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BLOOMINGTON - A study that could narrow the location for an east-side highway has the support of the Bloomington City Council to the tune of $100,000.

Debate also continued Monday on a smoking ban in public places and an ordinance that would allow the city to hire deputy chiefs from outside the police and fire departments.

The council approved an intergovernmental agreement with the town of Normal and McLean County to study a possible alignment of the highway. Under the agreement, the governments would split a $300,000 cost to the study. The money would be the local match requirement for $800,000 in federal transportation funds to study the highway.

Alderman Kevin Huette voted for the agreement saying, "At some point there will be a need, and today is a good time to plan for that."

Aldermen Karen Schmidt and J. "Skip" Crawford voted against the agreement in the 6-2 vote.

Schmidt said she is hearing a lot of questions from residents about the need for a highway on the east-side of the city.

Tim Bittner of Bloomington questioned the need for the highway. He also said residents eventually could see a moratorium on selling or changing their property if the study continues.

"By making changes to our property we risk losing it," Bittner said. Under a moratorium Bittner said property owners would have to go to the Illinois Department of Transportation to approve changes to their houses.

IDOT then could OK the change or take the property through eminent domain, Bittner said.

The study would determine the 300-foot alignment of the proposed highway that could be built to connect Interstate 55 near Towanda to Interstate 74 just outside of Downs.

Currently, a 2,500 foot wide corridor that runs along that east-side stretch has been put on the comprehensive plan maps for Bloomington and Normal.

The County Board's land used committee voted against amending the comprehensive plan to show the 2,500-foot corridor.

Also, the County Board's transportation committee voted down participating in the intergovernmental agreement on funding the study until they knew where Bloomington City Council stood on the matter. The transportation committee could take up the matter at it meeting in March.

In other items, most of the council members agreed that it will have to develop some kind of ordinance that would ban smoking in public places, specifically in taverns and restaurants.

Mayor Steve Stockton presented a draft ordinance to get the discussion going. Several council members agreed that there will be compromises made to the ordinance that likely will not make either side in the debate happy.

Meanwhile, Todd Keil and David Tally, presidents of the police and firefighters' unions respectively, spoke against a change to city ordinances that would allow the city to hire police assistant chiefs and fire deputy chiefs from outside the departments. While they were not opposed to the ordinance outright, Keil and Tally said they would like to see more checks and balances in the hiring process.

In a tie-breaker made by Stockton, the council voted down the ordinance change. However, the council approved tabling the ordinance for two weeks to allow more discussion between the city and the police and firefighters unions on the ordinance.


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