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County Board OKs Arena As Voting Center, Talks Mask Compliance

Sign calling for mask compliance
Eric Stock
A sign inside an entrance at the McLean County Government Center calls for everyone to wear masks and practice social distancing.

The McLean County Board on Tuesday unanimously approved establishing Grossinger Motors Arena in downtown Bloomingtonas an Election Day voting center where all registered voters can cast a ballot.
A new law in Illinois passed this year requires voting authorities to establish voting centers that are open to all voters within a jurisdiction.

The McLean County Clerk’s office and Bloomington Election Commission also have sent mail-in ballot applications to voters in another state-mandated effort to expand voter access during the pandemic.  

All regular polling sites also will be open on Nov. 3. 

The county board-backed proposal also needs approval from the Bloomington City Council, which has not yet taken up the matter.

Mask compliance

Also at the virtual meeting, county board member Carlo Robustelli called on the county to have clearer guidelines for county staff to wear masks on the job when social distancing isn’t possible.

McLean County Board virtual meeting
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
The McLean County Board met virtually on Tuesday.

“It’s very difficult for an employee to determine whether or not they are walking from one area to the other and there is six feet,” Robustelli said. “How many people know what six feet distancing looks like?”

County Administrator Camille Rodriguez said the county has told staff the use of masks is expected as part of the county’s COVID-19 response plan, but that it has not been added to the county’s personnel policies as Robustelli requested.

“It was just something we set as an expectation for everyone, and we have posted in many buildings signs to do the same,” Rodriguez said.

The use of masks at the McLean County Government Center became a point of contention last week when Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason relayed complaints from several city department heads that some county employees weren’t wearing masks when appropriate.

McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael, whose office is in the Government Center, responded via email that the allegationswere “very insulting to me and my staff,” and said she would have preferred a one-on-one meeting to address the concerns.

The county and city share offices at the downtown center.

The board took no action on Robustelli's request.

Communication position cut

McLean County eliminated a communication specialist position, two months after demoting the only person who previously servedin that position.

The county board voted Tuesday to cut the position that is shared between county administration and the McLean County Health Department. The board moved to replace the position with an office specialist.

Dion McNeal, who served in the communication specialist role until June, submitted an email to the County Board in which he urged the board not to eliminate the position during the coronavirus pandemic. The letter was read during the public comment portion of the meeting. 

"The (communication specialist) plays a vital role in government," wrote McNeal, who went to the media after his demotion in June to claim the move was racially motivated.

Rodriguez said hiring an additional office staff member would greatly improve customer service at county offices, adding a human resources staffer has had to spend considerable time answering phones as incoming calls have increased during the pandemic.

“It’s become increasingly difficult for us to build our very small but mighty human resources department,” Rodriguez said.

County officials have not said whether McNeal is still employed by the county.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.