Normal Mayor Chris Koos has sent a letter to Bloomington city leaders claiming that Normal Town Council member Stan Nord went “lone wolf” and discussed a merger of the two local fire departments and tried to recruit a Bloomington business to move into Uptown.
In a letter obtained by WGLT, Koos said Nord recently met with Bloomington Fire Department Chief Brian Mohr “to discuss a joint fire station and the possible merger” of BFD with the Normal Fire Department. Koos said “the concept of a merger would be to gain efficiency and reduce staffing of both departments by 25%.”
“I am at a loss where to begin here,” Koos wrote. “There have been studies by both municipalities for a joint fire station, and it had been determined that a joint fire station was untenable. There has never been any discussion among the Town of Normal staff or council as to combining departments, nor do I have any idea where the basis of a 25% staff reduction came from.”
Stan Nord rejected assertions he did anything wrong in talking with Mohr.
"I knew the Bloomington fire chief from my youth. We showed animals together at the county fair and went to high school together. So, this was a personal conversation that got blown up," said Nord.
Koos said a more proper way to handle things would have been to ask the city manager to ask town staff to study the issue and make recommendations.
Nord said "I wanted to hear the other (Bloomington) side."
Koos also claimed Nord recently tried to recruit a Bloomington business to move onto the second floor of Uptown One, which is currently occupied by the town’s engineering, planning, and inspections staff. Koos said the town and City of Bloomington don’t recruit across borders.
“This ‘lone wolf’ action by a Normal council member flies in the face of our mutual agreement to not recruit such relocations,” Koos wrote.
Nord has been a vocal critic of the Uptown One project on the circle, including the town paying rent to house some of its offices on the building’s second floor.
But Nord denied trying to poach a business from Bloomington.
"A business did contact me. But it was after they looked at other properties in Normal with their realtor. They asked if they could put me in touch with the appropriate person in Normal they could speak with about a space. After I received that request, I immediately forwarded it on to Normal's city manager and carbon copied the mayor and council and later notified the EDC," said Nord.
Koos said the town has no plans to move town offices from the second floor of Uptown One.
Nord declined to say which location the business was interested in. But he also said he hopes the publicity now surrounding the issue does not "hurt this real opportunity for the taxpayers of Normal to save a huge amount of money."
Nord pursued both initiatives “without the support of the majority of the council and without discussion with (Normal City Manager Pam Reece),” Koos said. He called them a “breach of protocols.”
Koos’ letter was addressed to Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner and City Manager Tim Gleason. He asked that the letter be shared with the Bloomington City Council.
Renner tells WGLT he was unaware of the breach until Koos' emailed letter.
“I appreciate the fact that Mayor Koos, the moment he was aware of this, let us know,” Renner said. “But in the areas of public safety and economic development, we have worked hard to work together."
Renner said maintaining trust between the Twin Cities is critical, and there has to be rules in place when dealing with a combined 17 elected officials.
“There are real problems when just one of them goes rogue and perhaps attempts to negotiate something without talking to others.
“We really do work together, and we must,” Renner said. “If we start doing these one-off things, in any organization, any establishment, if you’ve got 17 people going their own way without following some kind of established rules of behavior, then that’s going to be a problem.”
Renner clarified what he called “an attempt to change the delivery of public safety.”
“We really provide regional public safety already,” he said. “If you have a heart attack and you happen to be in Normal, it doesn’t mean that the 9-1-1 service might not be from Bloomington.”
Renner said it depends on whichever municipality has the closest response team, regardless of where their response station lays.
Nord said Koos is creating a lot of unnecessary rumor and should have just asked him about his actions.
Koos said a lot of people already knew about the meeting with the Bloomington fire chief and the business overture and to prevent further rumor he wanted to let Bloomington leaders know the town's official position on those issues.
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