A Normal Township official called for the removal of the Connect Transit board after a controversial email and several voting decisions were made.
Normal Township supervisor Sarah Grammer said that the current trustees appointed to the board ought to be replaced over the board’s decision to raise fare rates, cut the olive route from the scheduled bus routes and potentially discount the feedback from the community.
The Connect Transit board is appointed by both mayors of the City of Bloomington and Town of Normal.
Grammer was not the only voice of opposition to the decisions made by the board. Around 20 other members of the community spoke up at the Tuesday public hearing to express their discontent with the vote. Concerns about the well-being of poor and disabled residents in the area were raised as the community voiced their disapproval.
As a result, the board pushed the fare raise back to Oct. 1 to find more funding for the changes.
In an email exchange with board Chair Mike McCurdy, Grammer expressed an ultimatum regarding the current board.
“If the current board won’t listen to the community, it’s time to make room at the table for board members who will work to build a more accessible and affordable public transportation system for those who need it,” Grammer said.
The controversy came about when, reportedly, 40 emails from the public were not received by the Connect Transit board, leaving an impression that their voices were not heard.
McCurdy responded to the issue via email saying he was unaware of the issue and had faith in the process that Connect Transit was using to give feedback to trustees.
“I ... did not know prior to the vote the emails had not been forwarded to trustees,” McCurdy said. “The Connect Transit staff went above and beyond requirements to collect information from the community and forward that information to trustees.”
McCurdy said Connect Transit General Manager Isaac Thorne “feels awful” about the discounting of the emails.
Normal Mayor Chris Koos said that he and Mayor Renner disagree with Grammer’s call for the removal of the board.
“Tari Renner and I both thought Grammer’s proposal to remove the entire Connect Transit board was a preposterous ask, and we aren’t going to do that,” Koos said.
“The Connect Transit staff had made a mistake in terms of email distribution. They acknowledged the mistake and have since fixed that problem. However, a staff error is no reason to remove an entire board.”
Koos went on to say that he supports the decisions made by the board to raise fare prices and remove the Olive route.
“I have strongly defended the decisions that the board made from day one,” Koos said.
“They did a lot of research and they hosted 14 listening sessions where they received community input. Anytime you adjust a route like that, there’s always somebody that’s going to be disadvantaged, I understand that.”
Koos also addressed the issue of Connect Mobility as it relates to the raise in the fair price.
“[The fare hike] can affect low-income disabled people, there’s no question about that. I think the reason that the board postponed the fair increase so that they could spend more time studying the issue and to see if they could come up with a solution.”