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Bloomington council debates spending in the face of COVID-19, okays emergency declaration

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner (file photo)

BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) - A majority of Bloomington City Council members decided to go ahead with spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in despite a call to hold off because of anticipated costs of the coronavirus.

Thursday night's debate preceded a disaster declaration, which won unanimous council backing.

Council member Jenn Carrillo asked to hold off until next month on several spending decisions, including $630,000 for sewer and water main work at Locust Street and Colton Avenue, and almost $910,000 to buy five dump trucks for the city's public works department.

"Any constituents I'm talking to right now aren't talking about buying new cars. They're talking about how they can set money aside to make sure they can make rent this month," said Carrillo.

"I think that the city has a responsibility, whether these are accounted for in our current budget or not, to think about all the possible ways that we can preserve money that's not being spent on the core, essential services like public safety, fire safety, etc. because people are going to need our help, and I'm going to continue urging my colleagues to heed that call," Carrillo also said.

Carrillo, Julie Emig, and Jeff Crabill voted to hold off on the spending requests.

Mayor Tari Renner sided with the council majority.

"These are mostly housekeeping chores that we pass without a blink every year," said Renner.

"We are required to provide public services to our constituents, and this is not like we're buying champagne bottles for us to sit back and crack open, the mayor added.

As for the emergency declaration, the unanimous vote came despite objections voiced by the head of the McLean County Libertarian Party about powers given to the mayor and city manager.

Rationing goods and services, and imposing price controls are "incredibly ineffective"and encourage hoarding, Suess said.

The declaration's intent, the mayor said, is to ensure administrative efficiency and effectivenesss.

"These are all systems maintenance kinds of functions. We are not limiting, and not going down the path of limiting firearms, alcohol, tobacco, or any of the kinds of things that may have existed in other emergency documents," said Renner.

Howard Packowitz

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