Yes to purchase of west Showers building, says Bloomington city council on 5–4 vote

Bloomington city hall’s footprint inside the former Showers Brothers furniture factory building on Morton Street will expand by 64,000 square feet to include the western portion of the building, where the city’s police station and fire department administrative headquarters will be located.

That’s because at its Wednesday meeting, the city council voted 5–4 to approve an ordinance that appropriates $29.5 million in bond proceeds, which includes $8.75 million for the purchase of the western portion of the Showers building.

It’s part of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s plan to put both the city’s main police station and fire department administration in the same historic city hall building. The proposed move is part of a bigger plan estimated at over $30-million—which includes reconstructing the flood-damaged Fire Station #1 and remodeling Fire Station #3.

Approval of the bond issuance itself had come in early December last year. Continue reading “Yes to purchase of west Showers building, says Bloomington city council on 5–4 vote”

Bloomington trail closures, detours to be decided “in collaboration” with engineering department

Signage for closure of The B Line during the recent removal of some callery pear trees. (From slide presented by parks operation director Tim Streets at the board of park commissioners Jan. 24, 2023 meeting.)
The signage for the closure of The B-Line Trail in 2022 near the Johnson’s Creamery smokestack came in the form of an 8.5 x 11 laminated sheet, which is barely visible on the chain link fence.

Under a new policy, when multi-use trails in Bloomington are closed—because of work by contractors or a dangerous situation—a detour has to be provided that gives trail users a convenient alternate route.

The policy was adopted by Bloomington’s board of park commissioners at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

Under the new policy, the closure has to be marked with signage that’s compliant with the Indiana Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

The policy also says that the decisions by the board about trail closures and detours have to be made “in collaboration” with the city engineer.

The development of the policy came after complaints about the city’s implementation last year of a detour and signage for a B-Line closure. That closure was made in connection with the unsafe building order issued by the city for the Johnson’s Creamery smokestack. Continue reading “Bloomington trail closures, detours to be decided “in collaboration” with engineering department”

Monroe County sheriff on racist graffiti in jail cells: “When I see that word…I cannot move slow.”

“It looks like that’s not even the United States of America.”

That was Monroe County’s new jail commander Kyle Gibbons talking about a photograph he had displayed for Monday’s meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC). It was from a slide deck he’d prepared, in order to show committee members conditions inside the jail when he took over at the start of the year.

In the photo, a pitcher of water had been placed on the floor outside a cell door. Jail staff were using it as a stop gap to give inmates water on request—because the water wasn’t working in the cell at the time.

Gibbons told committee members, “The staff was just trying to make sure people had water. …They were trying to ensure that everybody had access to basic human rights.”

But the color of the water inside the pitcher looked sketchy enough that county councilor Peter Iversen asked Gibbons, “That’s drinkable water?!” The glum reply from Gibbons: “That’s drinkable water.”

Monday’s slide deck was a visual followup to oral presentations that Gibbons has given to county commissioners and county councilors in the last couple of weeks.

The visuals he presented on Monday appeared to have a sobering impact on committee members. Continue reading “Monroe County sheriff on racist graffiti in jail cells: “When I see that word…I cannot move slow.””

Talk deemed off-topic, ill-tempered: Backdrop for Bloomington’s resolution on embargo against Cuba

“Who the hell do you people think you are? You’re not the White House!”

That was Dareal Ruble speaking from the public mic at last Wednesday’s meeting of the city council.

He was reacting to a resolution on the meeting agenda that called for an immediate end to the US economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.

The resolution was not controversial for councilmembers—it passed unanimously.

The vote came almost an hour after the resolution was introduced by Dave Rollo, who co-sponsored it with Susan Sandberg.

Rubel was interrupted twice during his allotted five minutes by council president Sue Sgambelluri, who admonished him—for speaking off the topic of the resolution, not for any particular choice of words.

But questions about the kind of tone and demeanor that councilmembers consider acceptable were swimming just under the surface of Wednesday’s meeting—in connection with an earlier agenda item.

Neither Rollo nor Sandberg supported a raft of resident re-appointments to boards and commissions that were approved early on the agenda.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Rollo confirmed to The B Square that he voted no, because the list included Greg Alexander’s reappointment to the city’s traffic commission.

Based on Alexander’s social media interactions, which Rollo described as “aggressive,” Rollo said he think’s Alexander’s temperament is “ill-suited” to serving on a city board or commission.

Continue reading “Talk deemed off-topic, ill-tempered: Backdrop for Bloomington’s resolution on embargo against Cuba”

Photos: Freezefest Ice Battle 2023

Temperatures on Friday night for the Freezefest 2023 Ice Battle were a smidgen warmer than freezing—right around 33 F degrees.

The competition unfolded on Upland Brewing’s outdoor stage north of the parking lot off 11th Street. Starting with blank blocks of ice, two teams of ice carvers from Ice of America completed three rounds of carving lasting 15 minutes apiece.

At the end of 45 minutes, one team had produced a dragon. The other team created a carving that depicted Sponge Bob Square Pants blowing bubbles.

They were competing for the crowd’s approval as measured by the loudness of the cheers. It took three rounds of voting for a winner to be determined—Sponge Bob.

More photos from Friday night’s event are included below.

Continue reading “Photos: Freezefest Ice Battle 2023”

Committee on jail’s future gets tweaks, commander says: “We have an obligation to people here now.”

In December, Bloomington’s city council unanimously rejected a rezone request for some land in the southwestern tip of the city, where county commissioners had proposed building a new jail.

But planning for the possible construction of a new Monroe County jail continues—as a response to the reports from two consultants delivered to county government 18 months ago. As one of the reports puts it: “The jail facility is failing…”

Still set for Monday (Jan. 23) is the next meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC). That’s the group that was established by county commissioners to address the problems highlighted in the consultants’ reports.

Even as work continues on planning for the future of Monroe County’s jail, sheriff Ruben Marté’s jail commander, Kyle Gibbons, has addressed both the county council and county commissioners at recent meetings of those elected bodies. His basic message: “We have an obligation to people here now.” Continue reading “Committee on jail’s future gets tweaks, commander says: “We have an obligation to people here now.””

2023 election notebook: $190K raised in 2022 by Bloomington mayoral campaigns

Wednesday at noon was the deadline for political campaign committees to file their finance paperwork—the CFA-4.

Hitting that deadline were all three declared candidates for mayor of Bloomington: Don Griffin, Susan Sandberg, and Kerry Thomson.

Raising the most was Thomson with $92,828. That’s more than three times what each of the other two candidates raised.

Griffin raised $25,987 which was just a little more than Sandberg’s $25,217.

With his mid-December fundraising launch, compared to mid-summer for Thomson and Sandberg, Griffin got the latest start of the three. They’re all competing for the nomination of Democratic Party in the May 2 primary.

There’s still time for candidates to declare a candidacy for either major party’s nomination—that deadline is Feb. 3 at noon.

Griffin’s later start came only after incumbent mayor John Hamilton announced in mid-November he would not be seeking reelection to a third term.

Added to the amounts raised by the three declared candidates for mayor, Hamilton’s roughly $45,000 brings the total amount generated by Bloomington mayoral campaigns in 2022 to about $190,000. Continue reading “2023 election notebook: $190K raised in 2022 by Bloomington mayoral campaigns”

Decision on Showers building purchase postponed by Bloomington city council until Jan. 25

Left is the existing 3rd Street Bloomington police station. Right is the western part of the former Showers Brothers factory building currently owned by CFC properties.

A decision on an $8.75-million real estate deal to expand the footprint of city hall inside its existing building has been postponed by Bloomington’s city council.

What has been delayed until next week is a decision to approve the Bloomington redevelopment commission’s purchase agreement for the western part of the former Showers Brothers factory building that houses city hall.

It’s part of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s plan to put both the city’s main police station and fire department administration in the same historic city hall building. The proposed move is part of a bigger plan estimated at over $30-million—which includes reconstructing the flood-damaged Fire Station #1 and remodeling Fire Station #3.

Wednesday’s vote, which was unanimous among the eight councilmembers present, came after more than two hours of deliberations.

Absent was Jim Sims, who in early December described as “a joke” a “Plan B” alternative, which involves just renovation of the existing 3rd Street police station.

The approval of the building purchase is part of the same agenda item as the ordinance that appropriates the proceeds of $29.5 million in bonds that have already been issued. Based on the wording of the bond issuance, the proceeds have to be used for public safety purposes.

Postponement came at the point in the meeting when Ron Smith moved an amendment that would remove from the appropriation ordinance the reference to the building purchase. The amendment  would also prohibit use of the bond proceeds for purchase of the Showers building.

Based on their comments at Wednesday’s meeting and previous meetings, two councilmembers sound like they’re firmly in support of the Showers building purchase, three are firmly opposed, and three somewhat undecided, even if they’re leaning in one direction or another. Continue reading “Decision on Showers building purchase postponed by Bloomington city council until Jan. 25”

Strategic plan for Bloomington Transit calls for collaboration, extending service beyond city limits

The big news out of Bloomington Transit’s (BT’s) regular board meeting on Tuesday was the unanimous adoption of a strategic plan.

It was developed with help from consultant Foursquare ITP, under a $100,000 contract.

An item on Tuesday’s agenda with a much bigger price tag was the $7.9 million approval of a purchase order with Gillig Corporation for eight battery-electric buses.

But the electric bus purchase order intersects with at least two of the four initiatives that are listed out in the strategic plan: partnerships and engagement (Initiative 1); and modernization of operations (Initiative 2). Continue reading “Strategic plan for Bloomington Transit calls for collaboration, extending service beyond city limits”

Park Cannon’s MLK Day message: Keep Knocking—it’s nonviolent, direct action

On Monday evening, Georgia state representative Park Cannon addressed a packed house at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.

“Today marks 662 days since I spent five hours in the Fulton County Jail for knocking on the governor’s door,” she told the crowd, which had assembled for the city’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday celebration.

Her talk drew on the episode at the governor’s door for its title: “Keep Knocking.”

Cannon also posed two questions for the crowd:

Do you have a deep understanding of what it means to move towards shared liberation?
Have you ever provided space for reflection and processing of grief, and injustice?

Continue reading “Park Cannon’s MLK Day message: Keep Knocking—it’s nonviolent, direct action”