Council Briefing: City Council Approves New City Manager, Agenda Management, and TIF Guidelines

(Photo: Breanna Grow/AdaptBN)

(Photo: Breanna Grow/AdaptBN)

Bloomington aldermen made their city manager choice official Monday night, unanimously approving the employment contract for current Decatur City Manager Tim Gleason.

“This is a great honor and I very much appreciate the opportunity,” said Gleason, attending the meeting with wife Becky. Gleason said he believes he and Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen “will make a great one-two punch;” Rasmussen will serve as assistant city manager when Gleason starts in Bloomington July 23.

Alderman Diana Hauman said she cast her vote for approval with reservations.

“I do not feel that we as a group of 10 used an effective process for this selection,” she said. “The outcome may well have been the same with a different process, but I’m not sure that we did our best work in making this critical decision.”

Hauman declined to comment further on discussions held during closed session.

Agenda management

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner voiced concerns over new rules approved Monday night limiting the mayor’s power to introduce council initiatives.

Both the mayor and aldermen will now have to fill out a one-page form to bring an initiative up during Committee of the Whole meetings, where it would need a two-thirds vote to be added to the council agenda.

Renner said while he voted to approve the changes, he had concerns the new rules weren’t given enough public discussion.

“The first time I heard the public ask me about it was over the weekend when there was a newspaper article about it,” he said, adding the public should have the chance to weigh in on structural changes like those approved Monday.

Alderman Joni Painter told Renner she and others had repeatedly asked to discuss the matter publicly since the issue first arose in November.

City Attorney Jeff Jurgens said the measure cuts down on staff time dedicated to helping research council initiatives.

Renner pushed back on the idea that the change will make council processes more efficient.

Under the new rules, an initiative needs only one sponsor to be introduced at the Committee of the Whole. Renner said he envisioned that leading to even longer public meetings.

“I hope I’m wrong -- I can’t imagine this is going to be more efficient.”

He also voiced concerns over the lack of data available from governmental agencies on similar measures.

Renner also clarified his concerns over the change weren’t personal.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the mayor,” he said, noting the change has the potential to outlast his time with the City. “Even if I got re-elected, I’m going eventually.”

Aldermen railed against Renner’s decision to add a proposed “Welcoming City” ordinance to the February 12 special session. Five aldermen later asked Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen to remove the item from the agenda. The ordinance has yet to resurface for a council vote.

The City plans to review the new rules in six months to gather staff and council feedback on the change.

TIF Guidelines and East Washington Street TIF District

The City of Bloomington has put the matter of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to rest -- at least for now.

Aldermen twice postponed voting on proposed guidelines for the City’s use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to give City staff and District 87 representatives time to settle competing visions for the document.

City Attorney Jeff Jurgens said after working with District 87 representatives the past week, City staff were able to develop language both parties can agree on.

“[District 87 representatives] see this as a compromise because it’s not requiring that we’re never going to have another 23-year TIF, but at the same time we’re pledging to work past those types of concerns,” Jurgens said.

Aldermen unanimously passed both the amended guidelines and three ordinances establishing the Downtown East Washington Street TIF District.

The council approved an agreement last June between the City and Iceberg Development Group to redevelop the former Bloomington High School and Junior High School building at 510 E. Washington St. into senior living apartments and ground-floor commercial space.

Alderman Painter suggested the City could have limited the TIF to that project area, with the option to establish an expanded TIF for future projects. But Bloomington Community Development Director Bob Mahrt said shrinking the TIF too far would prevent it from generating the increment needed to attract future developers.

Establishing new TIFs also requires additional administrative and staff resources -- the process to establish the Downtown East Washington Street TIF cost around $35,000, according to the City’s TIF consultant.

Mahrt noted the consultant had already helped the City shrink the TIF from its originally proposed area.

None of the approved ordinances addresses previously discussed local labor agreements.

Local labor representative Mike Matejka spoke again in favor of adding a project labor agreement provision to the City’s TIF guidelines, adding he and other representatives have been unable to reach the 510 E. Washington St. developer.

“I would like to keep these issues very separate, because I see them very separate,” said Mahrt, noting the City already passed its prevailing wage agreement this year.

Jurgens said City staff could reach out to the developer on the council’s behalf expressing hiring local as a council priority. City staff plans to continue early discussions with the Town of Normal concerning project labor agreements.