Repair and restoration of Monroe County’s Alexander Memorial at the southeast corner of the downtown courthouse square is set to get started on Monday.
That means downtown visitors might notice a big crane hoisting big panels of limestone into place. It also means that eight fewer parking spaces will be available on the eastern side of the square.
Also on Monday, just southeast of the Alexander Memorial on Kirkwood Avenue, the city of Bloomington’s department of public works will start setting up the yellow bollards that will close off portions of Kirkwood Avenue to motor vehicle traffic.
The street closure program is meant to give restaurants and retail stores a way to expand their capacity.
The Kirkwood closure, for the western half of the block between Washington and Walnut streets, will last through the end of October, based on the city council’s approval in the third week of January.
Also to be closed off are the two blocks at the eastern end of Kirkwood, between Indiana Avenue and Dunn Street.
That means motorists who are looking to get from the western edge of campus across town will need to choose a different east-west route.
Both of those relatively significant bits of news were relayed at Tuesday’s meeting of Bloomington’s three-member board of public works.
Why did the restoration of the 35-foot tall Alexander Memorial, a monument “to the soldiers of all wars,” get a mention at Tuesday’s meeting? It’s because the board of public works was asked to approve the closure of the sidewalk along the eastern side of the courthouse, in connection with the restoration work.
The sidewalk needs to be closed, because a crane will be swinging 3,500-pound limestone panels over the sidewalk. The sidewalk is supposed to be closed only during the working day. The barricades that will block the sidewalk are supposed to be removed at the end of each work day and on weekends.
The fact that the restoration work is needed and the plans to undertake the work are fairly well known. In 2019, the monument’s restoration was originally a part of the county’s proposed general obligation (GO) bond issuance, and was pegged at a total cost of $207,000.
Possibly not as well known is one cause of the monument’s deterioration. According to a memo to the Bloomington board of works from Monroe County building and facilities manager Greg Crohn:
Approximately thirty-five years ago, the Monroe County Commissioners Office contracted with a local vendor to clean the Alexander Veterans Monument located on the south east corner of the lawn. Due to a cleaning product used by the vendor, much of the monument’s limestone surface was irreversibly damaged.
When the city council approved this year’s Kirkwood closure in the third week of January, it got unanimous approval. Restaurants that want to use the public right-of-way to serve customers have to pay a new fee, under this year’s city council ordinance.
But during public commentary the question was raised: Does this year’s street closure, even factoring in the fees that restaurants have to pay, amount to a subsidy of some downtown Bloomington restaurants compared to restaurants in other parts of town?
In the coming weeks, elsewhere in the downtown, visitors might also notice a few parking spaces here and there that are blocked off with orange barriers as a part of the “parklet” program. Restaurants that sign up and pay the $1,250 per space can use the space to set up tables for outdoor dining.
Jane Kupersmith, Bloomington’s assistant director of economic and sustainable development, responded to an emailed question from The B Square about the Kirkwood closures and parklets this year. Kupersmith wrote that there will be fewer parklets than last year, but added that there is “excitement on the part of the participants.”
About the businesses that dropped out, Kupersmith wrote that some didn’t want to pay the fee or didn’t want the extra staffing burden of adding tables—given existing challenges in hiring and retaining staff. Kupersmith wrapped up by saying there’s lots of enthusiasm for the season to start.
At Tuesday’s meeting, public works director Adam Wason gave the board a quick update on the status of pothole repair. This season, the city has patched 2,483 potholes, which Wason called “a pretty good effort so far this year.”
Wason also gave the phone number to call to report a pothole that needs to be filled: 812-349-3448.
Wason also gave an update on pet adoption numbers—which he said have been pretty steady and haven’t been down too much during the pandemic.
Responding to an emailed question from the B Square, animal care and control director Virgil Sauder wrote that the city of Bloomington’s animal shelter is open for visitations by appointment on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
The shelter is open on Fridays for walk-ins from noon to 4 p.m., Sauder said. But the shelter limits the number of people who are in the shelter at any one time—the hallways and visitation rooms are narrow. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sauder wrote, “We strongly encourage continuing to mask during your visit.”
Related to the animal shelter operations was a vignette shared at Tuesday’s meeting by board of public works member Kyla Cox Deckard.
“This past weekend I had found a dog in my backyard and had to call the animal shelter. And they had the lost report on file,” Cox Deckard said.
Cox Deckard concluded, “So Paul, the dog, was reunited with his family, thanks to the animal shelter!”