Discovery museum

New climbing structure funded by grant for Children’s Discovery Museum

Normal Town Council voted on Tuesday to authorize a deal to install a new grant-funded climbing structure at the Children’s Discovery Museum.

The popular playground, which was part of the museum’s 2004 opening in Uptown, hangs above the destination’s entrance.

The museum received a state grant of $576,000 for the project. Tuesday’s vote voids the bidding process and authorizes a nearly $300,000 deal with Connecticut-based Luckey Climbers to create and install the new structure.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, council agreed to send a proposal for the city’s traffic code to the Normal Planning Commission; and voted to set aside fuel tax funds for a Franklin Avenue Bridge renovation project.

Children’s Museum Climber

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources awarded the Public Museum Capital Grant of $576,000 to CDM for the project.

Luckey LLC created the current climber and also maintains the updated version. It will have new safety features and easier-to-clean materials, according to the materials council.

As part of its vote on Tuesday, the council waived the tender conditions. Normal Town Manager Pam Reece said it makes sense because Luckey is the only manufacturer of the one-of-a-kind indoor playground.

The remaining $276,000 of the grant will go towards related floor, railing and ceiling updates. These will be offered separately this summer.

The state grant covers the entire project cost of $576,000. The town of Normal is acting as the fiscal agent, and when the grant funds arrive, the town will be reimbursed, according to Beth Whisman, director of cultural arts at Normal.

During discussion of the proposal, council member Stan North angered fellow council members when he accused Normal City staff of misrepresenting staff time on projects and offering contracts without bidding “where they could get bribes” for sitting on certain boards.

This isn’t the first time North has clashed with his fellow board members.

Council Member Kevin McCarthy called for a point of order, saying, “Mr. Nord blatantly makes statements that are not true – in my opinion, libelous statements.

“That’s a strong accusation Mr. North,” added Mayor Chris Koos.

Reece said Nord had made similar accusations before, although these were found to be unfounded.

Later in the meeting, board member Kathleen Lorenz lamented the tone of the meeting and Nord’s “false innuendo.” She defended Normal’s staff as highly skilled and said at times in Tuesday’s meeting that Nord’s comments border on belittling.

Proposed Policy Changes for Yard Signs

The council voted 5-2 to send a proposal to the Normal Planning Commission that initiates further review of the rules for temporary yard signs.

Now the commission will hold a public hearing and then report its findings to council. After that, the board would vote on the proposed policy change. The amended signaling code will come into force no earlier than December 2022.

Nord and council member Scott Preston voted “no”.

“The purpose of the public hearing process is to get public input,” Reece said, adding that the proposal submitted to the planning commission should only be seen as a starting point.

Tuesday’s proposal is limited and does not cover the city’s entire traffic code, she said.

The proposed changes stem from recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that signing orders must have “content-neutral” language, she added.

Some additional key points considered are time restrictions and size limits.

Lorenz said the McLean County Chamber of Commerce and a group of local realtors raised concerns about the proposal.

Franklin Avenue Bridge

The board voted unanimously to have Normal set aside approximately $200,000 of its fuel tax funds (MFT) to help replace the aging Franklin Avenue Bridge near the Carle BroMenn Medical Center.

Council will not vote to approve the project until it is closer to the projected construction date of 2024. But as part of budget planning, the state requires city council to approve any use of MFT funding. .

The bridge, which crosses Sugar Creek just north of Virginia Avenue, is deteriorating; the crosswalk is in such poor condition that the city has closed access to the pedestrian portion.

A special grant of $1.5 million from the State of Illinois Bridge Program will be used for the bridge update. But the total design and construction cost is around $2.3 million today. The city plans to make up the remaining $600,000 using its stormwater budget.

In other cases, counsel accepted:

  • Donate $50,000 of Normal’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Community Health Care Clinic. The Normal-based organization serves people with little or no health insurance. Funds are limited to COVID-related treatments.
  • A utility easement to allow for the installation of a water main on the Rivian Highway.