By Heart of Illinois ABC
BLOOMINGTON – Bloomington’s city government will for now not shut off water for non-payment of bills.
A narrow majority of city council members worried that residents are slow to recover from financial hardships they’ve suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also Monday night, the council concluded a sometimes heated discussion about police funding by adopting a $251.7 million budget for the next fiscal year.
The council on a 5-4 vote rejected the staff’s recommendation to begin water shutoffs starting June 1. The city manager would have been authorized to negotiate repayment plans for people with past-due water bills.
“Poverty is compounding,” said Council member Jenn Carrillo.
“A good bunch of our community is still in crisis,” she added.
Carrillo and others on the council wanted to wait for information whether state and federal dollars were available for people unable to pay their bills. Carrillo said she would like to see a debt forgiveness program.
Carrillo, Julie Emig, Jamie Mathy, Jeff Crabill, and Mollie Ward all voted against resuming the water shutoffs.
“Frankly, the pandemic isn’t over yet,” said Ward.
“We’re at a place where our hospitals are seeing more COVID patients than we’ve had for a very long time, and I think we’re fooling ourselves by thinking that we’re completely done with this,” Ward added.
Meantime, the council on a 7-1 vote passed next fiscal year’s $251.7 million spending plan that’s up 9.3% from the current year. City Manager Gleason said the increase is entirely due to capital projects like road and sewer work and O’Neil Park and pool improvements.
Carrillo was the only council member voting against the budget. Carrillo and Jeff Crabill backed an amendment reducing the police budget by $1 million to this fiscal year’s budget of about $20 million.
Council member Joni Painter said changes could have been considered as long as a year ago.
“To make this a motion at the last minute, quite frankly, I think is one of the most outstanding displays of laziness,” said Painter.
Alderwoman Donna Boelen said it’s unwise to cut police spending now given that the department is having trouble filling vacant positions.
Heart of Illinois ABC can be reached at News@WJBC.com.