Bloomington will get financial help from the federal government to acquire property for connecting the two sections of Hamilton Road.
On Wednesday night, the city council approved a resolution authorizing the use of $500,000 of state motor fuel tax dollars to buy the land needed to build the new four-lane section between Bunn Street and Commerce Parkway with $400,000 to be reimbursed with Federal Surface Transportation funds.
“This is something that we’ve been working on since even before I was mayor, for the better part of a decade or more,” Mayor Tari Renner said of plans to link the Hamilton sections.
“This is primarily something that’s going to benefit lower income areas, moderate income areas and our entire community.”
Council member Jenn Carrillo pulled the item from the consent agenda and cast the lone opposing vote.
“Not a fan of this project, just want to be able to vote ‘no,’” she said without elaborating. The resolution only received seven “yes” votes as Ward 1 representative Jamie Mathy did not attend the virtual meeting that was rescheduled after technical issues prevented a live streaming broadcast of Monday’s original meeting.
City Manager Tim Gleason said the issue arose from a problem between Zoom's connection to YouTube. He said interim IT director Craig McBeath has established backups in case the issue ever happens again.
The full Hamilton Road project is planned for next year, with the total original budgeted expense of $10.4 million including the cost of obtaining the necessary right-of-way. The land acquisition is considered critical for moving to the construction phase.
Ward 2 representative Donna Boelen attempted to dispel “negative chatter” by stressing the project will be federally funded. She insisted the route is “not a thoroughfare into a rich, white neighborhood.”
“As a matter of fact, Ward 2 has 25% lower income families and half of those are people of color,” said Boelen. “This actually will provide an opportunity for economic development. It’s zoned commercial/industrial and it will give an opportunity to start their own business, expand business and hire people.”
Connecting Hamilton Road between Commerce and Bunn will be the final step in finishing a continuous east-west corridor south of Veterans Parkway between Hershey Road and the Fox Creek subdivision. Renner said Connect Transit supports the project and claimed the completed road could reduce peak-time traffic on Veterans Parkway by as much as 27%.
“You could go from (State Farm) Corporate South to the interstate without ever going on Veterans Parkway,” he said. “There’s all kinds of benefits: economic development benefits to this proposal, transportation and sustainability kind of benefits.”
The council also approved a change order for a project on the west end of the corridor, authorizing $175,000 of state motor fuel tax funds to cover additional administrative expenses related to the Fox Creek Road bridge and road improvements between Danbury Drive and Beich Road.
Also Wednesday night, the council approved a plan to apply for a $4.5 million Rebuild Illinois grant to cover Phase 2 of the Locust-Colton sewer project. The unanimous vote came after a public hearing on submitting the application.
“We saw this grant as an opportunity to move forward with this project and use grant loans potentially for Phase 3 or 4 moving on down the line,” said Public Works Director Kevin Kothe.
If the grant is approved, the project could begin before winter. The city would be responsible for $170,000 of matching local funds.
The nine-phase plan will replace water mains and separate sewer and storm drains in the east-central part of the city. Phase 2 includes several blocks south of Bloomington Country Club, between Washington and Jackson streets between Vale Street and Mercer Avenue.
Gleason said staff members are preparing for the transition to Phase 4 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan Friday as the state continues to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Gleason said staff members are “looking internally to see what that does with our municipal operations” and that council chambers may be reopened for public meetings in the near future.
While Phase 4 includes limited occupancy indoor dining, Gleason said he exercised his authority to extend the current outdoor dining rules issued as part of the local emergency order declaration.
“Everything that we’ve seen up to this point has been extended through Aug. 31,” he said, stressing that ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance at the outdoor dining areas has been emphasized.
“I’ve heard nothing but accolades about what we have been doing downtown ... it has been outstanding,” noted Renner. “People are hoping this is the kind of vibrant nightlife and evening life that we continue to see in our downtown.”
The council approved an initiative originally proposed by Mathy to extend a moratorium on late fees, fines and interest on late food and beverage tax and utility payments. The extension will run for 90 days after the start of Phase 4.
In his monthly report, Finance Director Scott Rathbun said the city is projecting a general fund balance surplus for the year after reducing expenses to offset the COVID-19 setback.
“We were conservative on our revenues, conservative on our expenses and we ended up coming in about $800,000 under the COVID projection for expenses,” he said, touting a $3.3 million swing from previous projections.
Rathbun’s report showed estimated general fund total material revenues for the COVID timeframe of $16.9 million, down from the original budget amout of $18.4 million but $2.5 million up from the department's original COVID projection.
“While we are doing better than the loss projections that we expected, it’s still going to be a financial impact,” cautioned Gleason.
Hazardous waste collection
The council approved a four-year intergovernmental agreement with the Ecology Action Center (EAC) for household hazardous waste collection and removal at an annual cost of $27,000. Part of the agreement includes tasking the EAC with conducting a feasibility study for a permanent storage facility in McLean County.
Normal, McLean County and the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District also are partners in the program. Normal renewed its intergovernmental agreement last week. In total, Bloomington will pay $108,000 from 2020 to 2023 to help fund household hazardous waste collection events in the fall of 2021 and the fall of 2023.
Additional actions taken during the meeting include:
- Agreeing to a new three-year labor contract with public works employees in Machinists Lodge 1000. The contract is retroactive to May 1 and includes pay raises of 2.5% in the first year, 3% in the second year and 2.5% in the third year;
- Agreeing to accept a $444,000 grant from the Illinois Housing Development Authority's Single-Family Rehab program;
- Approving an annual software maintenance agreement with Munis enterprise resource planning at a cost of $198,000;
- Renewing an annual agreement with the McLean County Regional Planning Commission for $54,000;
- Approving a final plat for the Club Carwash that will replace the former Hardee's restaurant at 2702 E. Oakland Ave.;
- Spending $78,600 to purchase a Toro park mower from MTI Distributing; and
- Approving appointments to the health care commission and the police pension board.
A presentation on a proposal to bring back the Downtown Task Force report was pulled from the agenda because Mathy was absent; the proposal was one of his initiatives. Regarding another Mathy initiative, Gleason said two-hour overtime shifts will be used on a 90-day trial basis to cover extended downtown parking enforcement.
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