Bloomington City Council members on Monday rejected two of Mayor Tari Renner’s appointments to the city’s transportation commission, amid claims the city should try harder to place applicants on the boards they requested to serve.
The council also followed the Town of Normal in approving a name change for Mitsubishi Motorway to Rivian Motorway, in recognition of the company that took over the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal.
The council also approved a funding agreement for the final extension of a decades-long project extending Hamilton Road and delayed a vote on three new garbage trucks.
The council voted 7-2 on a request to deny John Corey and Guadalupe Diaz III’s appointment to the transportation commission. The council okayed Brittany Burton's appointment to the Citizens' Beautification Committee, Jeffrey Pitzer's selection to the city's Cultural Commission, Betty Middleton's appointment to the Bloomington Housing Authority, Colton Sylvester's appointment to the John M. Scott Health Care Commission and Ed Breitweister's nomination to the Transportation Commission.
Council member Joni Painter said the city should try to pair applicants with the commissions they’ve requested to serve on. She noted Corey asked to serve on the Connect Transit board and Diaz wished to serve on the city’s Planning Commission.
“We are not rejecting people, we are really just wanting them to serve on the commissions and boards they want to serve on,” Painter said.
Renner said it’s common for applicants to not get the specific committee assignment they requested, based on each group’s needs. He referred to the council rejecting his appointments as the “nuclear option.”
“The council does need to understand with appointments, it’s going to be harder and harder to get people to apply,” Renner said. “It’s not healthy. I served 12 years on the County Board and never saw anything like this.”
Renner said while the city has two vacancies on the Connect Transit board, he doesn’t plan to appoint anyone to that board until the Connect Transit working group completes its recommendations.
The council voted 7-2 to approve renaming Mitsubishi Motorway to recognize the Michigan-based company that plans to start producing electric vehicles at the plant in Normal.
Council member Donna Boelen said she objects to the precedent of naming streets after businesses.
“I believe that a name change of a major highway is free advertising,” Boelen said. “Bottom line for me, to be a business-friendly community we need to be equitable for all businesses.”
Boelen added a small-business owner contacted her saying it would cost them $5,000 to change their address on all printed materials.
Council member Jamie Mathy questioned how the cost could be that high.
“I don’t even know how you get to that number. I’m not sure,” Mathy said. “I think maybe he should have some serious conversations with his web developer at that point.”
Painter voted for the name change, but she suggested the Town of Normal should cover the costs businesses would incur by having to change their address online and in their other marketing.
Council member Jenn Carrillo also voted against the name change.
Normal and the McLean County Emergency Telephone Systems Board previously approved the name change. McLean County is expected to consider the change on Aug. 20.
The city council voted 8-1 to approve an agreement to budget $600,000 to fund design of the final extension of Hamilton Road from Bunn Street to Commerce Parkway.
The city approved the project earlier this year. The new agreement sets funding, which includes an 80% reimbursement in federal funds.
Carrillo cast the only no vote, saying the road project promotes “outward sprawl” instead of investment on the city’s “inner core.”
She said the Hamilton Road project has been too costly.
“I understand there’s been a lot of work that has gone into it and it’s something we’ve been talking about for 30 years, but if it took 30 years to happen, it’s possible that a re-evaluation to how necessary it is is in order.
The city projects $12.5 million for construction in 2022.
The council directed Public Works Director Jim Karch to provide more details on how much it might cost the city to switch from diesel to electric garbage trucks.
Karch had proposed the city spend about $1 million on three diesel trucks as the city begins replacing its garbage truck fleet.
Karch said the city last explored the electric garbage trucks in March 2018 and they had not been proven cost effective.
“The technology just did not seem to be there yet,” Karch said. “The expense of the equipment, that was hard to overcome.”
He added two trade magazines at the time said upfront costs would be double, making it unlikely to recoup that costs in energy savings. He said the city spends about $22,000 per vehicle on gas annually.
Karch said he will have specific data for the city council to consider in September.
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