BT Roundup: mid-June for Uber/Lyft night runs, new bus routes in August, strategic plan contract OK’d, 8 new electric buses requested, still 14 drivers short

Bloomington Transit (BT) is confronting several short-term challenges even as it looks ahead to a future flush with new revenue.

The new revenue will come from the city of Bloomington’s planned allocation to BT using some of extra money from the local income tax increase that was enacted by the city council two weeks ago.

The range of short- and long-term issues was evident at Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the BT board.
Continue reading “BT Roundup: mid-June for Uber/Lyft night runs, new bus routes in August, strategic plan contract OK’d, 8 new electric buses requested, still 14 drivers short”

Bloomington OKs 213 new apartments, 340 bedrooms on north side

At its Monday evening meeting, Bloomington’s plan commission approved the site plan for the construction of 213 new apartments on the northeast side of the roundabout at 17th Street and Arlington Road.

The project to be built by MHG Apartments takes up about 7 acres of land, which is made up of a half dozen different parcels.

It’s a four-story multi-family building that will be home to the 213 new units with their combined 340 bedrooms. The breakdown on the mix of sizes is: 93 one-bedroom units; 113 two-bedroom units, and 7 three-bedroom units.

The plan commission’s vote was 7–1 with dissent from Ron Smith, the city council’s representative to the plan commission.

Smith objected to what he described as the “monolithic” character of the building. “I worry that we have a lot of monolithic apartment complexes in town,” Smith said. Continue reading “Bloomington OKs 213 new apartments, 340 bedrooms on north side”

Pandemic news: Monroe County could see “medium” level of community spread on next map update

The number of daily COVID-19 cases recorded in Monroe County has grown steadily in the second week of May after leveling off in late April.

Through May 13, the rolling 7-day average of daily cases in Monroe County stands at about 42.

That is greater than 39.9—which is Monroe County’s daily average equivalent of the 200 cases-per-week per-100,000 population metric used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a threshold for its community spread levels.

The current CDC map still pegs the community spread of the virus In Monroe County at a “low” level—which is the lowest of its three categories (low, medium, and high).

But by Thursday (May 19), when the CDC map will be updated based on numbers through Wednesday, Monroe County’s category could change to “medium.” Continue reading “Pandemic news: Monroe County could see “medium” level of community spread on next map update”

Bloomington announcement on broadband fiber deal leaves some questions unanswered

It’s a planned $50 million investment to create a fiber-to-the-home network for most of Bloomington.

That’s the way an announcement from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s office on Friday afternoon framed some local broadband internet access news.

According to the city of Bloomington news release, the company making the $50 million investment is Meridiam, which is a global firm focused on infrastructure development. If all goes as described in Friday’s news release, construction of the network could start before the end of 2022.

According to Friday’s news release, a contract with an unnamed internet service provider (ISP) would ensure that Meridiam’s network will offer symmetric service (equal upload and download) of at least 1 gigabit per second everywhere in Meridiam’s Bloomington network.

Based on Friday’s news release, the city of Bloomington will have to bring a lot to the table as well. Continue reading “Bloomington announcement on broadband fiber deal leaves some questions unanswered”

Photos: Great blue heron catches fish, elects to eat with no review of provisional palate

Wildlife drama unfolded Saturday evening at Miller-Showers Park, which is wedged between Walnut Street and College Avenue on Bloomington’s north side.

In the early evening hours, a great blue heron flew in and landed near the east bank of the southernmost stormwater detention pond, towards the spillway to the next lower pond.

From there the bird worked its way along the bank southward, catching and eating at least one pretty big fish, which looked like a largemouth bass.

The great blue endured repeated harassment from a female redwing blackbird, which would flutter about, at times landing on the bigger bird’s back. The great blue was unperturbed.

Also counted as part of the evening’s wildlife inventory at Miller-Showers Park was a mother mallard, with at least four ducklings in tow. A muskrat carved a V-shape in the water as it swam along the surface from north to south across the pond.

Saturday’s evening at the park offered good weather for wildlife viewing—clear skies around 80 F degrees with winds out of the southeast at 7 mph. More photos below. Continue reading “Photos: Great blue heron catches fish, elects to eat with no review of provisional palate”

Monroe County election board OKs 19 provisional ballots: “I love it when we get to accept it!”

At its Friday meeting, the three-member Monroe County election board voted to accept as valid 19 out of the 32 provisional ballots from the Tuesday, May 3 primary elections.

Provisional ballots are those that are cast by a voter, but set aside due to some question about whether they are valid. Provisional ballots allow a voter to make their choices for candidates, without requiring Election Day poll workers, in circumstances that might be hectic, to make a final decision on validity

Friday’s meeting was set to start at 12:01 p.m. Continue reading “Monroe County election board OKs 19 provisional ballots: “I love it when we get to accept it!””

Post-primary: Work continues on Monroe County election operations building, prep for fall election

view of the corner of a concrete block building in the process of getting painted. The left wall is beige. The right wall is the original color, which was blue.
View to the northwest of the Monroe County’s election operations building at the corner of 3rd and Walnut streets around midday on May 12, 2022.

A little more than a week after Tuesday’s primary elections concluded in Monroe County, work has started on preparation for voting in the Nov. 8 general election.

On Thursday morning, the county’s new election operations building, at the corner of 3rd and Walnut streets, started a planned cosmetic change.

By midday on Thursday, the building was halfway through its transformation from an iconic blue, reflecting its heritage as a NAPA auto parts store, to a more subdued earth tone.

The painting work is being done by Premier Painting, under a $9,850 contract approved by county commissioners in early March. Continue reading “Post-primary: Work continues on Monroe County election operations building, prep for fall election”

2023 budget notebook: Historic inflation, impact on pay get first look by Monroe County councilors

The past practice used by Monroe County to make a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for employees could lead to a historic fiscal impact on the 2023 budget.

That’s because the county’s fiscal body—the seven-member county council—has typically tried to key its COLA to the percentage increase in the consumer price index (CPI) between the previous December and the December before that.

That number is already in the books: 7.5 percent. That’s the percentage increase in the US Bureau of Labor Statistics midwest urban CPI between December 2020 and December 2021.

And it’s the biggest December-to-December percentage increase in the CPI since 1979 to 1980, when inflation was at 12.2 percent.

The question of how to approach employee compensation for next year’s budget got some initial discussion at the county council’s Tuesday night meeting. Continue reading “2023 budget notebook: Historic inflation, impact on pay get first look by Monroe County councilors”

Bloomington BPW affirms order to AT&T: Take gear off Johnson’s Creamery smokestack by May 31

At its Tuesday evening meeting, Bloomington’s board of public works voted to affirm an order from the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department, which requires AT&T to remove its communications equipment from near the top of the Johnson’s Creamery smokestack—by midnight on May 31.

The removal of AT&T’s equipment will help set the stage for the owner’s partial demolition of the smokestack—from 140 feet down to 60 feet. The building, with its smokestack, is owned by Peerless Development.

The partial demolition was ordered by HAND because an engineering study determined the smokestack is unsafe.

If AT&T doesn’t comply with the order to vacate, it could face a daily fine of $500 from the city of Bloomington. Continue reading “Bloomington BPW affirms order to AT&T: Take gear off Johnson’s Creamery smokestack by May 31”

Pandemic notebook: Monroe County case numbers leveling off, hospitalizations still low

The number of daily COVID-19 cases recorded in Monroe County looks like it has leveled off after a steady, if not dramatic climb.

The guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now peg the community spread of the virus In Monroe County at a “low” level—which is the lowest of its three categories (low, medium, and high).

Last week, the CDC reported Monroe County at a “medium” spread level, likely based on release of historical data from the state of Indiana to the CDC—which did not distribute the cases to their respective dates of testing.

That’s an issue that was addressed by Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill at last week’s board of health meeting. “We had a jump a couple of weeks ago—the state had like a ‘data dump’. So it was old reports that got entered, and those got calculated into everything,” Caudill said.

The county’s levels were rising at the time, but they were not at the level that would have indicated a “medium” level of spread, Caudill said. “Even though our numbers were rising, they weren’t necessarily at that level.”

Caudill was still cautious, and pointed out the impact of various social gatherings related to Indiana University graduation events could still be felt.

The number of gene copies of COVID-19 measured in Bloomington’s waste water is showing high levels, Caudill said, and warrants close monitoring.

The current rolling daily average of COVID-19 cases in Monroe County looks like it has leveled off in the low 30s.

Hospitalizations in Monroe County remain low. Indiana’s Health District 8, which is made up of 7 counties including Monroe, had a census of 9 COVID-19 patients on Monday this week. That’s two more than at the end of April. But that compares to more than 170 at the peak of the pandemic.

District 8 includes Monroe, Brown, Bartholomew, Lawrence, Jackson, Orange and Washington counties. Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Monroe County case numbers leveling off, hospitalizations still low”