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Bloomington Approves Cannabis Task Force Members, Watershed Study

One of the members appointed to Bloomington’s newly formed task force on legalized recreational marijuana sees an opportunity for the city to get input from the business, health and law enforcement communities.

However, approval of the 10 appointments to the cannabis task force met some resistance before gaining approval at Monday night’s Bloomington City Council meeting.

“I do respect my colleagues and the decision that was made to form a task force,” said council member Donna Boelen, who pulled the item from the consent agenda. “However, I voted against that and to be consistent in my voting I am voting against the appointments.”

Mayor Tari Renner’s selections for the 10-member task force included council members Julie Emig and Jenn Carrillo, who proposed the task force. Other members include downtown business owners Jan Lancaster and De Urban, assistant police chief Greg Scott and Sgt. Aaron Veerman, addiction specialist Deb Carter, and community representatives Linda Foster, Olivia Butts and John Walsh.

The panel’s duty will be to provide guidance to the city on how it should approach the new state law legalizing the recreational cannabis use that goes into effect on Jan. 1. Issues the city will need to tackle include zoning and taxes. The law allows municipalities to tax retail marijuana sales up to 3%.

Emig said she’s eager to see what recommendations the task force produces.

“I think it’s just an opportunity to field where people are coming from,” she said. “I think we’re just going to get more information and better ideas to bring back to council so that council can make the decision going forward.”

Council member Kim Bray joined Boelen as the only council members voting against the appointments. She claimed individuals who could bring broad perspectives to the panel did not receive fair consideration.

“Only through incorporating multiple perspectives on this tough issue will we be truly informed by a task force effort,” she said.

Bray went on to say there a great deal of uncertainty remains among municipal leaders all across the state as to how the law will impact local governments and communities.

“There’s a lot of things that we just won’t know, regardless of how much we study it. There’s a lot of things still to come,” she said. “We have all these perspectives that need to be represented and we all need to be up to speed at all times.

“As I look at this slate, I’m not sure that we’ve achieved the balance we need in getting those perspectives.”

Watershed Plan Update 

Credit Joe Deacon / WGLT
Bloomington Public Works Director Jim Karch discusses a proposed watershed plan update during Monday night's City Council meeting.

Protecting the quality of the water supply from Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake will be the focus of a study approved at Monday’s meeting. Public Works Director Jim Karch says an update to the watershed plan for both lakes will collect input from impacted property owners.

“The reason why this is so important for our citizens is that our watersheds around both of these water bodies are critical to preserve and ensure that we help make the water quality even better,” said Karch, noting the existing watershed master plan is 10 years old.

The council voted unanimously in favor of spending $71,000 on the study from the McLean County Soil and Water Conservation District. An additional $60,000 will come from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency while the Illinois Farm Bureau will contribute $20,000. The study should take up 18 to 24 months to complete.

“We’ll really reach out to a lot of the stakeholders, the impacted property owners and get their input so that we can continue to move forward with the best management practices in the watershed,” Karch said.

Karch said water produced by the city serves almost 50% of McLean County. Two years ago, Bloomington’s watershed was selected for a National Water Quality Initiative pilot program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“What we were really excited about was to highlight that this watershed is one of only five in the nation allowed in a pilot program that is really a model for what a watershed should be,” he said. “Residents should be really proud of the fact that this community is a model for many of the watersheds in our country.”

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Joe Deacon is a reporter at WCBU.