BLOOMINGTON — Among those competing with the city of Bloomington for a controversial $750,000 state grant are a Connect Transit bus transfer center in downtown Bloomington and several Delavan-area projects.
The grant's sponsor, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, on Monday provided a list of projects submitted by his Dec. 18 deadline for consideration. He formed a committee to evaluate proposals after the City Council last month rejected the grant's original purpose: to buy 4 acres to expand McGraw Park that would be leased to Central Catholic High School, Brady's alma mater.
Despite being told the grant was off the table, the council moved ahead with prioritizing alternative park and trail projects for the grant money. They include improving and expanding the Constitution Trail, Miller Park pavilion infrastructure repairs and upgrades and Sunnyside Park renovations.
"Since the City Council declined the McGraw Park project, many worthy Bloomington-area projects have come to my attention, including a downtown Bloomington shelter for the Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System (now known as Connect Transit) and additions to the Pony League," Brady told the Pantagraph in a letter to the editor.
In a news statement Monday, Brady said other projects submitted included: renovations at Timber Point Outdoor Center at Lake Bloomington, requested by Easter Seals; demolition and rebuilding of the crisis center at Chestnut Health Systems; sludge storage and lagoon cleaning for the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District; a computer lab for the Delavan school district; upgrades to Delavan city buildings; and a community center for Team Illinois Education and Athletic Program.
Members of the advisory committee will review the proposals, "making sure the proposed projects meet specific necessary guidelines," according to the news statement.
Chairing the committee is former Bloomington Mayor Jesse Smart.
Brady disclosed Monday that other members include local philanthropist and businesswoman Julie Dobski; Tom Mercier, president of Bloomington Offset Process Inc.; Paul Segobiano, a long-serving McLean County Board member; and former Bloomington human resources director Emily Bell, who retired in November after 35 years with the city.
"The composition of the committee is certainly news to me, but it is my understanding of how many legislators in Springfield handle grant requests," said Mayor Tari Renner. "I certainly hope the committee would take into consideration the unanimous priorities of the duly elected City Council."
Brady said he hopes to have the committee's recommendation by early to mid-January.
"Preferably it would be something in my new Senate district," he added.
McGraw Park and CCHS were in Brady's 44th Senate district when the grant was proposed, but that changed with redistricting in 2011. Brady still represents most of Bloomington.
Brady and Bloomington Ward 9 Alderman Jim Fruin championed the original proposition, which the council initially approved on Nov. 10.
The aldermen did so with the understanding that Central Illinois Regional Airport land being used by CCHS for a football practice field would no longer be available after 2015. That turned out not to be the case.
Aldermen learned soon after the vote that Fruin did not disclose that he serves on the school's board of trustees. While Fruin denies any conflict of interest, the council rescinded its approval but sought to retain the grant for other park-related projects.