Both sides now charged in year-old July 4 Lake Monroe incident described as “attempted lynching”

A little more than a year ago, Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant charged two men in connection with a July 4 incident, which then-Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker described at the time as an “attempted lynching.”

B Square file photo of Vauhxx Booker at a news conference in People’s Park in Bloomington on July 10, 2020, a week after the incident at Lake Monroe.

Booker has now been charged as well, by a special prosecutor who was appointed to handle the cases of Booker’s alleged assailants, Sean M. Purdy and Jerry Edward Cox, II.

The special prosecutor is Sonia Leerkamp, a former prosecutor for Hamilton County.

The charges against Booker appeared on Indiana’s public court records system late Friday afternoon.

Booker is charged with two offenses: battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, which is a felony; and criminal trespass, which is a misdemeanor.

Purdy and Cox were charged a year ago by Oliphant with the felonies of battery and criminal confinement or aiding in confinement. Video footage of the incident posted on Facebook and other social media shows Purdy holding Booker down against a tree.

The Monroe County branch of the NAACP released a statement Friday evening reacting to the charges.

The NAACP statement concludes: “The Monroe County Branch of the NAACP condemns the prosecution of Vauhxx Booker, demands that the charges against him be dropped immediately, and calls on special prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp to resign.”
Continue reading “Both sides now charged in year-old July 4 Lake Monroe incident described as “attempted lynching””

Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue

A two-person team from the Baker Tilly accounting firm, hired by Monroe County’s board of commissioners to review Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan, presented its report to the county council on Tuesday night.

Baker Tilly found that in Year 2, the impact on local income tax (LIT) revenue to Monroe County government would be negative $1.4 million. That’s a $866,000 bigger impact than Reedy Financial Group reported in Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan. Reedy analyzed the impact as negative $534,694.

Paige Sansone and Deen Rogers, the accountants from Baker Tilly who did the work for the county, noted a handful of other issues with Bloomington’s fiscal plan, none of which had a significant financial impact. Continue reading “Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue”

CDC: Wear a mask indoors in Monroe County, Indiana even if fully vaccinated

Based on new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, even Monroe County residents who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus should wear a face covering when they’re in public indoor settings.

This screen shot of the CDC map links to the map.

The CDC guidance, released on July 27, recommends that people wear a face covering indoors, if it’s in a public setting and if it’s in a county where there is “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus.

Monroe County is classified as having “substantial” transmission, because it has 52.55 new cases per 100,000 population in the last 7 days. That’s just over the lower threshold for the “substantial” category, which starts at 50 new cases per 100,000 and goes up to 99.99 cases.

The other criterion used by the CDC to determine transmission categories is the rolling positivity rate for tests. The CDC reports a positivity rate of 6.54 percent for Monroe County, which would put it in the “moderate” transmission category, which goes from 5 percent to 7.99 percent. But the CDC takes the worse of the two categories to categorize each county. Continue reading “CDC: Wear a mask indoors in Monroe County, Indiana even if fully vaccinated”

Bloomington expands private security to 7 more parks across city, including B-Line Trail

Private unarmed security patrols will now be checking a total of eight parks in Bloomington, a collection that extends a bit farther, north-to-south, than the extent of the B-Line Trail.

The $52,500 contract addendum with Marshall Security, to cover the additional parks, was approved by Bloomington’s board of park commissioners at its Tuesday afternoon meeting.

That brings the total amount of the contract with Marshall to $113,000. The money is being drawn from CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds.

At their June meeting, park commissioners approved the initial $60,588 contract, which included just Switchyard Park, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day of the week. The reason given for the Switchyard Park security was an increase in after-hours vandalism and substance use, and overnight camping.

For the additional parks and the trail, the additional private security is needed because of “a number of incidents that have occurred lately on both the B-Line trail and in several other…core corridor parks around the downtown area,” according to Tim Street, who’s operations and development division director for Bloomington parks and recreation.

The list of parks to be patrolled by Marshall is now: Switchyard Park, RCA Park, Seminary Park, B-Line Trail, Building Trades Park, Rev Ernest D. Butler Park, Crestmont Park, Miller-Showers Park, and Waldron Hill Buskirk Park. Continue reading “Bloomington expands private security to 7 more parks across city, including B-Line Trail”

Draft 2022 Bloomington Transit budget would bump pay by 3 percent, recruitment of drivers a worry

At just a smidgen over $15 million, Bloomington Transit’s preliminary budget for 2022 is about 3.7 percent more than last year’s approved total amount.

That’s the number that Bloomington Transit’s general manager Lew May presented to BT’s five-member board at its meeting last Tuesday.

Some of that increase is due to an increase in employee compensation. The preliminary budget is based on a 3-percent increase in wages. How much the increase actually turns out to be will depend on the outcome of negotiations with the drivers, who are represented by AFSCME Local 613.

Those negotiations will need to take place over the next few months, because BT’s labor agreement ends on Dec. 31, 2021.

The timing for the back-and-forth between BT and drivers will coincide broadly with BT’s transition from May’s leadership, who has served 22 years as general manager, to John Connell’s, who was the board’s pick last week to succeed May. Connell is now operations manager for the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation.

BT’s board will likely vote on the final budget at its August meeting. The budget will then be presented to Bloomington’s city council for review and approval, in a separate vote from the city’s own budget.

The collective bargaining agreement could be a factor in addressing BT’s current shortage of drivers. A June job fair attracted no new applicants to fill the 12 positions that BT is currently short. Continue reading “Draft 2022 Bloomington Transit budget would bump pay by 3 percent, recruitment of drivers a worry”

Photos: Bird, Butterflies, Bees

It’s monarch butterfly season in downtown Bloomington.

That’s because the pollinator plantings in the flower beds at the intersections of Bloomington’s downtown courthouse square are working their magic again this year.

Here’s some photos, all taken in the last week or so.

I threw in the goldfinch, because he was flitting around the courthouse grounds when I had my camera out. Besides butterflies and the goldfinch, there’s also a bunch of shots of bumble bees. On the courthouse square…bees. Bees….square. That’s an easy joke just half a block away from where I live. Enjoy.
Continue reading “Photos: Bird, Butterflies, Bees”

11 new firefighters added to Bloomington department, some will help staff temporary location

On Friday afternoon at the bottom of the grassy landscaped tiers in front Bloomington’s city hall, Devin Owens tore open an envelope and read aloud the contents: “Probationary firefighter Owens. I am assigned to Black Shift Station 1.”

The announcement earned a round of applause from a gathering of about 60 people.

The ritual reading aloud of station assignments by Owens and 10 other new firefighters came after they were sworn in by city clerk Nicole Bolden.

Fire chief Jason Moore, deputy chief Jayme Washel, battalion chief for training Tania Daffron, and a couple of dozen other firefighters attended the ceremony, as did Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, deputy mayor Don Griffin and several other city staff.

At 11 members, it’s the largest and most diverse recruiting class ever, Moore told The B Square.

The station to which Owens was assigned is currently closed, due to around a half million dollars worth of damage, which it sustained during the June 18–19 flooding. Continue reading “11 new firefighters added to Bloomington department, some will help staff temporary location”

Bloomington climate trends could mean wetter summers, higher lake levels

Three decades from now, Indiana is forecast to see between 6 and 8 percent more rainfall than it averaged in the past, depending on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions during the lead-up to mid-century.

That’s according to a 2018 report from the Purdue Climate Change Research Center.

According to the report, in southern Indiana, the increased precipitation is predicted to come more in the winter and spring months.

But based on records of precipitation and the water levels at Lake Monroe in the past two and a half decades, southern Indiana looks like it could be seeing more rain in the first half of summer.

Earlier this week, the Indianapolis office of the National Weather Service tweeted out a link to a report on the anomaly of this summer’s first half: It has been way wetter than normal.

The abnormal amount of region-wide rainfall has caused high water on Lake Monroe. Last week Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources closed the swim beaches at the lake’s Fairfax SRA and Paynetown SRA and they’ve stayed closed.

Rainfall and lake levels are related, of course. And over the last quarter century, both seem to be showing an upward trend for this time of year. Continue reading “Bloomington climate trends could mean wetter summers, higher lake levels”

Survey: Bloomington renters more likely than homeowners to favor supportive housing for the homeless; overall trend upward

Statistically speaking, Bloomington’s renters are significantly more likely than the city’s homeowners to favor the provision of supportive housing to those who are experiencing homelessness.

Image links to the slide deck for the July 21, 2021 NRC presentation to the Bloomington city council.

That’s according to results from a community survey done by Polco’s National Research Center (NRC), Inc..

Survey results were presented to Bloomington’s city council at its regular Wednesday meeting.

Of renters who responded to the survey, 99 percent said that they strongly or somewhat support providing assistance in the form of supportive housing.

At 88 percent, a clear majority of homeowners also favor such support, but the 11-point difference is significant, according to NRC.

That’s one of the nuggets that comes to the surface when the survey results are parsed into a spreadsheet that can be sorted and filtered for the statistically significant differences in demographic categories—like homeownership, time of residency, student status, gender, and age.

The demographic breakdowns were not a highlight of the presentation given to the city council by Damema Mann, who is director of national engagement for NRC Polco.

Highlighted on one of Mann’s slides was the 12-point increase in favor of the city giving housing assistance to those experiencing homelessness. In 2019, 63 percent of respondents said they were strongly in favor of supportive housing, compared to 75 percent in 2021.

The percentage of respondents who said homelessness is a challenge for Bloomington increased by 18 points, from 56 percent in 2019 to 74 percent in 2021. Continue reading “Survey: Bloomington renters more likely than homeowners to favor supportive housing for the homeless; overall trend upward”

Bloomington bus news: Temporary Route 10 for new hospital; possible pilot could trade Route 8 for Uber/Lyft-type service

Starting this fall, people who need to make a trip within a quarter mile of Bloomington Transit’s Route 8 bus line might be able to manage that with an app like Uber or Lyft, but pay only a regular $1 public bus fare.

The regular fixed-route service on Route 8, which runs north-south along the College Mall corridor on the east side of town, would not be available during the pilot.

A BT board decision on that pilot program will come at the board’s August meeting, after a public hearing at the downtown transit center, at 3rd and Walnut streets.

The public hearing on replacement of Route 8 with Uber/Lyft-type service is set for July 27 at 6:30 p.m.

At its Tuesday meeting, the five-member Bloomington Transit board gave the go-ahead to BT staff to solicit interest and quotes from service providers like Uber and Lyft on providing the on-demand service.

If the on-demand service is implemented—which is called “micro-transit” in the public transportation business—it would start in September or October and run for a year.

While a decision on a micro-transit pilot is still not final, the BT board did give the staff a green light to move ahead on implementing a new temporary Route 10. The new route would provide regular bus service to the new hospital location for IU Health on the SR 46 bypass.

Route 10 would run from the downtown transit center up to 10th Street and along 10th Street to the SR 46 bypass. Service on Route 10 would start in November, which coincides with the opening of IU Health’s new hospital. Continue reading “Bloomington bus news: Temporary Route 10 for new hospital; possible pilot could trade Route 8 for Uber/Lyft-type service”