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WGLT's reporting on the November 2020 election cycle.

Bloomington Council OKs Arena as November Voting Site

The Bloomington City Council meets remotely Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

The Bloomington City Council gave the official OK Monday night for Grossinger Motors Arena to be used as a “universal” voting site for McLean County residents on Election Day on Nov. 3.

During its remote meeting livestreamed on YouTube, the council unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with McLean County, allowing the county to use the city-owned arena for election week. As part of the agreement, the Bloomington Election Commission also will use the facility to allow voting there.

Tim Mitchell, executive director of the commission, told the council he appreciates the arena being designated a universal voting site.

“This election, one, would have been big to begin with, because it’s a presidential election. Throw in COVID-19, it got a lot more complicated and difficult,” he said.

Mitchell said voters are concerned that polls will be open and safe, given the public health crisis. Using the arena is ideal, he said, saying the downtown facility "has a lot of space to social distance, keep people apart." 

The arena will be divided into two areas for voters: One for Bloomington residents, another for those living outside Bloomington, according to materials provided by the council Monday. The latter group of voters works with the McLean County clerk’s office that oversees elections in the county and Normal.

Regular polling places also will be open election day. Plus, residents still can vote by mail, and early voting begins Sept. 24. More information on voting is available atthe clerk's website,or for city of Bloomington residents, at the commission's website.

Addressing COVID spike

Council members also discussed the increase of COVID-19 cases. McLean County announcing a record 99 cases earlier in the day, bumping the county's seven-day testing positivity rate to 7.3%.

City Manager Tim Gleason noted the Twin City community has "seen an uptick in the last two weeks,” in particular at the local universities. He asked residents to take steps to police themselves to avoid the region reversing course.  

He said a community conversation about whether to have a citywide mask ordinance continues. But he said because the council isn’t scheduled to meet again until Sept. 14, any decision on an emergency order about the matter would require a specially scheduled meeting.

Gleason noted Bloomington officials would join a McLean County Health Department meeting at noon Tuesday to address the COVID-19 spike. Leaders from Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, the Town of Normal and McLean County are expected to join Bloomington at the meeting, said Gleason.

Also at the meeting, Bloomington Public Works Director Kevin Kothe updated the council about various street repairs and other projects around the city. He said many projects are nearing completion this summer, including: 

  • Repaving at a busy pedestrian area of East and Kelsey streets near Illinois Wesleyan University.
  • Creating safer routes to Sheridan School for students. 
  • Stabilizating shorelines to prevent erosion at Evergreen Lake.

Councilman Mboka Mwilambwe served as mayor pro tem for both the Bloomington City Council meeting and the preceding Bloomington Township meeting. Renner made an appearance during the township meeting, but excused himself prior to the start of the city council meeting. He did not announce the reason for his departure.
In other business, Monday night, the council OK’d:

  • Spending $600,000 for repairs to the parking garages at the arena and Market Street, to be handled by Tarlton Corp.
  • Spending no more than $215,000 with CDM Smith Inc. for a water rate study. 
  • Aldi Inc.’s request for a package liquor license at its 907 Maple Hill Road location.
  • Cadillac Jack’s request for more outdoor seating at the restaurant and bar, at 1507 S. Main St. 

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