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Normal Revokes Businesses’ Liquor Licenses

The new owners of two video gambling businesses in Normal will need to apply for new liquor licenses after the town revoked the current permits.

During a special meeting before Monday's regular Town Council meeting, the commissioners voted to revoke Class O liquor licenses, deny renewal of those licenses and deny Class C license applications for the Marie's Place establishments at 1520 E. College Ave. and 115 Susan Drive.

The action comes after an investigation concluded the two locations did not have adequate food available for sale. Current owner Grant Jones said the violation has been corrected.

“During the last investigation by Normal Police, they commented that we did have food and it was on the record that we had food,” said Jones. “We were hoping we were going to be able to move past this.”

Jones told the panel he has sold the businesses to a pizza restauranteur out of Heyworth who intends to bring his menu to the Normal locations. He believes the stiff penalty the commission enforced is too harsh.

“I see people get hit for underage drinking all the time and all they get is a fine,” he said. “It concerns me as a business owner and as a resident that what the staff’s investigation finds, they think this is worse than an underage drinking ticket.”

Deputy Corporation Counsel Jason Querciagrossa told the commissioners the new owners would be able to apply for liquor licenses under a new legalized liability company (LLC) filing. The commission approved Class O and Class C license applications for an as yet unopened Marie’s Place location at 1702 W. College Ave.

Recycling Drop Boxes

The Council approved a six-month extension of its agreement with Midwest Fiber Recycling on a drop-box program. The extension will cost the town $45,000 over the six months, allowing time to find a long-term solution with Midwest Fiber that is unable to sustain the program without a subsidy or modification because the market for recyclables has declined.

Council member Stan Nord pulled the item from the omnibus agenda and cast the lone vote against the extension.

“This is not something that was in the budget for this year; this is something we’re adding,” said Nord. “Right now, we’re looking at a revenue hole and I think it’s a bad time to be adding expenses that are not necessary. This is a convenience.”

But Karyn Smith said the program is still beneficial for the town, with Chemberly Cummings, Kathleen Lorenz and Kevin McCarthy agreeing.

“The cost for per ton for recyclables is approximately $25 per ton, as compared to $54.65 per ton in tipping fees at the landfill. So everything that we can keep out of the landfill is saving us money,” said Smith.

In 2019, collections at the four drop box locations – Walmart, Chiddix Junior High, University Center, and Jewel-Osco on Cottage Avenue. – accounted for 42% of recycled materials in Normal. The amendment to the Midwest Fiber agreement also extended curbside collection for five years.

Water Main Project

The Council unanimously approved $512,000 contract with George Gildner Inc. for a water main replacement project on Jersey Avenue between Robinwood and Ethel Parkway. The agreement includes a $15,000 bonus for early completion.

Nord noted the expense saves about $453,000 from the original budgeted expense, adding he would like to see that savings used to cancel a planned water fee rate increase. City Manager Pam Reece said the funds would remain in the water capital account.

“They will be available to fund another project perhaps; maybe the next project might come in over budget and we might need those funds for that,” said Reece.

“Certainly we will provide information to council when it gets to that point regarding what projects are on the wish list. Maybe it’s a good environment to get some good pricing, so we will try to balance all that and certainly be aware of the impact of the proposed water rate increase.”

COVID-19 sheltering

Smith took an opportunity near the end of the meeting to address concerns over the financial impact citizens are facing during the state’s shelter-in-place order during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying she empathizes with those worried about their livelihood, but that a rush to reopen the economy would be ill-advised.

“As we are still in the middle of this pandemic, there is so much that is unknown,” she said. “While there is so much desire to return to normal, it’s unrealistic to think that can happen so quickly.”

Mayor Chris Koos agreed, adding that residents are handling the situation as best as they can.

“My interaction with the community has been broadly supportive of what is happening here because they understand that there are so many unknowns that we have at this point,” said Koos. “There is frustration, there is a little bit of cabin fever. But people are understanding that this is probably going to be short-term pain for long-term good.”

Other business

Other items approved by the council were:

  • An $81,000 three-year extension of the contract with T2 Systems for parking ticket software. The company’s cloud-based Flex system automatically generates parking citations;
  • Reserving the annual private activity bond cap, allowing the town to proceed with the Illinois Assist Home Ownership Program.

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Joe Deacon is a reporter at WCBU.
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