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Replacement of the picnic shelter at Normal's Underwood Park is a quality of life issue that could be funded sometime in the next five years. The structure was built in the early 1970s and is frequently used for family gatherings.

NORMAL — Normal officials hope residents appreciate the town putting more of their money in the toilet.

The town plans to spend more on utility projects, including sewer upgrades, over the next five years with a bump from $35.5 million to $40.3 million in the town's new Community Investment Plan — an annual five-year outlook that determines how Normal spends capital projects money.

"It isn't glamorous, honestly, and people don't really think about it, but they certainly know when it's a problem," said City Manager Pam Reece. "We want to make sure that we're building and improving the network constantly."

Utility service, which also includes water main extensions and drainage ditch improvements, is the only category to significantly increase in the plan, which Normal City Council will consider Monday. It runs through April 2024.

The next-largest spending category to go up slightly has capital assets, which includes vehicles and other maintenance equipment, increasing from $19.9 million to $22.8 million. But three other categories will drop, including a massive decline in spending on public facilities.

That category, which includes building renovations and new construction, will drop from $10.8 million to $2.7 million — a change officials said is necessary in the wake of budget problems but that they hope to soon correct.

"We solved those challenges operationally, but we haven't really solved the capital obligations that we see in the next few years," said Finance Director Andrew Huhn. "We need to start dedicating some resources to our public facilities ... (that) are not critical now but are unavoidable expenditures."

Parks and open space development will drop from $4.4 million to $1.6 million, and transportation development will drop from $24 million to $20.8 million.

Despite those declines, the town has lined up several projects for the next fiscal year, from April 2019 to March 2020, including:

  • Replacing Glenn Avenue Bridge, a $2 million project in the design phase to be completed while nearby Glenn Elementary School is on summer vacation.
  • Redesigning Maxwell Park, a $400,000 project. The town hopes to add several amenities to the park if it receives a state matching grant; otherwise, work could be pared down and the extra money used on other needed projects like tennis courts and playgrounds.
  • Site improvements for the Trail East project, a new high-rise to be built on Uptown Circle, for $210,000. Reece said the town hopes to get plans for the $30 million building soon from Iowa-based Bush Construction.
  • A parking lot and trail connection at Underwood Park for $160,000.

"We're still proud of the $88 million in spending that we're proposing," said Reece. "This will make a difference in our residents' lives."

Normal City Council meets 7 p.m. on the fourth floor at Uptown Station.

In other business, the council will consider increasing the mayor's and council's pay for future terms.

The mayor position would pay $32,000, up from $18,000, starting May 1, 2021. Officials said that increase, the first since 2009, reflects increased demands of the role, which is traditionally part-time; adjustments in salary for mayors in similar communities; and inflation.

Council member pay would increase from $4,800 to $6,800 for similar reasons, the first change since 2005. Illinois municipalities can't change the salary of any elected official until the next term, so those increases would kick in after elections in 2021 and 2023.

Bloomington has no elected official salary increases on the books, but Mayor Tari Renner said he'd like to see the city discuss it. That's not likely to happen before summer, he added.

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

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Normal and McLean County Reporter

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