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Bloomington council directs bulk of $7M streets budget to resurfacing, teases $2M more

Bloomington Public Works Director Kevin Kothe, left, speaks with city engineer Craig Shonkwiler, during the Bloomington City Council meeting Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, at the downtown Government Center.
Michele Steinbacher
Bloomington Public Works Director Kevin Kothe, left, speaks with city engineer Craig Shonkwiler during the Bloomington City Council meeting on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, at the downtown Government Center.

The Bloomington City Council agreed Monday to authorize a $5.2 million contract for the upcoming year's street resurfacing projects, and likely will add a $2 million boost, thanks to federal COVID-relief funds.

The $5.2 million contract approved Monday actually is part of a bigger $7 million asphalt and concrete fund covering streets and sidewalks, said Kevin Kothe, Bloomington's Public Works director.

If the contracts using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding are approved, the overall streets and sidewalk spending for FY23 will be $9 million, he said.

Council member Jeff Crabill, of Ward 8, noted that $9 million will be the most Bloomington has put into streets and sidewalks for many years.

The council voted last month to put the bulk of the city's $13.4 million ARPA funding toward infrastructure.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council OK’d an updated countywide hazards response plan, approved spending about $1 million to replace three garbage trucks, and gave special permission to several property owners to raise chickens in their yards.

The streets colored red on this map indicate this year's Bloomington street resurfacing projects, funded with its fiscal 2023 budget. The Bloomington City Council on Wednesday OK'd spending $5.2 million on the projects.
Steinbacher, Michele
City of Bloomington
The streets colored red on this map indicate this year's Bloomington street resurfacing projects, funded with its fiscal 2023 budget. The Bloomington City Council on Wednesday OK'd spending $5.2 million on the projects. Orange streets represent another $2 million in work for FY23, expected to be covered with federal COVID-relief funds; and blue streets mark planned resurfacing for FY24.

Council members push to change resurfacing plans

The city’s fund to improve streets has budgeted $7 million for FY23 projects. The bulk — $5.2 million — is the same as last year's funded amount for street resurfacing.

The other categories are adjusted, but roughly $1 million goes to the sidewalk and ramp request program, a decade-long effort now in its sixth year. The remainder is split between pavement preservation, and emergency street, alley and sidewalk repairs, said Kothe.

Public works staff determine streets’ condition ratings and use that, along with other factors, to set resurfacing priorities for Bloomington streets.

Although the council awarded Rowe Construction the $5.2 million resurfacing contract on Monday, with technical bidding requirements waived, Kothe said the upcoming $2 million in street projects will go out to bid.

Council member Grant Walch, of Ward 1, said he was pleased to hear the $2 million ARPA funded projects for FY23 will be put out for bids.

He was critical of the negative impact of a Bloomington-preferential for contracts. That's limited bigger projects to Rowe Construction, with technical bidding waived.

Kothe said smaller contractors haven't been interested in competing for Bloomington's recent projects — which included major roads such as Oakland, and Hershey. But he said at least one other Bloomington-based contractor likely will bid on the $2 million ARPA-funded project. That targets smaller, residential streets.

"We're going to test the waters and see," said Kothe, in regard to bidding.

Ward 3's Sheila Montney called for better communication of how the city measures and compares its costs for road projects year-to-year.

"We know how much we are spending. But we don't have any idea how much we're getting for that," she said.

Once construction season is done, public works staff plans to improve analytics in this area, said city engineer Craig Shonkwiler. Staff will return in early 2023 with a discussion on targets, and how to get there, in reference to street improvements.

However, he said, street projects are complex, with it not being easy to compare lane miles improved in an apples-to-apples scenario. "Some sections of road way are thicker, some are thinner, " he said, driving the cost-per-lane mile up.

Montney said she understands complexities exist, but called for a better baseline in the city's explanation of cost analysis.

Roughly, Shonkwiler said this year's cost has been about $400,000 per mile, up from $300,000 per mile a year earlier.

Montney also questioned the financial benefits of clustering street resurfacing work into tighter geographic areas.

More information about the city’s road projects is on the city-run website www.bloomingtonstreets.com

Rowe’s $5.2 million contract includes multiple projects to be completed by September 2023. The Bloomington business is part of United Contractors Midwest.

Chicken coops OK’d for several city residents

In another matter, four Bloomington homeowners have the official go-ahead to raise chickens in their yards.

The council approved special-use permits to allow chicken coops on Aberdeen Way; in the 200 block of Magnolia Drive; the 600 block of South Livingston Street; and the 2000 block of Chesapeake Lane.

At its July 20 meeting, the Bloomington Planning Commission voted to recommend the council issue the permits.

Countywide disaster preparedness plan updated

Natural disasters arrive in a sudden manner, leaving damage, injuries, and sometimes fatalities in their wake. But the federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 recognized that pre-disaster planning — at the state and local levels — could, in some ways, help rein in chaos around such disasters.

McLean County has created such a plan, and updates it every five years.

On Monday, the council adopted the update of the McLean County Multi-Jurisdictional All Hazards Mitigation Plan

Cathy Beck, McLean County Emergency Management Agency director, led the update, and was assisted by consulting firm American Environmental Corp. About two dozen other McLean County villages, towns and entities such as Heartland Community College joined Bloomington in updating the plan.

The plan follows Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommendations for local agencies and governments to best mitigate the damage from disasters such as tornadoes, flooding, snowstorms, and even the COVID-19 pandemic.

City to spend $1 million on new garbage trucks

Also Monday, the council OK’d spending just over $1 million with Bridgeton Mo.-based Key Equipment and Supply to replace three of the city’s automated-collection garbage trucks. As part of the agreement, Bloomington will trade in three of its older models.

City staff researched moving to electric vehicles for trash/recycling. However at this time, it’s not logistically possible, according to council materials.

In other business, the council, approved:

  • Replacing Ewing Park II’s restroom and storm shelter, damaged by a July 2021 fire. Now, the FY23 budget will be adjusted about $95,000 — from the insurance settlement. The city will pay Farnsworth Group about $40,000 for design, and the reset will go toward construction.
  • Three other special-use permits: a four-unit rooming house in the 700 block of Douglas Street; two-unit residential space in the 800 block of East Grove Street, an area zoned commercial; and a nail salon in the 700 block of East Washington Street, in the downtown neighborhood residence district.

Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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