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds.

The council is expected to vote on the plan in June.

Part of a larger, five-year action plan, this second-year outline shows how the city intends to spend the nearly $550,000 CDBG federal allocation by spring 2022.

Jennifer Toney, of Bloomington’s economic and community development department, presented details on the plan. The department oversees the funds, awarding competitive grants to local organizations. Toney said with its remaining funds, the total available is closer to $700,000.

She said top goals for the overall five-year plan are addressing existing affordable housing, blighted property, and public services and facilities, adding the 2021 action plan focuses on serving seniors, homeless residents, those facing housing discrimination, and renters’ needing assistance.

“CDBG is primarily a housing program, and that’s where we put most of our money,” she said.

Nearly $410,000 of this year’s funds go there. For example, nearly 50 rental properties and 20 owned homes will get funding to do rehab work, and another 20 will get healthy-living improvements such as lead removal, she said. About $80,000 is set aside for the city’s demolition program, focusing on three blighted properties.

Toney said this year, about $90,000 supports public services activities such as helping nonprofits that assist low-income residents like KTB Financial, PATH, Prairie State Legal Services and the West Bloomington Revitalization Project. Public facilities improvements, such as sidewalk repairs, get about $40,000.

A 30-day period for public comment now begins, she said, noting CBDG provides Bloomington COVID-relief funds, but that is separate from this action plan.

City finances look promising

Bloomington's finance chief Scott Rathbun told the council the city's budget is in very good shape , following a year of shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our revenues are really stabilizing, if not rebounding, really well," he said, after sharing a spreadsheet detailing major tax revenues. Online retailers and big-box stores did well, despite the pandemic, he noted.

Rathbun said the city's fiscal year ends in a month, and he'll return to the council with final numbers this summer.

The budget should end up with about $26.6 million in its general fund, he said. That reflect a $1.3 million positive adjustment, he said. More than $3 million in federal COVID-relief funds through the CURES Act made the difference, he added. Without that, the city would have had been in the red about $1.8 million.

He said FY 22's adopted budget should be on the city's website by May 31.

$1 million water meter contract

The council also voted unanimously to spend up to $1 million with Ferguson Enterprises for the city’s annual water meter installation program.

The contract allows the purchase of Neptune water meters, and related accessories.

Internet issues

Council member Jenn Carrillo, of Ward 6, reported having Internet connectivity issues, and was dropped from the virtual meeting several times, resulting in her missing three votes: the visitors bureau lease, the post office lease, and another on approving the council's consent agenda.

So, those three votes reflect 8-0 tallies. The council voted unanimously on all other items.

In other business, the council approved:

  • Increasing its annual budget cap with the University of Illinois Veterinary Services. This now allows for up to $100,000 annually, for treatment of Miller Park Zoo animals.
  • Information technology funding for the city’s police and fire departments. About $135,000 goes to Tyler Technologies, for its computer-aided dispatch.
  • Just over $260,000 in housing program grants with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • An 18-month lease with the U.S. Postal Service for its post office at 400 N. Center Street, in the Market Street Parking Garage. This is about $1,276 monthly.
  • Appointments to several community members to the John M. Scott Commission, and approved updates to the commission’s bylaws.
Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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