City of Bloomington | WGLT

City of Bloomington

Bloomington Council Looking To Fund Downtown Police

Dec 22, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

Businesses serving alcohol in downtown Bloomington could begin footing the bill for extra police officers that patrol the area during peak hours. The Bloomington City Council is looking at five different proposals to bring in $130,000 for the Downtown Police Hireback Cost Recovery Program. Police Chief Brendan Heffner says the program started as a way make sure the rest of the city can stay safe.

PGVA Planners

The City of Bloomington is continuing to move forward on a TIF district for the Empire Street corridor. Alderman voted 8-1 to schedule a public hearing for the district on February 8th. Mayor Tari Renner joined Mike McCurdy to discuss the Tax Increment Finance district, a new contract with the police union, and divesting golf courses to close a budget gap.

Michael Hill / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council is taking the next step in creating a tax increment financing district that includes Colonial Plaza. A meeting will be held next month among stakeholders affected by the proposal. 

Black Santa Flies In ... 49 Years Later

Dec 9, 2015
Judith Valente

It took 49 years, but Normal's holiday festivities this December will include the town's first official African American Santas. In 1966, NAACP activist Merlin Kennedy tried to ride a float in Bloomington's Christmas parade dressed as Santa. He was threatened with arrest. At age 89, Kennedy is getting a chance to rewrite that story's ending.

The State of Illinois owes Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County governments more than 5.4 million dollars according to public officials.

The measure approved by the Illinois House and up in the Senate next week would improve some of that cash flow crunch. The largest single chunk of cash owed local governments is Motor Fuel Tax Receipts. County Administrator Bill Wasson says release of that money would ease the process of going out to bid for road projects next spring.

Harvesting This 'Old House'

Dec 3, 2015
Jim Browne / WGLT

The city of Bloomington has a partner in its efforts to refocus resources and energy into maintaining and improving older neighborhoods. The Old House Society receives tips from the city on homes that face the wrecking ball, and members of the non-profit organization swarm like locusts in search of items worth saving. WGLT's Jim Browne went along on one recovery mission to see how it's done.

City of Bloomington

The Rental Property Inspection Program in Bloomington is now more than a dozen years old, but has never really worked well. 85% of the city’s rental units have a failing grade, meaning the property has one or more issues that pose a risk to health or safety.

Clarification: Since this interview, City of Bloomington officials pointed out that 85% of only the property inspected gets a failing grade. The city's inspector is currently inspecting 50% of units in Bloomington.

Bloomington Council Approves Housing Development

Nov 24, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

 A 5 to 4 vote from the Bloomington City Council favored a development of 68 residential units on Ekstam Drive near the Central Illinois Regional Airport. People living in Bloomington’s Ward 3, where the property is located, opposed the measure by contacting their alderman Mboka Mwilambwe. 

Bloomington Police say they have arrested three people in a drug investigation, an adult and two juveniles. Officers also say they seized two stolen handguns, ammunition, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. 20-year old Diondre Thornton-Kirkwood faces charges involving the weapons and criminal fortification of a residence. A 16 year old juvenile was arrested for cannabis delivery. A 15 year old juvenile was taken in on a warrant.

A SWAT team and crisis negotiators helped officers end the standoff that began when police tried to serve a warrant.
 

Bloomington Public Library

The director of the Bloomington Public Library has announced her retirement.  Georgia Bouda's last day in the office will be December 4. Her official retirement will be January 8, 2016.    She had previously served as Library Director in Pewaukee Wis.  Bouda was hired in 2006 during a $2.8 million expansion project at the library.

McLean County is trying again for an enterprise zone renewal. Last year's attempt did not gain approval from the Governor. On Monday, the Normal Town Council will take up the revised request. The existing enterprise zone formed back in 1982 to bring the Mitsubishi plant to Normal expires next June. All other units of government in the proposed zone must also sign off on the application.

The new plan includes local property tax abatements for prospective new businesses that create 50 jobs within the zone and involve more than $5 million in private investment.

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

David Bentley has been active in downtown Bloomington for 20 years, buying property, rehabbing it, and running it. His latest proposal includes developing the Pantagraph building into a boutique hotel. Bentley tells GLT's Charlie Schlenker he partnered with the city in 2007 and 2008. He agrees with Mayor Tari Renner that a downtown hotel will help the coliseum as it has the economy in Uptown Normal.

The city working with consultants SB Freidman to vet a proposal from Bentley's Devyn Corporation and Jeff Giebelhausen plan for the Front and Center block.

The Bloomington Election Commission is upgrading its voting equipment. Director Paul Shannon says several hundred thousand dollars will pay for 30 new voting machines, or one per precinct.

Shannon says instead of a laser scan, the reader will be a digital picture scan of the ballot.

The machines are smaller and better for Americans With Disabilities Act compliance as well.

The cost is several hundred thousand dollars.
 

Bloomington Sick Leave Buyback Remains Unchanged

Oct 26, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council remains reluctant to change city policies for sick leave buyback. Aldermen voted in favor of a resolution to have staff look into the issue further, but have not made any adjustments to the rules that are currently in place for grandfathered employees.

The Bloominton Fire Department says it has yet to determine a cause for the fire that caused heavy damage to a home on Lakeshore Circle in North Bloomington Tuesday evening. But, Deputy Fire Chief Les Siron says damage estimates top $200,000. Flames at the residence also scorched the siding of the house next door causing $35,000 damage there.

The owner of the home tells firefighters he heard a lour noise and went outside to find a large fire on the east end of the house. Investigators have so far found flames began around the enclosure to the fireplace.
    

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

Bloomington Aldermen are directing city staff to study multiple Downtown proposals from two developers. Mayor Tari Renner says look no further than Uptown Normal for the success of public-private partnerships.

Bloomington Council Hears From Developers

Oct 19, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

Developers are looking at investing in downtown Bloomington, with help from the public sector. Bloomington Aldermen heard from Jeff Giebelhausen and David Bentley during a committee meeting. Each developer had a different proposal for the area. 

Municipal Residency Requirements Not A Priority

Oct 19, 2015
Ivo Shandor / Wikimedia Commons

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner says he can see why Springfield's mayor is saying he wants people who get a city check to live in the city. Nearly a third of capitol city employees don't.

Jim Browne / WGLT

The state of McLean County is not as good as it has been, but by working together area governments can get things back on track.  That common theme was presented by all four speakers at the annual Chamber of Commerce event.

Devyn Corp., Tarter Construction, Farnsworth Group

The potential developer of a boutique hotel in downtown Bloomington has a complex legal history with the city. David Bently has extensive holdings in the downtown area and recently bought the Pantagraph Newspaper building. But, speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas Mayor Tari Renner says the city would have to be cautious in entering into an agreement with Bently.

Bently has so far been unsuccessful in a suit over the city's distribution of Tax Increment Financing District money, though that has been appealed to the state supreme court.

Staff / WGLT

East Peoria Developer Jeff Giebelhausen will meet with the Bloomington City Council next week to present another proposal for the Front and Center building in Downtown Bloomington. Downtown property owner David Bentley will also present to the Committee of the Whole meeting regarding a proposal to turn the Pantagraph building into a boutique hotel. During Sound Ideas, Mike McCurdy talked with Mayor Tari Renner about  downtown redevelopment plans, police body cams, an uptick in city revenue, and solid waste services.

Police Body Cameras Coming To Bloomington

Oct 12, 2015
Michael Hill / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council approved a body camera pilot program for the Bloomington Police Department. The trial will begin in January, when the funds from a $29,000 grant become available. Police Chief Brendan Heffner said body and dash cameras will come together to help the police force accurately report events.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

If the early look at Bloomington Aldermen is a guide, outsourcing golf courses and recovering costs from the downtown police hireback program for high volume nights in the bar district will be priority items as the city cuts its budget. Whether or how to fund the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts also came up as a potential cut during an informal discussion of prioritizing budget task force recommendations. Alderman Scott Black says it's important to look at the BCPA early in process even it it makes it more likely to be cut.

City of Bloomington

The work of the City of Bloomington Task Force is complete. The panel designed to help aldermen come up with a workable plan to eliminate a $7 million structural deficit released its final report last week, the same day the city council approved by a wide margin a 1% increase in the sales tax rate. WGLT's Willis Kern talks with Mayor Tari Renner.

Some have argued the Bloomington Budget Task Force process was a charade to give Aldermen political cover to make unpleasant choices in higher taxes and budget cuts. But, Task Force Chair David Sage says there are two valuable things the task force provided, first an honest assessment from established leaders about the choices before the city.

Mike McCurdy / WGLT

The community budget task force has presented its final recommendations to Aldermen and the community. Aldermen also took action on one of the funding recommendations in the task force presentation - a one-percent sales tax increase. WGLT's Mike McCurdy talked with two members of the task force during Sound Ideas.

The head of the Bloomington Library Board says the library will create six new bookmobile stops west of Veterans Parkway. The move partly addresses a flap caused by a lack of west side bookmobile service.

"The staff is concerned about any population feeling that they are not being given the services they are entitled to."

Carol Koos says to start they will be using locations of several discontinued stops that were shut down for lack of use.   

City of Bloomington

A key piece of funding that could go a long way to help solve the City of Bloomington structural deficit and help fund other initiatives is being discussed by Bloomington Aldermen. Mayor Tari Renner joined WGLT's Mike McCurdy during Sound Ideas.

District 87

Population loss, economic activity, property values are all elements of the Bloomington Normal community that will change with the looming closure of the Mitsubishi Auto Plant. GLT's Charlie Schlenker talks with District 87 School Superintendent Barry Reilly about how he is assessing those variables.

Hear Bloomington Schools Superintendent Barry Reilly talk about the implementation of the high speed wi-fi initiative for low income children in District 87.

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