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.

Ways to Connect

The Constitution Trail soon will connect a Route 66 landmark in Normal to a stretch of the historic road that winds north to Towanda as a bike path.

During its virtual meeting Monday, the Normal Town Council approved the Kelley Basin-Route 66 Trail Connection Project on a 6-1 vote. Council member Stan Nord was the only “no” vote.

Members of the McLean County Board of Health said Wednesday that it's a priority to maintain the county’s full COVID-19 contact tracing program.

The Bloomington City Council on Monday adopted a $251.7 million budget, up 9.3% over last year’s plan.

Two familiar faces and one newcomer were headed toward election to the Heartland Community College Board of Trustees late Tuesday.

A Normal subdivision plagued by aging water mains and discolored water will see those pipes replaced two years ahead of schedule after the Normal Town Council voted Monday to begin the project next month.

Candidates competing for three open seats on the Normal Town Council sparred Thursday over how best to handle town finances and infrastructure, future development, and whether divisive politics is tainting town governance.

Pantagraph Media hosted the forum, moderated by Central Illinois Editor Chris Coates. He asked candidates what they viewed as Normal’s recent successes, what policy ideas they’d bring to the table if elected, and how they’d prioritize infrastructure funding, among other questions.   

The Bloomington City Council on Monday voted 8-1 to move forward on the nearly $12 million O’Neil Pool and Park project on the city's west side.

The O’Neil Park and Pool project, now expected to cost about $11.5 million, could be voted on by the  Bloomington City Council as early as next week. 

After a presentation at its committee-of-the-whole meeting on Monday, the council learned that despite the project’s cost coming in about $1.5 million higher than expected, City Manager Tim Gleason still supports moving forward with the city’s preferred plan. That’s nearly identical to the one presented at a community forum in January.

If approved, the new aquatic center is set to open Memorial Day 2022. 

Credit Michele Steinbacher / WGLT

Bloomington District 87 will direct some of its upcoming federal COVID relief funding to launch a new program melding summer school and summer camp models. 

The all-day, three-week program really expands the concept of summer school, and opens it up to any District 87 student, Assistant Superintendent Diane Wolf said during Wednesday’s school board meeting. 

“This is a very unique way of looking at a summer enrichment program,” she said, that goes way beyond the previous concept. 

Emily Bollinger

During Tuesday’s debate between Normal Mayor Chris Koos and challenger Marc Tiritilli, the two candidates found themselves in a familiar place: The upcoming April 6 election marks the second time they've faced off.

The Bloomington City Council on Monday OK’d spending $7.2 million on road work set to begin this summer.

Also at Monday night’s virtual meeting, finance chief Scott Rathbun made a presentation on the city's proposed $250.3 million budget, set for adoption in April; and another on this month’s unveiling of a new utility billing system. 

The Normal Town Council on Monday night adopted a $138.2 million budget for fiscal year 2021 that begins next month.

Unofficial results show Kelby Cumpston and Mollie Ward have won Tuesday's primary election for Bloomington's Ward 7 seat.

The Bloomington City Council on Monday agreed to refinance some of its general obligation bonds, a move that’s expected to save about $560,000 in interest payments. 

“We’ve done this before,” said City Manager Tim Gleason. “This is a relatively small bond refinance. But you’re going to be shocked at the amount of money we’re going to save."

The Normal Town Council on Monday night heard updates about this weekend’s train derailment and fires, including that specialized equipment should arrive Tuesday to transport debris.

The continuing COVID pandemic, and the challenges facing the health department because of it, were the focus of Wednesday’s McLean County Board of Health meeting. 

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.

UPDATED 10 a.m. | The Normal Liquor Commission on Monday voted 5-2 to fine a bar and restaurant about $4,000 for violating COVID-19 mitigation rules.

Michele Steinbacher

A savanna restoration just off Normal’s Main Street could transform a long-forgotten space into an urban ecology showcase for Illinois State University.

WGLT file photo

District 87 could remove Columbus Day from its school calendar, in a symbolic gesture to demonstrate its opposition to the state’s legal holiday.  

On Wednesday, the board heard the proposal that calls for the 2021-22 school calendar to stop labeling the second Monday in October as “Columbus Day--No School.” Instead, that day simply would be grouped as one of 19 “non-attendance” days on the calendar.

The board is expected to vote on the change at its Feb. 10 meeting.

Starting this fall, Bloomington officially will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day the second Monday of each October. 

City of Bloomington

Nearly 100 people took up the city's offer to ask questions about early designs for Bloomington’s new pool and skateboard area planned for O’Neil Park.

A project that will create an affordable senior housing development in a renovated building near Fairview Park moved forward Monday, with the Normal Town Council’s support.   

During the virtual meeting, the council unanimously approved the amended site plan for 901-905 N. Main St., at what’s known as the old Fairview building.

The community got a sneak peek Thursday into how the state might overhaul the Veterans Parkway/Empire Street hub, one of Bloomington’s busiest and most dangerous intersections.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) hosted two virtual information sessions. Both offered preliminary findings of The Veterans Parkway at Empire Street (Interstate 55 Business/Illinois 9) Feasibility Study.

As Illinois' COVID-19 vaccine distribution begins its next phase Monday, many older residents and essential workers are eager to get their shots, officials said at Wednesday's meeting of the McLean County Board of Health.

The Bloomington City Council on Monday overwhelmingly voted to join the Welcoming Network, a nonprofit group that prides itself on creating inclusive environments for immigrants through community engagement, job training and other initiatives. 

Lawyers for the Town of Normal and a local business accused of violating COVID-19 restrictions faced off Tuesday at a Liquor Commission hearing, but a decision on the matter isn’t expected for several weeks.

The Normal Town Council on Monday OK’d spending about $150,000 on a three-year agreement with Midwest Fiber to continue the decades-old drop-box recycling program.

The Normal Town Council voted overwhelmingly Monday night to waive next year’s liquor license fees for certain businesses negatively affected by Restore Illinois’ pandemic closures and restrictions.

Next month, Bloomington City Council will hear a proposal on whether to research a national program that helps communities build an inclusive culture for immigrants and other populations. 

Ward 2 council member Donna Boelen presented the proposal to further study the Welcoming America Initiative during Monday's remote meeting. Despite passing 7-2, some on the council, as well as local immigrants-rights advocates, spoke against the idea.

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