At a City Hall news conference, Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner said his counterpart in Normal threatened to sue the city two-and-a-half years ago over possible action on the Metro Zone.
Renner said he broached the subject of the 30-year old west side tax-sharing district during a September 2014 lunch with Mayor Chris Koos.
"I did mention that there was certainly support on the (Bloomington City) council for re-examining the Metro Zone agreement. And he said, and one of the reasons why I remember it pretty clearly is because I was rather surprised, he said 'well, if you do that, we will sue you.' So, I said, 'that's what I'm trying to avoid,'" said Renner.
Koos said he has no recollection of the specific lunch Renner referred to, although he admitted it's likely the topic did come up at some point during a meeting of the two. He said he's surprised the city would highlight the lawsuit possibility, after Renner said a few days ago it's probably not likely. As for threatening Renner or the city, Koos said, "I don't threaten people."
Renner outlined the encounter and others included in a timeline of the city's version of events. That, and related documents were released to the public. Those include letters from April 2014 between city managers David Hales of Bloomington and Mark Peterson of Normal that are believed to contain the first concerns raised between the two municipalities. Bloomington said it has dissolved the district it calls 'outdated' while Normal said the move threatens overall cooperation and trust.
Renner also admitted the dispute probably contributed to the city's lack of involvement in efforts to lure the automaker Rivian to the community. In December, every taxing body in McLean County except Bloomington was asked to contribute to a pool of incentives the town of Normal pitched as low-risk.
Renner said the city wasn't involved in discussions, apart from one letter from the town requesting $1 million. He said the freeze over Metro Zone is probably why.
"Given that we were involved in discussions on the entire area, I think that (was) a factor," Renner said.
The material released by the city includes the city council's dissolution decision February 27th, followed by an email later that night Hales received from Peterson canceling a "future meeting" with Hales and the two fire chiefs over emergency response time in a separate area of the community.
Editors Note: This story was updated at 7:50 PM March 2, 2017 to include reaction from Mayor of Normal Chris Koos.
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