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City pledges financial help for Connect Mobility riders if fares increase
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City pledges financial help for Connect Mobility riders if fares increase


BLOOMINGTON —  If Connect Transit's working group determines fare increases are needed, the city will provide at least $30,000 more annually to help offset fee hikes for Connect Mobility riders.

"I believe there is strong desire from the council to possibly amend the amount that we contribute and increase (it) to cover that mobility fare increase, if that is in fact the working group's recommendation," City Manager Tim Gleason said Monday night in introducing a resolution he drafted upon a consensus of the council.

The City Council voted 7-1 in favor of the resolution pledging the financial support for the bus system's on-demand service that is used by many who are elderly and/or disabled and unable to use regular bus transportation. Connect Mobility is separate from the system's fixed routes and costs more to use.

The city already provides $1.2 million for Connect Transit's operations and capital expenses while Normal provides $878,000 annually. The system has a $13.7 million budget for the new fiscal year, including $8.8 million in state money.

Council members Jenn Carrillo of Ward 6 and Jeff Crabill of Ward 8 said they did not think the resolution went far enough in addressing concerns voiced by the community about Connect Transit's plans to eliminate the Olive route on July 1 and start four years of fare increases on Oct. 1.

Critics have said the changes will hurt disabled and elderly riders on the Olive route, especially those who live near Orlando Avenue and Northbrook Drive in north Normal, and low-income riders who can't afford to pay more for transportation.

The transit system's board will consider on Tuesday using Pink route buses to pick up passengers from the Orlando-Northbrook area after many disabled residents there said they may not be able to get to a Yellow route stop about a half-mile away.

Originally, that change was expected to be cost-neutral, with Pink route buses running there every two hours versus the hourly Olive stop.

Gleason said, however, he heard the transit board will be voting to increase the frequency to every 30 minutes, "but we're going to find that out for sure (Tuesday) night."

The city's resolution also includes setting up a reserve fund to pay for the smaller buses to stop at the doors of Connect Mobility riders in the city when snowfall makes walking to the bus stops along snow-covered sidewalks and streets impossible.

Gleason estimated that paying public works employees to shovel sidewalks to get people to bus stops would cost about $10,000 a year.

"I think we had a strong show from the community asking us to take bold action at our last meeting," said Carrillo in explaining why she cast the lone dissenting vote Monday night. "I think we have the opportunity to make a strong statement, and I think we are missing that opportunity."

Crabill ended up supporting the city's resolution after an alternative resolution he floated Monday night failed to garner council support beyond just himself and Carrillo.

In other action, the council voted unanimously for Coldwell Banker Commercial Devonshire Realty to exclusively list and market the sale of the city-owned former Mennonite Hospital/Electrolux site and two adjacent parcels owned by Illinois Wesleyan University in the 800 block of North Main Street for future redevelopment.

There are no formal development proposals under consideration, but if the properties are sold, CBCDR will receive a fixed commission of $100,000. The city is paying about 73 percent of the commission and IWU 27 percent.

• As required by law, the council disclosed an accelerated pension payment of $97,716 to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund for Bloomington Fire Department office manager Sue Witt.

Assuming Witt, a classified employee not represented by a union with 27 years of service, does not diminish her sick leave bank or use any of her vacation time prior to her Sept. 6 retirement, she will be paid $51,789, spread over three months. The higher end-of-career salary will add $535.90 a month to her retirement annuity.

The city has ended the benefit after April 2020  for classified employees and in labor contracts negotiated with several groups of employees represented by unions.

Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle


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