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Koos, Tiritilli Talk Town Debt, Metro Zone

The two candidates for mayor of Normal talked about the current dispute with Bloomington over the 30-year-old Metro Zone agreement, as well as other issues at the WGLT-McLean County League of Women Voters Candidate Forum at University Galleries on Thursday night.

Chris Koos, seeking a fourth term as mayor, faced off against challenger Marc Tiritilli, a District 87 school teacher. On the Metro Zone dispute, Koos said the city of Bloomington is cutting off the dialogue.

"We are still open for the conversation to (happen), but the Bloomington City Council over the last three or four months has indicated they are not willing to have a conversation about that issue," Koos said.

"We can certainly cooperate on development. This Metro Zone agreement is one that I don't think should be continued though," said Tiritilli. "One of the best ways to approach cooperation between the communities is to have clear boundaries. We have them geographically and that should also be our financial boundaries in terms of revenues and expenses," he added.

While answering a question about infrastructure needs, Koos cited the town's AAA bond rating. Tiritilli conceded the rating, but said it doesn't tell the whole story.

"That just simply means the town has done a very good job of paying its bills, and they expect them to continue paying its bills, and the town is good at paying its bills because it has a lot of taxes," Tiritilli said. He said the town finance director admitted there is no more room for added debt without a concurring revenue stream. Tiritilli also cited bond rating agencies such as Fitch, which he said mentions the town's high debt in its financial discussion, which includes concerns about slow amortization.

Koos said he can't understand how the town could get a high bond rating if the debt is too large. 

"The kind of debt we're talking about that the town currently has, has clearly identified sources of revenue. Every year we budget 125 percent of what our debt obligation is to make sure we can honor the debt that we have," Koos added. "A significant amount of that debt is paid for by the projects we have."

Among other topics covered at the forum were:

  • How to keep millennials in the community
  • Expected shortage of soccer fields
  • Role of township governments
  • Public comment rules at council meetings
  • Pedestrian rail crossing at Uptown Station
  • Sanctuary cities

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Willis is a Bloomington, IL, native. During his senior year at Bloomington High School, he finished third in the "Radio Speaking" division of the state speech contest, the only year he competed.