By: Diane Benjamin
The only Public Comment last night was from Doug Fansler. See 6:20. He wondered who invited the climate activist to speak at the last meeting. He had emailed the Council and City Manager but was not satisfied with the scant answers. Doug agreed we need a warming and a cooling plan but the Town was the wrong place for them to be looking for assistance. Jump to 1:25:13. The meeting is over, Pam can be heard saying “He didn’t like the answer”. A few minutes before she wanted it on the record that she did reply. I might do a whole story on this one!
See 10:00 Stan Nord questioned why the Town is paying for 6 employees to attend a conference for the Children’s Discovery Museum. The CDM has 8 full time employees and all 6 of those going are full time. Of course Pam spun a narrative supporting them. Chris Koos also gave his support. The conference is in St. Louis. The registration doesn’t include travel, hotels, and food. Just the registrations was almost $4000.
Note: Conferences do provide information. They also spark new ways to spend your money.
Stan also questioned this expense:
This building is at the corner of College and Linden. Pam Reece claimed it was completed in 2005. That’s now 15 years ago. No one said how long this continues.
By far the longest conversation was about the free lease with ISU for the Art Gallery. It starts at 21:24.
23:30 – Pam: The town values their relationship with ISU.
24:40: Stan: If a business was in that space is would be generating property taxes and sales taxes instead of taxpayers subsidizing the property.
25:30: Stan: He claimed the Council had voted to move the staff out of the expensive lease at 1 Uptown Circle. He wondered why this space should be tied up for 5 years when the Town could use it.
26:50 Kevin McCarthy: Recapped the history of the space. Since ISU paid back Normal for the money fronted to develop the site, they should now get it for free. He claims visitors shop and eat in Uptown. He claims the gallery is a tourist attraction.
Thrown around were the Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that visitors spend around $70 each. Think back to the economic impact numbers CVB threw around for the Coliseum. Nobody believed them.
29:40 Chris Koos: This one is a can’t miss! Koos claims the space is a bad for retail. He actually said there isn’t any close parking. (It’s under the parking garage!) He goes on to explain retailers want the ability to park at the front door.
Except in Uptown where more on street parking was taken away later for parklets.
Uptown will be losing the last easy parking when and if Traileast is ever built. Obviously Koos understands people hate parking garages. He wants to force you to use them anyway. Considering 1 Uptown Circle is still empty, people refuse to comply and retailers know it.
32:30 Kevin McCarthy relived history repeating the same arguments again
33:13 Karyn Smith: ISU received a $1 million contribution and the State announced funding for art spaces on campus. She questioned how 17,000 visitors a year in that space justifies allowing ISU 5 years of rent free while the Town is responsible for maintenance. She spoke with the EDC and they believe this area is on the cusp of growth due to Rivian and Brandt. She was told the Town can be their own worst enemy with deals like locking this space up for 5 years.
38:00 Koos: Claimed ISU paid double the lease rate, Karyn responded that capital improvements aren’t rent. ISU actually paid none.
At one point Scott Preston attempted to make the lease year-to-year instead of 5 years. That failed. Stan Nord tried to table the lease so staff could go back to ISU. That failed.
Pam Reece mentioned they believe according the bond documents they have no duty to rent the space for a profit. What about the Town’s fiduciary duty to taxpayers Pam?
A final vote wasn’t taken until 1:09:45. FOUR members approved the 5 year no cost lease: Lorenz, McCarthy, Cummings, Koos
THREE voted no: Smith, Preston, and Nord.
The conversation proves which Council members are working for ISU and which are working for citizens. Three of the 4 YES votes can be replaced next year.