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Bloomington Council Extends Gleason's Contract; Adds Youth To Community Board

Bloomington City Council meets remotely Feb. 8, 2021.

The Bloomington City Council on Monday agreed to keep City Manager Tim Gleason on contract until March 2025, nine months longer than his current contract, and the earliest time he’s eligible for retirement.

Also at Monday’s remote meeting, the council voted to start its $4.3 million, Phase 2 water main project on Locust Street; and to add two youth members to the city’s police advisory board.

Gleason’s contract, in which his annual base salary is just over $197,000, had been set to expire July 1, 2024. The decision, presented as part of the council’s consent agenda, passed unanimously, with no discussion.

Mayor Tari Renner was absent. So, Ward 3 alderman Mboka Mwilambwe served as mayor pro tem.

According to council materials, the extension was made “to provide additional stability to the community, and to reflect the desire of the city manager to continue serving the city until at least his earliest retirement date.” The amended contract also requires Gleason to live within 20 miles of  Bloomington until March 31, 2025, when the contract ends.

Gleason made no comment regarding the council vote.

Youth on police advisory board 

As originally presented Monday, the youth members for the advisory board, formally known as the Public Safety Community Relations Board (PSCRB) would be ex-officio, with no voting privileges. However, Ward 6 alderwoman Jenn Carrillo proposed an amendment to allow the 16- to 21-year-olds named to the board to vote alongside the existing seven adult members. That amendment passed 7-2; and then the amended proposal passed unanimously.

“Let’s not do window dressing. If we believe that the voices of the youth are important, then let’s give them votes on the board,” Carrillo said.

During the nearly half-hour discussion on the proposal, several council members agreed, especially given the ages of the youth appointees. 

Noting the age some teens are treated as adults in the justice system, and the age some youth are legally emancipated, Ward 7 alderwoman Mollie Ward said, “The fact that we’re grouping 16- to 21-year olds together implies a certain amount of maturity.”

Ward 1 alderman Jamie Mathy noted he signed up to join the Army when he was 19. 

Ward 4 alderwoman Julie Emig said she believed the youth members should vote, given the PSCRB’s existence “to provide community input, to be responsive, to engage in these conversations about how we can make better bridges between law enforcement and our community.”

Ward 9 alderwoman Kim Bray and Ward 2 alderwoman Donna Boelen voted against  the amendment, saying they’d rather have the youth members be non-voting, and later revisit the possibility. However, after the amendment passed, Boelen and Bray joined the other council members in the unanimous vote to create the youth positions, with the voting privileges.

Adult members serve three-year terms on PSCRB. However, the youth will serve one-year terms. The board first heard the idea to add youth members in July. That's when former city council member Karen Schmidt and Bloomington High School senior Geary Moore, who is part of the Not In Our Schools steering committee, suggested adding the missing demographic.

Water main project 

Also as part of Monday’s consent agenda, the council approved, also with no discussion, two items related to awarding Stark Excavating, Inc. the $4.3 million contract to handle the second phase of the Locust Street Combined Sewer Overflow Elimination and Water Main Replacement project.

According to council materials, the city has a long-term plan with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to eliminate the combined system by separating the storm and sanitary flow, and by installing a new water main--in the area south of Bloomington Country Club.

Phase 2 construction is expected to begin this spring, and continue through November. Phase 3 should be in spring 2022. Phase 4 will be in spring 2023. The remaining phases will take place every other year from 2026 to 2030, according to council materials.

Most of project’s funding, about $4.2 million, will be financed with loan agreements with the IEPA, from a water pollution control loan program, and a public water supply loan program for the project. The city anticipates a 1.35% interest rate on two 20-year loans. The remaining $117,725 will be paid from city enterprise funds.

Stark’s contract is pending IEPA approval. 

COVID relief grants

Also on the consent agenda, again with no discussion, the council amended its fiscal 2021 budget to be able to allocate its second round of Community Block Development Grants for COVID relief. 

Monday’s vote allows Bloomington to distribute $546,000 in those federal relief grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to residents and businesses. 

According to council materials, about $75,000 will be used to cover administrative costs. The remainder will be shared by programs providing assistance to small businesses, residents, and for emergency shelter.  

In its first round, the city distributed $329,000 in federal funds.

Redistricting downtown neighborhood 

The council OK’d an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance to create the R-D zone--establishing the Downtown Neighborhood Residence District, and OK'd a related zoning map amendments for the new district.

This map shows the rezoned area near downtown Bloomington.
Credit City of Bloomington

The district represents about 250 properties adjacent to downtown Bloomington, and on the east and west sides of that area. This plan, which emerged from the R-3B District Study, has run into repeated stalls over the past two years.

The first challenges came in December 2018 when residents raised concerns about it creating high density multifamily housing, instead of the existing culture of single- or double-family units. 

Residents worried it would encourage demolition of existing buildings and historic resources, according to the council materials.

In July 2019, Houseal Lavigne Associates completed an analysis. In the fall of 2020, Houseal recommended a new zoning classification that could preserve the neighborhood character, but also encourage redevelopment. However, the plan hit another snag, when four property owners on Locust Street objected to their homes being in the plan. So, a November 2020 vote was postponed until Monday.

The zoning changes passed 7-0, with an amendment allowing the four Locust Street homes to not be part of the rezoning, and another amendment allowing certain agency-operated group living homes to be permitted, with a special-use permit. 

Mathy didn’t vote, citing a conflict of interest.

In other business, the council:

  • Amended a lease agreement with the Public Building Commission and McLean County. The changes will reduce the city’s annual rent by $122,622.
  • Amended it’s Community Development budget by $75,000 to cover anticipated start-up costs for a lead hazard control program.
  • Amended the zoning map from B-2 commercial to C1 office district, for seven acres south of Southgate Drive and east of Main Street.
  • Appointed Torea Phillips to the Bloomington Housing Authority Board. Her term ends April 30, 2025.
  • Heard from Boelen that the PATH Crisis Agency has put out a call for the public's help, given the extremely cold temperatures this month. PATH is seeking donations to help provide shelter at hotels for homeless people, as it has run out of funds to do so.

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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.