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Normal Town Council OKs plan for Marcfirst building; and spending on street repair, water projects

Normal Public Works Director Ryan Otto addresses the Normal Town Council during its meeting Monday, June 6, 2022, at City Hall.
Michele Steinbacher
Normal Public Works Director Ryan Otto addresses the Normal Town Council during its meeting Monday, June 6, 2022, at City Hall.

The Normal Town Council voted Monday to put $500,000 of its federal COVID-relief funds toward Marcfirst's relocation to northeast Normal, tied in part to the nonprofit's collaboration with two youth-focused programs.

The council voted unanimously to provide Marcfirst the money — from Normal’s allotment of nearly $11 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds — to create the space on Jacobssen Drive, near Shepard Park.

The longtime provider of services to McLean County residents with disabilities plans to relocate most of its services to an empty commercial space there. Marcfirst will use most of the space, but it won’t be alone. Two other groups will share the space as well: The Regional Office of Education No. 17 will launch its Central Illinois Bridge Academy there, and the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington Normal will create a northern satellite office.

“We're really looking — taking a broad-based look — at the needs of our community, and trying to use those (federal COVID-relief) dollars to solve some of those,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos.

Also at its meeting Monday, the council approved nearly $2.3 million in street repair projects, and a roughly $1 million well project.

Marcfirst partners with other youth-oriented programs

The collaboration found strong support from all council members.

Kevin McCarthy said the Bridge Academy, in particular, addresses a need identified in the McLean County Mental Health Action Plan — helping teens navigate mental health issues.

This fall, the Regional Office of Education expects to enroll about 40 such teens, who might have recently been released from a hospital, or had to be completing school work at home for mental health reasons. The program will serve adolescents in McLean, DeWitt, Logan and Livingston counties.

Marcfirst reaching out to Boys & Girls Club also shows initiative for the kind of collaboration the area needs to see more of, said Kathleen Lorenz. “This (project) really touches on a number of issues,” she added.

Marcfirst has outgrown its current offices near College and Veterans Parkway, head of the nonprofit, Brian Wipperman, told WGLT after Monday’s meeting.

About a year ago, Marcfirst opened a behavioral health clinic to serve its clients, he said. Meanwhile, Regional Office of Education leaders have been working to launch the Bridge Academy. The two programs had similar features, so the collaboration made sense, said Wipperman.

Tony Morstatter, who leads the local Boys & Girls Club, said his organization has partnered with Marcfirst in recent years as the Boys & Girls Club plans an update for its Bloomington location on Illinois Street. This partnership in the new Marcfirst building on Jacobssen is a way to provide families in north Normal access to Boys & Girls Club programs, such as after-school events, he said.

Nearly $2.3 million in street repairs OK'd

The council unanimously awarded nearly $2.3 million in contracts to Rowe Construction, a division of United Contractors Midwest, to complete street improvements using both general funding and motor fuel tax money.

Ryan Otto, Normal’s director of public works and engineering, answered questions about data used to select street repairs. This summer’s projects have been planned for about a year, he said.

Those resurfacing projects generally are finished in October, he said. In February, the next summer's projects are proposed to council.

“We are trying to get away from a worst-first approach,” he said, and rather look at a complex set of factors including grouping projects to be most cost-efficient.

Council members Stan Nord and Scott Preston said they’d rather wait to see a related McLean County Regional Planning Commission’s study on how to repair roadways.

The council will hear about that Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) study council June 20, said Pam Reece, Normal city manager. That's expected to help inform decisions for the fiscal 2023 and 2024 budgets, but town staff said they need to move forward now on planned work.

Several of the streets are near schools, and the town wants to complete that before classes open in August, said Otto.

Council member Karyn Smith said because this all was proposed in February, Monday's vote simply was a logistical matter of awarding contracts to specific bidders.

Water projects OK'd

The council also voted unanimously to spend about $1 million on a project to drill a new water well, build and equip a pump house, and cap and tear down an old well and building.

Originally budgeted for $700,000, Monday’s vote also allowed for the higher cost adjustment. Layne Well and Pump, as well as Stark Excavating, are set to handle the project, expected to begin later this summer.

In other business, the council:

  • Renewed a joint agreement with the city of Bloomington and the Ecology Action Center regarding the center’s energy efficiency program. Nord was the only "no" vote.
  • Annexed and rezoned about 10 acres near West College Avenue and Interstate 55, for a mini-storage business.
  • OK'd final plat for a third addition to Blackstone Trails Subdivision, at Hershey and Shepard roads, which will connect it to nearby Eagle’s Landing Subdivision. 
  • Awarded a nearly $285,000 contract to EJ Equipment for sewer camera equipment.
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Corrected: June 7, 2022 at 10:20 AM CDT
This story has been updated to show the council unanimously approved a $1 million well and pump house project. An earlier version listed an incorrect vote tally.
Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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