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Normal Council approves standardization plan for economic incentives

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The Normal City Council on Monday approved a project to standardize economic incentives for businesses located in the region’s business zone.

The vote brings the Bloomington-Normal-McLean County corporate zone closer together to offer the same basic incentive programs to businesses located in the zone that covers parts of McLean and Ford counties.

Also on Monday, council approved the renewal of the city’s employee insurance plan, which comes with an increase in the group health rate of 17%; agreed to purchase new vehicles for the normal fire department; and finalized its 2020-2021 budget to take into account minor year-end adjustments.

After a presentation by Patrick Hoban, who heads the region’s Economic Development Council (EDC), a unanimous vote showed council members support the creation of uniform economic incentives.

“The goal is to have a coupon that we all understand,” Hoban said. “These will be the rules for everyone. ”

Council member Karyn Smith asked if the proposed standardized package is similar to other regional communities, such as Peoria. Hoban told him it was tied.

A related vote signals support for an Incentive Program Watch Group, an intergovernmental agreement between Normal and other communities in the area, including Bloomington, Gibson City, and Ford and McLean counties. The proposal heads next to Gibson City and Ford County. Bloomington and McLean County had previously agreed to the uniform package and the intergovernmental agreement.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities oversees the state’s enterprise zone. But the local EDC takes care of the nearly 15 square miles in This region.

Fire truck funding planned

The council also voted to finance a $ 1.3 million scale fire truck, through a 10-year fixed-term loan. The vote means the city will reserve the money that had been budgeted for the truck.

The vote for continued funding was 6 to 1, with board member Stan Nord voting “no”. He said he was against the city adopting a “credit card” mentality. However, after the financing decision was passed, Nord joined in a unanimous vote to purchase the truck.

Previously, the city usually paid cash for its vehicles and equipment. However, the financing is in Normal’s best interest, given the high price of the truck, current market rates and the uncertain economic outlook for the pandemic, Normal Chief Financial Officer Andrew Huhn said.

“The rates are actually lower than what we would earn on our million dollars anyway. So really, it’s a very favorable position to come in and fund that, ”he said.

The board has waived the bidding process and expects the 105-foot Spartan / Smeal aerial ladder truck, from the Lincoln-based Fire Apparatus Supply Team, to arrive on Thursday. next summer. It replaces a 75-foot ladder truck decommissioned in 2020.

At one point, Nord accused city staff of being dishonest by offering Normal to finance the truck with a loan, rather than with budgeted money. He said city officials told residents of Normal that the money in this fund would be spent in a certain way.

“Now when it’s time to use it, we make a bait and a change. We’re going to use it for something else, ”said Nord.

But Mayor Chris Koos noted that the council decides whether the money is taken from the fund for vehicles and equipment, and not from staff.

Reece responded to Nord, saying Normal staff take pride in their budget decisions and the industry continually recognizes their financial integrity with awards. She said staff recommended continuing to fund the fire truck with that in mind.

“We think it makes financial sense for the organization and, ultimately, for taxpayers. If the board doesn’t agree, that’s fine and we’ll pay in cash, ”she said.

Several council members and Mayor Chris Koos defended city staff against North’s accusations.

“If you think there is dishonest activity, or bait and exchange, you should look at me and your fellow board members because at the end of the day we make that decision, not the staff,” Koos said. .

Nord continued to criticize the fundraising option, bringing the conversation into areas of broader budget concerns and ignoring Koos’ calls to move on, and that Nord was down. Finally, Koos slammed his hammer, noting that he had never done so in 18 years as mayor.

As part of its consent program, council approved spending of up to $ 45,000 in spare parts for another fire truck, and $ 290,000 to replace and equip an aging ambulance. The board also waived the bidding requirements for both.

Employee insurance

Health insurance rates for Normal Town staff will rise 17% starting in January, following Monday’s 6-1 vote. Council member Kathleen Lorenz voted “no,” saying she would prefer the city’s insurance committee to come back with alternatives.

Lorenz said she was disappointed that projections of an 8% increase had more than doubled, without warning to the board and without discussion before Monday’s vote.

Mike Wojcik, vice president of the Horton Group, which manages the city’s group insurance, told the council the pandemic had caused the environment that led to the rate hikes.

The renewal package – for group health, dental and life insurance – will cost the City an additional $ 88,500 for the plan year. Dental and life insurance rates will remain stable.

Budget changes

The council also unanimously approved a budget amendment that essentially closes the books of the 2020-2021 fiscal budget.

The change reflects an increase in revenue of $ 7.2 million and an increase in expenses of $ 8.4 million, CFO Huhn said. The amendment allows internal transfers, transferring additional funds to the current year’s budget, he said.

In other matters, counsel:

  • Reapproved Kelley Glen’s preliminary development plan on Henry and Raab roads, and approved a final third platform there. A dozen single-family homes can now be built on the three-acre lot.
  • OK reportedly spent around $ 520,000 with Engineered Fluid Inc.-Solutions to replace the north town booster station at Raab Road and School Street, as well as waive the requirements of the offer, as delivery is not expected before November. The city has also budgeted up to $ 350,000 for a future installation: staff say costs will likely be closer to $ 150,000.
  • Approved the payment of $ 56,000 to Desman Design Management for his team to carry out a parking study for Uptown Normal.
  • Relinquished its hold on Electric Avenue near the Rivian Automotive plant. The electric automaker plans to build a security building there, which is a dead end saddled by Rivian properties.

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