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NORMAL — Normal officials are throwing their support behind a working group appointed by Connect Transit's board despite some public criticism.

The Normal City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday supporting the group of about a dozen community members who'll spend the next six months studying the Bloomington-Normal bus system's needs and resources, though some have suggested the group's conclusions are already decided.

Marc Tiritilli, who lost to Chris Koos in a close 2017 mayoral race, criticized the group during public comment Monday, questioning why the system is spending $53,000 on a facilitator, whether that facilitator is pushing an agenda and why a group member is a Connect Transit board member's son.

"He has prejudged the working group and what they're going to do, and I think that's unfair," Koos told reporters after the meeting.

Koos said after the meeting that facilitating such a group is difficult and can require an independent consultant with travel expenses. Nonprofit Smart Growth America will provide one for eight meetings, including several in person, under a deal Connect Transit's board approved last month.

Koos also questioned why the working group member Tiritilli asked about — Dylan Hile-Broad, son of Connect Transit board member Julie Hile — isn't a suitable pick. The group's members are all unpaid volunteers.

"He is a person who is not able to drive a car because of a physical disability. He lives independently. He rides the bus. He's a very outspoken and thoughtful man," Koos said of Hile-Broad. "So I thought he was good. People said they wanted a transit-dependent rider on the group."

Council member Karyn Smith agreed with Tiritilli on one point: that Connect Transit leadership should reconsider buying new electric buses before the working group has made its recommendations in December or January. Officials plan to put off planned fare hikes until then.

Koos noted those buses are funded by a federal grant.

Tiritilli also pointed out that the system's board has had an open seat for several months. Koos has declined to fill that seat since John Thomas resigned last fall.

"We need to really transform the Connect Transit board," said Tiritilli. "We don't need to wait on the working group."

In other business, the council:

• Approved appointing Luis Figueroa to the town's human relations commission. Figueroa will serve until at least March 2020.

Approved a $350,000 contract with Luci Creative, a Lincolnwood-based design agency, to work on the Children's Discovery Museum's "Healthy Me!" exhibit. The museum's nonprofit foundation will reimburse the town for all expenses related to the exhibit.

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Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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