The Town of Normal appears headed into a lawsuit with one of its new council members over an unpaid sewer tap-on fee.
The dispute centers on a fee for a west side property bought by Stan Nord in 2017. At its Monday meeting, the Town Council denied Nord’s request to waive the $11,900 fee.
“I think there’s a strong legal basis to at least make the claim,” said Ryan Powers, Nord’s attorney. “This isn’t a frivolous lawsuit; it is a lawsuit that has merit and it would be made in good faith.”
Powers called the fee “unduly burdensome” and likened it to a ghost fee appearing “out of nowhere.” Nord recused himself from the council’s discussion of the matter and declined to talk after the meeting about possible legal action.
Council member Kevin McCarthy, acting as Mayor Pro Tem with Chris Koos out of town, countered some of Powers’ suggestions that the fee was a surprise.
“Level of disclosure or not, we have documentation of notice,” said McCarthy. “So, a ‘fee popping out of nowhere’ I don’t think is accurate.”
Council member Chemberly Cummings says it’s surprising to see a fellow elected official trying to avoid the fee.
“It’s a little surprising when you have somebody who’s parading and being a bean-counter for every dollar we collect and spend in this community and as an elected official does not want to say at least, ‘You know what, I see what’s going on here and it will be for the betterment of my community,'" said Cummings.
“It just says, ‘Because I’m special, I don’t want to pay it and you ought to waive it.’ That kind of concerns me.”
Nord claims the town didn’t notify him about the fee before he bought the land, despite a series of town emails showing the contrary. The town didn't collect the fee previously because previous owners did not file a plat before developing the property.
Normal corporation counsel Brian Day says the town is prepared to handle the legal challenge with in-house attorneys.
“We don’t see a legal justification where we can say the fee does not apply,” Day told the council.
Water Main Project
In other business, the council voted unanimously to accept a $740,000 bid from Stark Excavating for a water main interconnection project, with a bonus of up to $15,000 for early completion.
The project will install a 16-inch water main along Towanda Avenue between Raab Road and Shelbourne Drive, and east on Shelbourne to Old Route 66.
“There is a little bit of road that will be torn up along Shelbourne Drive and Towanda Avenue that will be replaced as-is,” said water director John Burkhart. “Any damage to property will all be replaced: landscaping, dirt, driveways.”
Burkhart said Stark will have 115 days to finish the project according to its bid.
The council also approved a memorandum of understanding with Illinois State University paving the way for the installation of audible/accessible traffic signals at the intersection of College Avenue and University Street.
Other items approved unanimously Monday included:
- Accepting bids of $91,000 from Hitchcock Design Group for Maxwell Park renovation designs; $39,000 from MTI Distributing for the purchase of five industrial aerators; $30,000 from K.K. Stevens Publishing for printing of Parks and Recreation activity guides;
- A pair of resolutions related to a pre-annexation agreement with Nussbaum Transportation’s property.
- And approving an ordinance rezoning property at 803 Kern and 910 Kingsley.
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