A pedestrian connection between the intersection of Country Club Drive and Rogers Street, heading southward towards the new library branch, is part of the list of capital projects to be funded with a $3.1-million bond issuance from Monroe County.
The bond issuance was given approval by the Monroe County council at its Tuesday meeting. The county commissioners had signed off on the bonds six weeks earlier, on Sept. 1.
The annual issuance of bonds, to pay for a collection of capital projects, is an approach that the county government has taken for the last few years.
Besides $250,000 for the Rogers corridor sidewalk project, which will start with design work, this year’s list of bond projects includes: Phase 2 health building renovation; virtual cluster upgrade; non-law-enforcement vehicles; solar infrastructure; a vacuum truck; a mini excavator; a grader; a low boy; trail connections; and park renovations.
Dissenting on Tuesday’s vote was councilor Marty Hawk, the lone Republican on the seven-member county council. As Hawk put it, “It should come as no surprise: I always am reluctant to go to the public, to tell them we do not have the money to provide for this, about $3 million, when indeed, I think that we do.”
Hawk also pointed to the fact that the property tax that gets imposed, in order to pay for the bonds, is not subject to the maximum levy on a property. The maximum is sometimes called the “frozen levy”. For any property owner, Hawk said, “This is just going to be an additional tax.”
In 2019, it was not just the bonding strategy to which Hawk objected. She also was opposed to one of the projects on the list to be funded with bonds that year—the acquisition of quarry land near an EPA Superfund site
Hawk told The B Square that this year, she did not have significant objections to any of the projects, although she had questioned whether the vacuum truck was eligible. The truck will serve the county’s stormwater operations, which are funded through stormwater fees paid by non-city residents. The bond will be paid through a tax on property owners in all parts of the county.
The sidewalk connection to Batchelor Middle School had solid support from county councilors, including Hawk, dating back to mid-summer discussions about this year’s bond projects.
The connection to the planned new Monroe County Public Library branch is one argument cited by councilors in favor of installing a sidewalk in the Rogers corridor.
The new library branch is expected to start construction later this year and open in early 2023. In June, the county council approved issuance of a $6-million bond for the project. The $10.6-million construction contract was awarded by the MCPL board to Strauser Construction.
Councilor Trent Deckard said at a June 22 meeting about the location of the new library, “Sidewalks will definitely be needed. If you go north of there to the Broadview neighborhood, you will see city property that has no sidewalks, and there’s constant movement in the area.” Deckard added, “That area is in between a hub of trail systems, and a grocery store, and a trailer park, and about three neighborhoods at least.”
At the June 22 meeting, Hawk said, “We know that many younger people will be wanting to get to that library.” She continued, “Even a couple of years ago, when we were talking about it, they were excited for that library.”
Hawk added, “And I do not think we dare delay getting a sidewalk in place. So whatever we have to do, to start moving forward on that. Because we know the library’s not ready yet—but we cannot wait until the library is built, to plan for a sidewalk.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilor Cheryl Munson placed the timeline for the sidewalk’s need way earlier than the upcoming library branch opening. “There has been a need for this. And it’s been a problem since the mid-1980s,” Munson said. She added, “It’s time to get this fixed.”
Munson told The B Square this week that when her own children attended Batchelor Middle School, they would walk down Rogers Street to visit their friends. “So, over the course of seven years, I could worry about them walking on South Rogers Street.”
The area in question is part of Bloomington annexation Area 1B, which means it will become a part of the city of Bloomington on Jan. 1, 2024, unless the remonstrance activity that’s currently underway is successful.
At the June 22 meeting, president of the county board of commissioners Julie Thomas acknowledged the annexation issue. “Yes, some of that area is in the area proposed for annexation,” Thomas said. She continued, “But you know, that’s something that hangs over our head all the time.”
Thomas, too, pointed to the addition of the library at the Bachelor Middle School campus area. “I think it’s really important to have some sort of connector for folks who are coming from the area of Country Club and Rogers.”
During public commentary on Tuesday, Jacki Porter, a teacher at Batchelor Middle School weighed in supporting the sidewalk project. “I’m hoping…before I retire, I want to see a sidewalk down that street all the way from Country Club all the way to the school.”
Responding to Porter was county council president Eric Spoonmore, who said that part of the county is in his district. “I’ve heard from a number of residents in the area, particularly as it relates to school children walking in that area to and from school.” Spoonmore said, “There is a lot of interest from the public in seeing some sidewalks there.”
A sidewalk connector for the Rogers Street corridor would add to the kind of community investments in the general vicinity that were cited by supporters of a recent rezoning petition in front of the county commissioners. The requested rezoning, which was denied by commissioners in late September would have allowed for a housing development called The Trails at Robertson Farm.
A revised version of a rezone petition connected to the Clear Creek Urban proposal, from the same petitioner, Blind Squirrels, LLC, was approved by the county commissioners at its Wednesday (Oct. 13) meeting.