Bloomington Mayor Steve Stockton and Normal Mayor Chris Koos update the community on the state of the county. (Stephanie Pawlowski/WJBC)
By Stephanie Pawlowski
BLOOMINGTON - Bloomington Mayor Steve Stockton, Normal Mayor Chris Koos and McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen all said the recovering economy is starting to be felt in the communities, but there are still some budget battles.
Sorensen said for the first time since 1985, the assessed value of land in the county is going down. He said the county will levy fewer property tax dollars, but the tax rate will probably stay the same.
Koos and Stockton both said budgets have been lean. But, Koos said sales tax receipts are growing and there's an eight percent increase this year in the income tax.
Stockton also talked about Bloomington's managed competition effort. He said the city can't allow costs to get out of hand, but said some things can't be outsourced. He also acknowledged that the city has union contracts to honor.
During his speech, Stockton stressed the importance of a lifetime water supply. He said if Bloomington grows rapidly again, city officials need to start looking at a new supply, maybe a regional system that could plug wells into the Mahomet Aquifer.
"We recently awarded a contract for detailed capacity studies for several potential sites. That study is ongoing and we don't know exactly where or how much production each well could provide," Stockton said.
The city has been looking at potential water wells north of Hudson and southwest of Bloomington.
Sorensen made the case for the eastside highway. The road will connect Interstate 55 to 74 east of Bloomington-Normal to east traffic congestion on Veteran's Parkway. Sorensen said he knows there's plenty of debate on the need of the highway, but said it is a project that is needed in the coming decades.
"Even today, Towanda Barnes Road was backed up almost a mile in the southbound turn lane before Ireland Grove Road," Sorensen said. "The traffic count on Towanda Barnes was over 13,000 cars a day four years ago. We haven't done a more recent count than that, but we know it's up from there."
The project is moving ahead into the environmental impact phase.
Koos touted EVTown during his State of the city address. He said no other community in the U.S. has more electric vehicle charging stations per capita than Bloomington-Normal, with 50 total.
"As you may recall, our goal is to have 1,000 EVs on the streets of Bloomington-Normal by 2015. We're off to a good start, but it's only a start and we've got work to do," Koos said.
Also during his speech, Koos talked about the growth of single family home permits, low crime levels, and gave an update on the Uptown Normal Developments. Uptown Station opened this year and developers are working on plans for the Uptown One building.
Stephanie Pawlowski can be reached at Stephanie.Pawlowski@Cumulus.com.