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BLOOMINGTON — Alderman Amelia Buragas is urging her City Council peers not to delay any longer in preserving the city's few remaining brick streets.

"It's now or never," said Buragas, who represents Ward 4. "We have not had any plan for how to preserve this resource in our community. Because of that, this resource has been allowed to deteriorate over time.

"We really are at the point that if we don't take action now we will lose this resource."

The council is expected to vote on the city's revised Brick Streets Master Plan when it meets at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

The city, which has about 320 miles of streets, once had 41 miles of brick streets, but now only 3.5 miles remain. Some brick streets have been lost since the 2009 plan was developed but never adopted.

"Brick streets are part of our historic past, and because of that they are part of what makes Bloomington unique," said Buragas. "They are part of what makes Bloomington a great place to live."

But the cost to restore and repair brick streets is significantly more than a typical street. The upside is a brick street's life expectancy is 100 to 150 years compared to an asphalt street's expected lifespan of 30 years.

The vote comes as the council has discussed recently cutting some city programs because of a projected deficit of about $3 million next year that could grow to $8.5 million by 2022 if revenue does not increase and the budget is not trimmed.

Using some of the money earmarked for annual street resurfacing projects to preserve brick streets, no new source of revenue would be needed to fund the work, said Buragas.

Street resurfacing and sidewalk projects are funded annually with $2.4 million the city receives from the 4-cent-per-gallon motor fuel tax and $2.4 million from added sales tax revenue. The city recently raised the sales tax by 1-cent-per-dollar and designated a fourth of that money for streets and infrastructure.

The plan proposes reconstruction of 10 blocks of brick streets and patching 20 more over 10 years, beginning with the streets in the worst condition.

The Public Works Department initially proposed $400,000 a year for reconstruction costs and $100,000 per year for patching costs. 

But after cost estimates totaling $839,000 were provided for the first brick street project — Monroe Street between Clinton and Robinson streets — the city staff revised upward the plan's total estimated cost over 10 years from $5 million  to about $7.4 million, said Public Works Director Jim Karch.

"The time frame for the implementation for the master plan can be modified as the city moves forward through the budget process," said Karch. "But the important thing is that (the council) put some policy direction in place for staff to be able to understand how they want us to handle brick streets."

In other action, the council also will consider:

• Approving a funding agreement for the Small Business Development Center between the city, the town of Normal, Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council and Illinois Wesleyan University.

The center, located on the IWU campus, opened in March to assist in starting and/or developing new small businesses in the community. Its primary funding is $80,000 in annual federal funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration passed through an Illinois Department  of Economic Opportunity grant.

The council will consider two alternative funding ratios. 

If Bloomington and Normal split their share of the cost 50-50, each municipality would spend a total of $61,845 over three years.

Based on a 60-40 percent split, Bloomington would provide $74,214 while Normal would contribute $49,476.

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Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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Bloomington Reporter

Bloomington reporter for The Pantagraph.

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