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Smart cities and pedestrian safety among Normal council priorities

Pam Reece
Town of Normal
Normal City Manager Pam Reece.

The city manager of Normal says the town council is deeply interested in pedestrian safety. Pam Reece said the Vision Zero-Go Safe Plan to eliminate auto collisions with walkers and bikers is one the themes to emerge from a recent strategic planning session. Reece said the initiative has long-term implications.

"That plays into what kind of design strategies the staff need to take into consideration when we are looking at roadway improvements, intersection improvements, sidewalks, lighting, and things like that," said Reece, speaking on WGLT's Sound Ideas.

Reece said the council will rank a draft list of priorities and staff will work on implementing short- and long-term goals. She said another priority is moving forward with Smart Cities technology.

And as quadrennial property assessments soar nearly 6% in Normal, Reece said the town will do its best to hold down property tax increases. The rise comes from the hot housing market. Reece said lowering the tax rate should offset some of that increase.

"Our goal is to do our best to maintain the levy and not grow the property tax impact on our residents as much as possible," said Reece.

Taxing bodies ask for a set dollar amount in a tax levy. The county then figures out the tax rate needed to support that amount. That will likely happen in late November. The bulk of property taxes go to school districts and not to municipalities.

Rivian purchases

And Reece defended the purchase of two Rivian vehicles that was narrowly approved by the council this week after lengthy debate.

She said there are several good reasons for the town to buy the R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV. Rivian vehicles fit into the town's future and support a business in the community, according to Reece, who noted the town bought 40 Mitsubishi vehicles when that company produced cars in Normal; the town is buying just two Rivians.

"Two vehicles that I believe do fit in with our vision of sustainability. We have EV Town. We have also adopted a sustainability plan," said Reece.

Even though the $149,000 budgeted is less than one-tenth of 1% of the town budget, the council approval took more than an hour of debate.

Reece also rebutted swipes from a council member Stan Nord, who took a jab he said if Reece wants to drive a Rivian she can buy one herself. Reece said she is.

"My husband and I have been on the wait list for quite some time for a Rivian SUV," said Reece.

Reece said the town vehicles will be assigned to the town pool for people to sign out — and that doesn't include her.

"In my employment agreement, I get a vehicle allowance so I always drive my own car and always will," said Reece.

Nord also criticized Mayor Chris Koos for asking the town to put down $1,000 deposits on the vehicles four years ago without getting council approval. Reece noted those deposits were fully refundable and well within the discretionary staff spending limit. She said the first time city council approval was needed was this week.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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