IL: Bloomington OKs Leasing Former Connect Transit Bus Barn

July 29--BLOOMINGTON -- The Bloomington City Council on Monday approved a contract to lease Connect Transit's former bus barn, but three aldermen voiced concerns before voting against the agreement.

The lease agreement is for three years at $5,226 per month or $62,718 annually.

Since 2012, the city has been using for free the former bus barn at 106 E. Oakland Ave. for storage of city vehicles, including some that need to be parked indoors during cold weather because they hold water or paint, they have sensitive electronics or they have hydraulic equipment susceptible to damage.

With its location directly south of the city's Public Works facilities the former bus barn has been instrumental in enabling the city to stage a quick response to snow and ice storms, said City Manager David Hales.

That's because the city has been able to park indoors trucks that have been loaded with salt several hours before a snow or ice storm is expected to hit the city. Salt left outdoors clumps and is not readily expelled from the truck as needed.

"I understand entirely why we want to keep these vehicles protected, but I'm really still bothered that, as the staff report says, the roof is in a state of serious disrepair and there are multiple cave-in points," said Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt. "Would this even pass a building inspection? And I don't really appreciate what changed from using it at no cost to suddenly having to pay for it."

Schmidt, Ward 4 Alderman Judy Stearns and Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Lower voted against approving the lease.

If the City Council did not approve the lease, "we don"t really have a place to go come winter," said Public Works Director Jim Karch. "We can store a lot of our equipment outside right now, but come November, December that is when things are going to get more difficult for us."

Hales pointed out that the city can opt out any time after giving a six-month termination notice.

The City Council also approved without further discussion the following:

--A new ordinance allowing for a 15-minute public comment period at every regularly scheduled meeting of the council, including committee of the whole meetings and special meetings where there is an action item on the agenda.

--A new contract giving its full-time employees in the Department of Public Works and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts, parking maintenance workers and police custodians three consecutive annual wage increases of 2.25 percent.

Copyright 2014 - The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.