Bloomington’s Seminary Park to get 5 new lights

Seminary Park, on the south side of 2nd Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street, will be getting five new LED lights.

They’ll be placed at locations throughout the park, replacing the non-working or broken off “acorn style” fixtures currently there.

The $29,565 contract with ESL/Spectrum, an Indianapolis firm, was approved by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) at its regular Monday meeting. Monday’s approval covers just the hardware, not the installation of the lights.

Assistant city attorney Larry Allen told the RDC members that they’d be asked to approve the cost of labor for the installation at a future meeting.

The fixtures are described in the meeting information packet as “dark-sky friendly,” which means that they will be shielded from directing light upwards.

Seminary Park is within the geographic boundaries of Bloomington’s consolidated tax increment finance (TIF) district. That means the RDC can use TIF revenue to pay for the capital project.

Given that the lights are in a public park, why doesn’t the parks and recreation department pay for the new lights?

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, Allen wrote that departments will typically flag potential projects that might be suitable for TIF funding. After that, the city’s controller and the legal department will review the project to confirm that it’s in fact eligible for TIF funding before it is proposed to the RDC.

After a project is proposed to the RDC, the RDC has a two-step process, Allen wrote. The first step is to vote on a project review form. The second step is to approve the project itself—funding, contracts, and the like.

The project review form for the Seminary Park lighting project was approved by the board at its Dec. 6, 2021 meeting.

But the history of the Seminary Park lighting project dates back a ways. Allen indicated that in connection with the consolidation of Bloomington’s TIF districts, a Seminary Park project was proposed, which included more than just lighting. When the parks department came forward with the lighting project last year, it was treated as a new project, because of the amount of time that had elapsed since the consolidation of TIF districts, Allen wrote.

Bloomington’s RDC has held its first two meetings of 2022 with just four members. The normally five-member group lost Nick Kappas at the start of the year, when he moved outside the city limits. Bloomington RDC members are required to be city residents.

Kappas’s seat on the RDC is appointed by the city council. It is councilmembers Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Dave Rollo, and Susan Sandberg who will make the initial recommendation to the city council for the next appointment to the RDC.

It’s those three councilmembers, because they are the three appointees to Interview Committee C, made by council president Sandberg last week. The appointments came when the dust had settled after the council’s debate last week over the existence of standing committees.

Before 2020, the council had used three-member interview committees to review applications and interview potential appointees to various boards and commissions. The interview committees were restored by the council’s action last week.

Each of the three committees has its own assigned raft of boards and commissions for which it is supposed to make recommendations. Among the responsibilities for Interview Committee C is Bloomington’s RDC.