$6 million to $9.35 million in one month

By:  Diane Benjamin

On June 22 the Town of Normal held a special meeting just to approve submitting a grant request to the State of Illinois for funds to fix West College:  http://normal.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3668

This plan also included extending the trail, the cost estimate just for the trail wasn’t listed – just the total:

pam w college

If other people will pay for what you want they think it’s all good, except future maintenance isn’t in the grant.  The only reason a trail was built from Chenoa to a think Mclean was because the Feds paid most of the cost.  Who will fund maintenance?  The philosophy is take the free money, build it, and when it decays after you leave office it isn’t your problem.  If the W College trail is built it will be maintained only at the whims of future staff and councils.

I found an interesting email in a FOIA request.  City Manager Pam Reece was talking to a guy the Town hired to find them grant money.  Note:  the cost of fixing W College wasn’t anywhere near $9.3 million:

pam college ace

This email was only a month before the cost jumped millions, it has to be because a trail was added when more grant money became available.  

A Town funded MultiSport Complex (in the subject) was already dead, staff approved the soccer complex location according to other emails so the land could be acquired by the soccer organizers.  

The email states the Town is actively looking for money for the underpass.  That’s another fantasy project with an inflated price tag for the cadillac version of getting people from one side of the tracks to the other.  Since the Town can’t fund their own dreams, grants are needed.

Local governments are in a vicious cycle of grants funding the spectacular, as long as you play by the grantors rules.  Over time the spectacular turns into a liability that can’t be maintained.  Your priorities never align with government spending,  They have a Master Plan for “progress”.  It doesn’t have a line item for actual needs – like drivable roads.

The worst part of grants are the rules.  Decisions aren’t made locally when federal and state money is handed out.  Of course that’s your money, but people hundreds or thousands of miles away (with their own agenda) are directing your life instead of your elected officials.  Most representing you don’t seem to mind.  They know years from now there is no price to pay for their sophistry.



3 thoughts on “$6 million to $9.35 million in one month

  1. Bang! Dead On! Politicians love building new stuff. Often they even get to put their names on the pretty shiny things. Maintenance is usually never figured into the calculations.

    A lot of this is the result of federal and state “grants.” for new projects. But the feds and states seldom “grant” money for maintenance. This the problem is exacerbated.

  2. For public education and transparency… I have asked the Town Manager several times over the past few weeks for the breakout of the estimated cost of the trail vs the road repair. Each time there is deflection and the information is not provided. (FOIA my emails if you need proof.)

    Now, I learn the breakout of costs from a FOIA request obtained by blnnews.com. As an elected council representative, how can I properly represent the residents of Normal if I cannot get questions answered by town staff which they knew the answers to long before? This is internal politics and not what I consider an open and transparent government.

    I believe my expectations are reasonable and justified. They are spelled out in the code of ethics which Normal taxpayers pay the membership dues. https://icma.org/sites/default/files/ICMA%20Code%20of%20Ethics%20%28June%202020%29.pdf

    Stan Nord – Normal Town Council Representative

    The question taxpayers should ask is who prioritized that this apparent $3.35M trail extension is more important than fixing our many other bad roads which exist outside of Uptown.

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