The mayor of Bloomington said he will spend his waning months in office trying to revive a unified emergency telephone and dispatch service.
Tari Renner told a McLean County Chamber of Commerce State of the Cities briefing Friday that Bloomington made the wrong choice 18 years ago.
“I thought it was a horrible mistake for Bloomington to leave Metcom for all kinds of reasons. It was extremely inefficient, extremely ineffective, and very costly. Right now, we need to get back into Metcom. We need to make sure that we are a single community,” said Renner.
Renner said people who hold lingering hard feelings about leaving McLean County and the Town of Normal in the lurch by the city's decision should consider it happened three mayors ago and that no current council member played a part. He said if rejoining Metcom cannot be done by the time he leaves office, he will work on the issue with the new mayor and council during the transition.
Renner will step down in April after two terms as mayor.
Mayors tout economic wins during pandemic
Twin City mayors also said during the online chamber event their towns have done better weathering the pandemic than many other municipalities.
Renner and Chris Koos of Normal noted the city and town have survived revenue drops without harsh cuts to services and that the decline in revenue was less than originally estimated--$4 million instead of $10 million in the case of Normal. That’s a 5.7% decline. Both municipalities cut back on seasonal hiring and recreational programs and pushed back capital projects to a later time.
Koos and Renner also touted city support of small businesses during the pandemic. Koos urged businesses to apply for $450,000 in pandemic support grant money through the town. Renner said the city has distributed its first round of such grants and is considering offering a second dose of relief.
Koos and Renner also pointed to success stories amid the pandemic. Koos said the Rivian plant now has 620 employees and is on pace for 650 by the end of the year as it ramps up production of electric vans, SUVs and pickup trucks.
“In the past 18 months over $215 million in construction has occurred at the plant. That equates to over 1,300 construction jobs and direct investment in the community,” said Koos.
He also noted the town had agreed to give Rivian $1 million in incentive money if the company surpassed development targets, but said Rivian proved to be a considerate partner during the downturn.
“But Rivian graciously waived the $1 million payment this year. Their generous gift back to the town was pivotal to our budget in this challenging year,” said Koos.
Koos said the Phoenix Investors completion of the former Wildwood Industries warehouse on the north end of town is weeks away after seven years of decay following the Wildwood collapse as part of a federal fraud case. That 500,000-square-foot facility also could double in size in a few years, said Koos.
Renner focused on the planned $75 million expansion at the Fererro candy company's Bloomington plant.
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