By: Diane Benjamin
Remember the good ol’ days when nobody on the Normal Town Council questioned anything? Those 10 minute meetings have turned into a “justify staff” fun fest where the formally silent must spew forth speech to squelch what they think are rumors.
The Council needs to spend at least half of their time protecting citizens from abusive government instead of protecting the abusers. Protecting staff isn’t their job unless the only votes they received were from the staff.
In 2010 the Town borrowed $1,855,000. They have been paying interest only ever since. Refinancing it to a lower interest rate will save money, but the Town is planning to pay interest only for the next 19 years. Stan Nord questioned why the Town isn’t just paying it off now. He mentioned the Town plans to pay off other bonds in the future totaling $8,000,000. The Town has 15% of the General Fund in reserves as well as other reserves (water fund etc). The conversation starts at 1:23:00.
The discussion proves one thing. The Town of Normal doesn’t care about the interest cost, they only care about making payments. As long as the payments can be made the total cost is immaterial. Paying off debt was met with distain from everybody in a time of COVID. Stan mentioned with a AAA credit rating the Town has the ability to borrow money if necessary. Congrats citizens, the Town can’t payoff this new bond for between 9 and 10 years.
1:45:15 Karyn Smith thinks citizens want to go back to debt free. I don’t know what citizens she talks to but she believes massive debt is okay – most citizens don’t. She thinks the Town has made sound investments. She doesn’t think paying off debt is responsible, but she compared it to having $15,000 in savings and paying off a $15,000 debt. She must have missed paying off this debt won’t leave the Town penniless.
1:44:50 Chemberly Cummings thinks paying off this tiny bond will jeopardize the Town’s liquidity. She thinks debt is fine. Maybe she hasn’t looked at the interest dollars being flushed for decades. The citizens do care about waste.
1:47:00 Kevin McCarthy is excited about refinancing this bond because it saves money.
1:50:33 Kathleen Lorenz thinks refinancing proves they have a path to reducing debt. It reduces the interest cost, it doesn’t reduce the debt.
1:55:00 Stan held up a Town document proving the 19 years of interest before any debt is reduced.
Note: During this whole discussion nobody mentioned why the Town took this relatively tiny bond out and what it was used for. Citizens are probably wondering why it was borrowed in 2010 and interest payments are still scheduled for another 19 years. Fiscally responsible?
1:59:00 Stan Nord made a motion to pay it off instead of refinancing. 1:59:40 Karyn Smith emphasized during COVID it would be irresponsible to pay it off. She seems to believe Normal only has $2,000,000 and paying it off would jeopardize the future. His motion failed.
2:01:52. Kathleen Lorenz makes the same point. If the Town only has $2,000,000 in cash the Town is in BIG trouble. She actually said she doesn’t want it be flat broke.
2:03:50 Kevin McCarthy doesn’t think it makes any sense to payoff this tiny bond. The majority of the Council thinks paying interest only for 19 years is fiscally responsible.
The Finance Director Andrew Huhn claimed the $2,000,000 will be needed elsewhere. The Town has between $10 and $12,000,000 in reserves in the General Fund now.
2:11:00 Pam Reece claims the Town hopes to pay off $8 million in June of 2022.
One Note: The Federal government had been subsidizing part of the interest paid since 2010. That means taxpayers in other states paid for Normal to borrow money.
The council voted to refinance.
Next up was Connect Transit
Most of the presentation was the same Bloomington got, but there were a few new things.
Veterans can get free rides on Mobility to the VA clinic. They claim only 9 ever have – probably because nobody knew about it!
2:47:20 – Service to the VA clinic. Connect claimed the bus stop was an acceptable distance. Obviously nobody has talked to the local veterans groups who disagree.
The speaker also claimed when the VA was being built Connect had extensive conversations with them about service. Again, the local veterans group would “beg to differ”.
It appears Connect is trying to re-write history. Even WMDB did a story: https://blnnews.com/2019/08/01/wmdb-story-on-the-vet-clinic-problems/
Of course I’ve done MANY stories about the clinic, here’s one: https://blnnews.com/2020/07/16/connect-the-va-clinic-and-chris-koos/
Last night I also contacted Art Rodriquez who is an AMVETS and American Legion member. He told me Chris Koos said the sidewalk the vets have to navigate isn’t even ADA compliant. Art also claims Connect has not talked to any local veterans groups.
The second story above says nobody coordinated construction with Connect. The VA clinic just assumed people would be dropped off at the door. The parking lot was configured to allow that. Connect of course refuses because their buses are too big. In the same story is a Facebook post from Koos claiming vets can “almost always” get free door-to-door service. That is not what Connect said last night. I wonder if Koos has bothered telling any veterans groups about it? Do the veterans still have to fill out the reams of documents required to ride Mobility? (same story)
The meeting was over 3 hours long. Most of it was a waste of time. The good news is: CIRBN employees are no longer considered Town of Normal employees. Nobody said why that happened.