Normal Town Council meeting, Feb. 7, 2022

Normal leaders have voted to finance half of a new $5 million fire station on the town’s east side, using a low-interest bank loan.

Work on the station at the corner of Shepard and Hershey roads likely will begin this fall, with a target opening of spring 2023, said Normal Fire Department Chief Mick Humer. Now, the town will seek bids for design and construction, he added.

Whether the station would be built next year wasn’t at issue: it’s in the tentative fiscal 2023 plan. The debate was about whether to finance part of the construction, or pay all costs up front.

The 5-2 vote during Monday’s Normal Town Council meeting means Busey Bank will loan $2.5 million to the town, at a 1.46% interest rate. The town will use $1.4 million from existing funds, and a $1 million grant to cover remaining construction costs.

Council members Stan Nord and Scott Preston voted against the financing plan. Preston said taking on debt, when the town budget has a surplus, isn’t a good idea.

City Manager Pam Reece told the council that opting for the loan is a robust investment. “We believe the time is right,” she said of the low-interest rates being offered.