Council Members Want to Know Where More Money For Connect Transit Would Go | WGLT

Council Members Want to Know Where More Money For Connect Transit Would Go

Jan 28, 2020

Bloomington City Council members Donna Boelen and Jeff Crabill say they want to see specifics on how Connect Transit would spend possible increased funding from the city.

“If anybody asks me for money, I want to know what they’re going to use it for,” Boelen said after Monday’s City Council meeting. “So I think it would be important for Connect Transit to explain to the council what they plan to use that funding for.”

On Sunday, the Connect to the Future (CTTF) working group finalized its list of recommendations to help the service avoid becoming insolvent by 2026. Among the suggestions is to request additional financial contributions from Bloomington and Normal to address a structural deficit.

The plan calls for an extra $300,000 from the city and $200,000 from the town, split evenly over consecutive fiscal years. The Connect Transit board will consider adopting the recommendations next month before passing them on to either municipality.

De Urban, a director with the West Bloomington Revitalization Project and CTTF member, spoke during public comments at Monday’s council meeting, offering to serve as ambassador to the city on the group’s behalf.

“We have tried to come up with a way to be a good voice for the transit (system) and for the residents for all around, to bring those recommendations to you,” she said.

“I really look forward to all of you looking at our report, looking at the work we have done and being able to come to a consensus on what needs to happen next.”

Crabill, who last summer fought against proposed planned fare increases and the elimination of the Olive route, said he’s not surprised a funding increase was included among the recommendations, and that he’s keeping an open mind.

“Certainly more funding from the city, we expected that would be part of the discussion,” Crabill said. “And certainly we want to see what in essence what our additional funding will provide to see if it’s something that something the city should put forward.”

The additional $500,000 in local funding would replace federal funding in Connect Transit's operating budget, general manager Isaac Thorne said last week. That would free up those federal dollars for much-needed capital use, he said.

Crabill said he wants to make sure Connect Transit is headed in the right direction and meeting the community’s needs.

“Who are we going to focus on serving,” he wondered, noting the need to ensure “that we are reaching the people in the community that really need it.

“Are we, for instance, serving people the best who live in say mobile home parks or do they have appropriate access to the system? I think once you make it more open, you get more people to use it and that helps the funding of the organization.”

Boelen said she’s unwilling to offer more funding without details and believes her colleagues feel the same.

“I’m not a fan of just (writing) blank checks,” she said, “and I think that the council is serious about that too.”

Other Business

In accordance with state law, the council was informed of accelerated pension payments to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund on behalf of two retiring non-union employees.  

The council unanimously approved all agenda items up for vote, including: an agreement with Ferguson Waterworks of Virginia on a software program to help improve efficiency in replacing water meters; authorizing the start of the annual zoning map amendment process; a $175,000 pact with Illinois State University for monitoring the local water quality program (Mboka Mwilambwe recused); spending $275,000 on a new ambulance and selling an model year 2012 ambulance through an online auction.

Editor’s note: WGLT Program Director Mike McCurdy is chair of the Connect Transit board.

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