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Normal Council To Decide How To Spend Federal Relief Money

Pam Reece
Town of Normal
Normal City Manager Pam Reece said capital projects and restoration of cuts will be on a list of priorities for how to use $10.4 million in pandemic federal relief money.

The Town of Normal has several options to spend the $10.4 million in pandemic relief money allocated to the town through the American Rescue Plan with City Manager Pam Reece saying staff will make recommendations to the council next month.

"We certainly would love to spend some of those dollars on capital projects which results in job creation," said Reece. "When you talk about capital investment, those dollars will go pretty quickly, so we want to be very strategic about that."

The town anticipates receiving the first $5 million from the federal government soon, with the second half of the money likely arriving near the end of 2022, Reece said.

"We also are hopeful we can put together a plan to use the funds for maybe reinstating some of the cuts we made in our tight budget year," she said.

The town has left several positions vacant and canceled programs to help match spending to lower revenue during the pandemic. The town also has placed a moratorium on support for some community entities that Reece would like to see lifted.

"Some things I would like to see would be reinstating some of the funds that we have used in the past to support organizations, possibly the Harmon Arts Grant program," she said.

Reece also mentioned historic preservation grants that help property owners restore homes in certain historic districts within the town as a possibility, adding the town might schedule a council work session for in May to get feedback on the recommendations and discern council spending priorities.

Summer programs

Reece said the town also is preparing to resume some summer activities.

"Staff in the cultural arts area as well as the Parks and Recreation Department have created a plan we think fits within the Restore Illinois guidelines to host some events," said Reece.

music group
Credit Charlie Schlenker / WGLT
Summer music events in Normal will have a much different feel than this 2019 festival, but town staff have begun to roll out plans for 2021.

For example, the first Lounge About the Roundabout event of the season will be Saturday, May 15 -- the first time in more than a year the town has had an organized activity in the center part of Uptown. Also, the Children's Discovery Museum will reopen May 1 to members with a goal of opening to the public by Memorial Day with limited crowd sizes, Reece said.

"Our planning for Uptown events reflects pushing some things off until the fall when we are hopeful we will be in the governor's bridge plan status of Restore Illinois," sshe said.

The town's Make Music Normal event is usually a June festival. Reece said that now will be in September. Plans may include spreading out from Uptown to include other places such as the Connie Link Amphitheater on south Linden Street. The multiple venues could help limit crowd sizes, said Reece.

Holding events in outdoor settings also would allow people to spread out while wearing masks to achieve adequate social distancing, she said.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.