Michele Steinbacher | WGLT

Michele Steinbacher

Correspondent

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

Steinbacher previously worked as a reporter at The Pantagraph in Bloomington, and taught communication at Heartland Community College.

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Normal now moves into the design phase of its $9.5 million West College Avenue reconstruction, with Monday’s town council vote to release $370,000 of state motor fuel tax funds. 

City Manager Pam Reece said the reconstruction of West College--from Rivian Motorway to White Oak Road--is set for completion in 2023. The Farnsworth Group of Bloomington will oversee project design.

WGLT

Some parents voiced concerns Wednesday night to the District 87 school board over plans to allow in-school, hybrid learning this fall for younger students, but not the district's teens.

Superintendent Barry Reilly updated the board  about the plans announced earlier in the day, in which students in grades 7 through 12 will stay remote at least until January. Families have the option to send younger students back for hybrid learning, some as early as Oct. 26.

The Bloomington City Council Monday night OK’d the next steps in a plan to extend the Constitution Trail in southeast Bloomington, creating a safer way for bicycle and foot traffic to cross under Veterans Parkway. 

When complete, the trail would stretch from Lafayette Street to Hamilton Road.

Also at the remote meeting, the council approved plans to spend $775,000 on design for a new O’Neil Pool; updated city codes including  sprinkler requirements in businesses; and heard from residents calling for Oct. 12 to be known as Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day.

Possible zoning changes for the One Normal Plaza area are on hold, with the Normal Town Council voting Monday to postpone hearings on the matter until COVID-restrictions loosen and allow in-person meetings.

The Bloomington City Council opted Monday to delay a vote on creating a public arts commission, with members saying they first must resolve questions about how the commission would be funded, and who would be represented among its volunteers.

While voicing general support for the commission, the council agreed unanimously at the remote meeting to table the vote until Oct. 26.

Normal’s gas tax rate will double to 8 cents per gallon beginning Dec. 1, after narrowly passing during Monday night’s town council meeting in a 4-3 vote.

The Bloomington City Council on Monday overwhelmingly approved the first marijuana dispensary in the city, expected to open by December. 

Normal and other cities shouldn’t expect a full economic recovery until 1 to 3 years after a COVID vaccine becomes available, administrators told the Normal Town Council on Tuesday.

A proposal to regulate gatherings on county property -- which called for issuing organizers a fine if they don't provide advance notice of demonstrations and other events -- has stalled in a McLean County Board committee.

The Normal Town Council voted Wednesday to keep in place through Dec. 31 new rules limiting crowds near the Illinois State University campus in response to a spike in local COVID-19 cases, mostly among ISU students.

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.

John Butler in court
David Proeber / The Pantagraph (Pool)

After three years, the end is in sight for the lead defendant in the Coliseum fraud case.

The Illinois Art Station’s plan to locate near Constitution Trail took a step forward, and the Normal Police officers’ union agreement was OK’d during Monday night’s Normal Town Council virtual meeting.

For Rent signage
David Zalubowski / AP

McLean County tenants who are struggling because of the pandemic have another place to turn for help paying their rent.

Illinois State University administrators received authorization to spend up to $3.3 million this semester for COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic students, with the ISU board of trustees approving the plan Wednesday during a virtual meeting.

Unit 5 wants students back into its buildings by mid-October. But in the meantime staff is training for a districtwide remote learning scenario that’s very different from last spring, Unit 5 Superintendent Kristen Weikle said Tuesday.

Building new homes in the Fox Creek subdivision and tearing down the west side’s O’Neil pool complex are both in the works, after the Bloomington City Council took construction-related actions at its Monday night meeting.

The crowding of the McLean County Jail, and its relationship to a COVID-19 outbreak there, took center stage at Tuesday’s county board justice committee meeting.

Normal’s potential rezoning of residential areas near One Normal Plaza won’t be publicly addressed until at least September when residents’ concerns can be made in person, town leaders said during Monday night’s city council meeting.

Bloomington’s strong budget reserves helped it weather COVID-19 this spring, but the pandemic’s unpredictability means the city’s finances aren’t yet in the clear, leaders heard during Monday night’s city council meeting.

Michele Steinbacher / WGLT

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Normal’s revenue stream, but less than planners feared, thanks to some adjustments made this spring, the Town Council heard at Monday night’s meeting.