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Bloomington's city manager 'in no rush' to require staff vaccines, but wishes the rate was higher

Tim Gleason speaking at meeting
Emily Bollinger
Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason at a recent City Council meeting.

The COVID vaccination rate among city of Bloomington staff is about 55%, according to City Manager Tim Gleason. That's below county and state averages.

Gleason said he's disappointed the vaccination rate isn't higher, but added staff absences due to COVID positives or quarantines have not been a problem. He said if that changes, he may consider making the vaccine a requirement.

“I’m in no rush to make that mandate, but if we get to a point where my city resources, my employees are depleted because of COVID positive tests or exposure, I could get to that point,” Gleason said Tuesday on WGLT's Sound Ideas.

Gleason said city staff also has discussed vaccine incentives, but doesn't have many plans. McLean County government is using federal pandemic relief to pay McLean County Nursing Home employees $1,000 to get the COVID vaccine.

The Town of Normal does not track COVID vaccination rates among staff, according to city spokesperson Cathy Oloffson.

"The town has always (and will continue to) followed state and federal regulations, and since tracking COVID vaccination rates is not currently required, the town has not done so," Oloffson said in a statement.

Accessibility compliance

On another topics, Gleason said the city will likely need to spend several hundred thousand dollars to make disability upgrades. The city is updating its plan to meet requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Gleason said the city plans to increase grant funding to businesses to encourage them to comply.

“This is not a mandate that we are doing something wrong and need to fix it; this is more about encouraging improvements both on the public and the private side in order to make us a far more accessible community,” he said.

Gleason said the city likely can fund the ADA upgrades with grants and existing budget surpluses, adding the city won't need to raise taxes or cut the budget to pay for the accessibility improvements.

Opioid settlement

Gleason said city staff plans to bring a specific proposal to address the opioid epidemic once the city gets more specific information regarding the settlement the city agreed to join involving several large drug manufacturers and distributors.

Gleason said the city would likely look to divert the funding into an existing substance abuse program in the community.

“I’m not opposed to exploring something that is newly created in house, but I would imagine some of the existing programs are going to be our best investment for these unexpected funds,” he said.

The city has estimated it would get $479,000 over the life of the settlement, which media reports have said would be 18 years.

Corrected: December 17, 2021 at 10:00 AM CST
McLean County Nursing Home staff can received bonuses for getting the COVID vaccine, but not all county staff. The county approved guidelines it would comply with an OSHA vaccine requirement, but that requirement has been tied up in the courts.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.