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Normal council OKs negotiating contract to build $5M east side fire station

The Normal Town Council meets Monday, April 17, 2023 in Normal City Hall, at Uptown Station.
Michele Steinbacher
The Normal Town Council meets Monday, April 17, 2023 at Normal City Hall in Uptown Station.

Normal is a step closer to a new $5 million east side fire station, after the town council on Monday OK’d negotiating a contract to build the future firehouse at Shepard and Hershey roads.

With the approval, staff will work with Peoria-based CORE Construction regarding designs and construction plans for the Normal Fire Department’s future Station 2.

It will replace the station at College Avenue and Blair Drive.

The town is using a design/build approach, meaning it isn't hiring an architect separately, Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer said after the meeting. However, CORE has hired the Farnsworth Group to handle the design, he said.

“I don’t anticipate any kind of groundbreaking or anything like that until the spring of 2024,” said Humer, with the new facility likely opening a year later.

Also at Monday’s meeting at City Hall in Uptown Station, the council approved Rivian Motors’ plan for an extra parking lot; OK’d plans to update lighting at two Uptown Normal parking decks; and authorized a fall project to renovate water slides at Fairview and Anderson aquatic centers.

NFD spreading resources around town

The building planned for the corner of Hershey and Shepard is part of a three-facility plan to address the town’s growth. Normal wants to improve response times, and redistribute equipment and staff across the community.

The town will use a $1 million state grant for the project, for which Normal has a $4.9 million budget, City Manager Pam Reece told the council.

Council member Kathleen Lorenz urged the town to reach out to nearby residents to seek their feedback about the station design.

Normal fire headquarters on Main Street opened in 2017, as the first of the new trio of facilities. It sits adjacent to the Illinois State University campus.

Station 3, now at 1200 E. Raab Road and Henry Street, is the final station to be relocated. Humer said NFD plans to build its replacement somewhere in the northwest part of town.

Parking deck lighting

In another matter, the council OK’d spending about $475,00 to upgrade to energy efficient parking deck lighting at the garages on College Avenue and Beaufort Street.

The decks were built about 15 years ago. Between the two, there are nearly 1,000 fixtures, said Mark Clinch, Normal facilities and energy director. Lighting parts now are increasingly difficult to find, according to council meeting materials.

The contract was awarded to Bloomington-based Cell Electric, which submitted the lowest of three bids. Work is scheduled for this summer; the town expects to save about $20,000 annually on energy costs.

Town staff expect the new lighting to eventually pay for itself through the energy savings, said Clinch.

Water park slides updated this fall

Normal’s two water parks — Fairview Family Aquatic Center along Main Street, and Anderson Aquatic Center off College Avenue — will see their water slides upgraded this fall.

The council OK’d plans to spend about $192,000 with Missouri-based Amusement Restoration. The project addresses aging structure repairs, and will coat the slides with a strengthening liquid.

Council member Karyn Smith asked if the project would interfere with the summer season, noting Bloomington won’t be ready to open O’Neil Pool this season, so it’s down just to Holiday Pool for public access.

However, Reece confirmed Normal’s two centers will be open this summer. She said the pools open Memorial Day weekend, and that the town continues to recruit staff for summer jobs.

The water slide work won’t get underway until the pools close for the season, she said. For Anderson that’s late August, and Fairview is after Labor Day.

Reece expects the project to be completed by Halloween.

In other business, the council

  • Heard an update from Connect Transit General Manager David Braun and board chairman Ryan Whitehouse. Connect Transit continues to grow; with ridership on fixed routes up nearly 20% over this time last year.
  • OK an amended site plan for Rivian Motors to build a south parking lot at 100 N. Rivain Motorway.
  • Rezoned several ISU-owned properties to reflect the S-1 campus zoning. Those are at 402 W. Locust St., 701 and 709 N. Main St., 715 and 755 W. Raab Road.
  • Awarded a roughly $315,000 contract to  PJ Hoerr to reconstruct a town well, damaged in a March 14 eruption. It was the only bid submitted. Work is set to begin in July.
  • Approved spending the majority of its $500,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunities. The grantcovers crime prevention.
  • OK’d spending about $200,000 for the parks and recreation department to get a new  aerial lift bucket truck. The vehicle is from Springfield-based Drake-Scruggs Equipment. 
  • Appointed Brad Ropp to the Normal Planning Commission. He’ll serve the remainder of the term being vacated by Andy Byars, who won a seat on the town council in the April 4 election.

Michele Steinbacher was a WGLT correspondent, joining the staff in 2020. She left the station in 2024.