NORMAL — Uptown Station will have a “code of conduct” in place when it opens next month to ensure it is a “clean, safe and comfortable” public place, according to City Manager Mark Peterson.
Besides the typical bans on smoking, alcohol, weapons, panhandling, littering and unlicensed commercial selling, the code adopted by the City Council on Monday night also bans sleeping or placing feet or shoes on the seats, wearing inappropriate clothing or being in a “condition of poor personal hygiene” that alarms or disturbs others.
“We certainly don’t apologize (for the rules),” Peterson said. “Train and bus stations have gotten a bit of a bad reputation.”
Councilwoman Cheryl Gaines cited that same reputation when she suggested the town’s ban on panhandling be extended outside the facility as well.
“There’s a population of folks I work with that’s it’s become an issue … especially in downtown Bloomington,” said Gaines, a licensed clinical professional counselor and chief executive officer of Collaborative Solutions. “It’s important we set the stage early on that it is not an acceptable thing to do.”
Town staff will research the idea.
Peterson said staff talked with officials in several communities with similar transportation centers to learn about the issues they faced.
“Almost all recommended developing a policy in advance regarding the kind of behavior and activity that is prohibited,” he said.
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Normal’s policy was modeled after one adopted by Champaign for its transportation center.
Peterson said the town “celebrates” the fact the center will have a diverse population, “but there are certain behaviors and activities that are generally thought to be disruptive or offensive. We’ve tried to capture those in this policy.”
In the near future, the council also will be asked to approve an agreement with PATH (Providing Access to Help) that would, among other things, help travelers who arrive at the station and don’t have any money or any plans to go anywhere, Peterson said.
Security officers who will work at the station and Normal police officers also will receive training on dealing with those who violate the rules, he said.
While the code includes a $50 fine for violators, Peterson said other steps likely would be taken before that happened.
For instance someone would be asked first to stop playing loud music or using profanity. If that didn’t work, the person could be asked to leave.
This is the first code of conduct the town has approved for one of its public facilities.