Council Briefing: Council Adopts City Budget, Chief Heffner Presents Bloomington Crime Stats

 Bloomington Chief of Police Brendan Heffner presented the department’s Annual Police Report at Monday night's Council meeting. The  department recorded ten fewer major crimes in 2017, or a 1% decline, from the previous year. (Image credit: Breanna Grow)

Bloomington Chief of Police Brendan Heffner presented the department’s Annual Police Report at Monday night's Council meeting. The  department recorded ten fewer major crimes in 2017, or a 1% decline, from the previous year. (Image credit: Breanna Grow)

Main Point: Monday's Bloomington City Council meeting covered four issues, including an approved city budget, a presentation on crime stats by Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner, funding for a multi-sport complex feasibility study, and the water department's current projects.

City Budget Approved

The council unanimously approved the City’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. For months council members worked with City staff to shore up a $2.9M deficit, including $2.1M in targeted action items (a mix of cost savings and fee increases) and $775,000 in cuts across various departments.

Fine Print: The adopted balanced budget totals $210,117,855. Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen said while that’s about $2.2M higher than the proposed budget balance, the new total doesn’t reflect any change in City spending or revenue.

“It’s mostly accounting numbers,” Rasmussen said, noting that some spending planned for other years, such as installing an American Disabilities Act-compliant elevator at the Grossinger Motors Arena, will now take place during the 2019 fiscal year. “It’s the same amount of money--we’re just moving it from one year to another.”

BPD Annual Report

Bloomington Chief of Police Brendan Heffner presented the department’s Annual Police Report, which shows ten fewer major crimes in 2017, a 1% decline from the previous year.

“It may not seem like a lot, but if we’re going down, I’m good with it,” he said, adding that crime in Bloomington has decreased nearly 30% since 2014. Both robberies and shootings declined between 2016 and 2017.

However 2017 marked the end of a nearly 20-year run without a single homicide in Bloomington, with three incidents last year. Heffner said none of the homicides were linked.

Motor vehicle thefts in the City rose over the last year, with a spike during November and December. “We’re still having issues with our juvenile offenders,” Heffner said, noting residents who leave their cars unattended and running during cold weather run the risk of them being stolen.

The department also made 37% fewer DUI arrests in 2017, but Heffner said he’s fairly certain why. “We had some officers who were really aggressive in DUI enforcement who changed shifts. Now we have some new officers on that shift. We didn’t have the same numbers as last year, but the effort was the same. These are things that you learn.”

Key Takeaway: Heffner credited the overall decline in crime to department-wide crime-fighting efforts, including the BPD’s intelligence unit. Examining social media on several occasions also helped point officers in the right direction, including apprehending suspects with firearms before an incident.

Funding for a Multi-sport Complex Feasibility Study

Council members were nearly split on the idea of allocating City funds to help pay for a study that would assess the need for a multi-sport complex in Bloomington-Normal, voting 5-4 to approve the measure.

The cost-sharing agreement with the Town of Normal and the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau puts the City’s contribution at $17,625, equal to what the Town committed to in February. The CVB committed $11,750.

“I know I’ve been vocal in the past about using consultants, but this is one time when I feel we need to invest in the expertise we do not have,” said Alderman Diana Hauman. “I think given the scope of the project, it’s a modest investment to help us make a good decision.”

Aldermen Kim Bray, David Sage, Mboka Mwilambwe and Joni Painter opposed the measure. Bray said the study is premature considering economic factors currently at play. “I don’t think at this juncture we have the resources to invest in a sports complex. We’re in the middle potentially of a reset of some of the revenues into our community, and until we know more about that, we can’t commit to a large project like this.”

Water Department Projects

The Council also unanimously approved contracts for over $1.5M in various projects and repairs within the City’s water department. The work includes pump replacement at Lake Evergreen, water main replacement at Lake Bloomington, and miscellaneous repairs at both sites, including spillways and fencing. 

The department will also replace a number of its water meters.