Preston: It's best to wait on final COVID relief to see what new pandemic needs may arise
The Town of Normal still has to decide how it will spend about $1.5 million out of about $10.8 million the town will get in federal COVID relief.
Normal Town Council member Scott Preston said he's in no hurry to find a home for the remaining funding, given the unpredictable nature of COVID-19.
“I think it’s wise of us as this pandemic has been going on for almost two years now and continues to evolve, (that) leaves us a little wiggle room to see what focus, what priority comes up that we aren’t even thinking about or talking about,” Preston said on WGLT's Sound Ideas.
Preston said he supports how the town has prioritized the funding so far, including addressing town revenue loss, infrastructure, mental health and cybersecurity.
Preston said the lack of affordable housing and workforce needs are two of his biggest concerns. “We have an affordable housing crisis in Bloomington-Normal,” Preston said. “We want to make sure we are providing an environment where private developers and builders can create products that people want and can afford.”
Preston said he isn’t sure there is much the town can do to help businesses that are struggling to hire workers other than to maintain a business-friendly climate. “Making sure we are creating an environment where businesses cannot only stay alive, but can thrive and can hire workers and pay them well,” he said.
On another matter, Preston said he'd like to see safety improvements at an intersection on the Illinois State University campus where a pedestrian was killed in November.
ISU graduate student Danielle Fairchild was hit by a motorist while walking across the street at College Avenue and Kingsley Street on the evening of Nov. 29.
“There are ways that we can look at making it more pedestrian friendly, look at making sure that there’s easy access and opportunity and visibility for vehicles and pedestrians and those on bikes as well,” Preston said.
The town of Normal plans to study the intersection and crosswalk. That stretch of College Avenue sees about 8,000 motorists daily.
Circuit training center
The town of Normal could pay up to $180,000 for an outdoor circuit training center that could be built this summer.
The court would have more than 100 fitness components, including a lunge-step course and agility ladders.
Preston said it was important to him that a non-profit group, the National Fitness Campaign, is behind the project. “Being an outdoor facility, being one that is a unique offering, it only furthers to bring access to people who don’t have it to gyms or other facilities,” he said.
The town council approved a plan Monday to have town staff draft a formal proposal for the training center. It would likely be located at the Rosa Parks Commons park in north Normal.
Preston said the town will work with community health groups and other sponsors to reduce the town's cost.