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Council rejects immediate direct aid to Bloomington flood victims, encourages residents to seek state, federal help first

Blono Floods

BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) - The Bloomington City Council is holding off on making direct financial payments to residents whose property was devastated by historic flooding in late June.

Instead, the council encouraged property owners to apply for state and federal assistance programs, and when that money is exhausted, the council will again consider a local funding program.

Council members Donna Boelen, Nick Becker, and Sheila Montney opposed all efforts to use local funding because they said taxpayer funds can not be allocated for private purposes.

"I have yet to hear or see anyone motivate and rally the individuals in this community to stop forward and help their neighbors," said Boelen.

She asked, "Why do people turn to the government, specifically municipal government that has a limited tax base?"

The initial push for direct payments came from Council member Mollie Ward, who represents areas of the west side that sustained some of the worst damage from the June floods.

Ward is unhappy the council won't act until money runs out from the Illinois Development Housing Authority's rehabilitation program (IDHA).

"If we simply wait for the IDHA to be exhausted before we even begin the conversation of how to come up with a program to assist people, I don't know, maybe it will be January before we're back at this council table having this same conversation again," said Ward.

Overhead Sewer Grant Program gets big funding boost

The council Monday night unanimously approved increasing funding for its Overhead Sewer Grant Program, in which residents can apply for up to $4,500 in assistance to pay for improvements to improve drainage.

Funding will increase to $250,000, up from $40,000.

"The city has had limited participation over the last few years; however, it is expected that the number of applicants will grow significantly going forward based on renewed attention in the wake of recent heavy rains and associated flooding," city staffers said in a memo to the council.

Pay raise for city manager 

The council Monday night voted unanimously to give City Manager Tim Gleason a 2.5% pay raise, which boosts his annual salary to $202,149.  No one on the council discussed the matter during the meeting.

The city will also contribute $550 per month into Gleason’s retirement account.  Until now, the city paid him that same amount each month as reimbursement for driving his car on official business.

The council said in a memo that Gleason received the highest possible ranking in his performance review.

Gleason is the former city manager of Washington and Decatur.  He was also a long-time Pekin police officer.

Gleason became Bloomington’s city manager in 2018.

Howard Packowitz

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