BLOOMINGTON — Mayor Tari Renner wants to appoint former Alderwoman Amelia Buragas and city planning commission Chairman Justin Boyd to the Connect Transit Board because, he said, they are focused on bringing a new transit center to downtown Bloomington.
That decision comes as criticism of the transit board at public meetings has increased since its recent decision to approve fare hikes effective Oct. 1 and the termination of the Olive route on July 1.
Renner said he is not opposed to that idea and would support expanding the transit board to add more diversity.
The seven-member board consists of four trustees appointed by Bloomington and three appointed by Normal; each serves a four-year term.
Renner said he began in December working on filling two Bloomington vacancies, stemming from Judy Buchanan's decision to resign prior to her current term ending in 2021, and the expiration of John Bowman's term on June 30.
"My mindset at that point was to get people who had strong experience, so that they could hit the ground running on building a downtown transfer station for Connect Transit," said Renner. "The two people I am recommending have served on the Downtown Task Force and have a great deal of experience in this."
The Bloomington City Council will need to confirm the appointments, which could happen next month, Renner said.
"We have had a number of prior conversations with Mayor Renner about how we can best serve the community. That has included discussions regarding potential vacancies on the Connect Transit board," said Buragas and Boyd in a joint statement emailed to The Pantagraph.
"However, there is a very important conversation happening right now about how the board can best serve the community," they stated. "We hope the mayor and members of city council will take that conversation into consideration prior to making any decision about nominations to the Connect Transit board."
Buragas, Boyd and Connect Transit Board Chairman Mike McCurdy were among the backers of a controversial proposal to build a new Bloomington Public Library and Connect Transit transfer station on the site of the city's aging Market Street parking deck.
The project, seen as a catalyst for downtown economic development, failed to move forward because the library board and a majority of the City Council favored expanding the library at its current location, 205 E. Olive St.
Bowman has served on the board since July 2011, and Buchanan since July 2009, according to Connect Transit.
Bowman said he was considering serving another term when he received a letter dated March 13 from Renner informing him that he could not be reappointed because of term limits approved by the Bloomington City Council in 2014.
Bloomington board and commission members are limited to three consecutive three-year terms, or nine consecutive years of service. Members who meet the limit can be reappointed after a year off.
"So that was in force on the date that Judy Buchanan was reappointed past her second term or eight years already on the board and allowed to serve up to 12 years," Bowman noted. "So (the term limit) is not being applied equally."
Renner's letter also referenced that Bowman had served on the board since 2005. Both Connect Transit officials and Bowman said that date was incorrect.
"I am not sure where that date came from or what the intent of that was," said Bowman, adding he did not become a resident of Bloomington until 2010.
"I do know that there had been some friction between myself and the board chair, Mike McCurdy," said Bowman.
"Eight years plus another four years would put (Bowman) past that nine-year limit," said Renner Wednesday when he was asked why he did not reappoint Bowman. "Judy also would not be eligible for re-appointment."
Bloomington Ward 9 Alderwoman Kim Bray questioned whether the 9-year term limit applies to the transit board.
"It's a Bloomington-Normal board, so both entities need to agree to the same term limits and apply them equally," she added.
Normal Mayor Chris Koos said he doesn't see a need for term limits to apply to the town's appointees to Connect Transit's board, or other bodies where the town is represented.
"The people that serve on our boards, as long as they have an interest and are doing good work... I don't see any reason to remove somebody," said Koos. "Connect Transit board members) get reappointed every four years, so if I or the council feel they're not doing a good job, I have an option (for removal)."