SCOTUS abortion ruling prompts Bloomington demonstrations

Friday morning’s Supreme Court of the United States ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, prompted around 100 people to demonstrate later that evening, at the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse square, in downtown Bloomington.

The ruling also prompted a one-man demonstration the following day at Bloomington’s farmers market.

Roe v. Wade was the 1973 SCOTUS decision that concluded abortion is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Friday’s ruling concluded that it is not a constitutional right, which means states can enact laws that prohibit abortions.

Both demonstrations included light brushes with local law enforcement officers, but no arrests were made in either case. Continue reading “SCOTUS abortion ruling prompts Bloomington demonstrations”

Monroe County commission preps for restart to convention center project maybe before year’s end

At a meeting on Friday , a question from a new member of Monroe County’s convention and visitors commission (CVC) got to the heart of a lingering issue for the Bloomington area local government officials.

“It’s my understanding that we’re looking to evaluate whether this convention center is…at a capacity that it would need to grow. Correct?” asked David Schaum.

Schaum got confirmation he was on the right track about a convention center expansion.

Schaum is the new general manager at Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina on Lake Monroe. Schaum is new not just to the general manager job at Fourwinds. He’s new to the Bloomington area, having moved here from Washington D.C.

That means Schaum has not yet been fully briefed on the political friction between the city and the county governments that has stalled the convention center expansion project for more than two years.

The project has gotten as far as a preliminary assessment of sites, with a preferred site recommended by a task force. The price tag for one proposal was around $44 million, but that’s likely increased a lot, given general inflationary pressures and supply chain issues.

About the idea of evaluating the need for an expansion, CVC chair Mike Campbell, told Schaum at Friday’s CVC meeting, “I think we’re a little past that.” Campbell serves on the CVC as associate director of Indiana Memorial Union.

Executive director of the Monroe County Convention Center, Talisha Coppock, added, “We need to grow!” At Friday’s meeting, 10 lost event bookings were reported—purely due to the limited capacity of the current convention center.

The CVC is now looking at a six-month time-frame to get the expansion project restarted.

At Friday’s meeting, the CVC voted to recommend to the seven-member county council that the 2023 budget put $75,000 of the increased innkeeper’s tax revenue towards bumping up a line item for CVC members to use to support the expansion restart. Continue reading “Monroe County commission preps for restart to convention center project maybe before year’s end”

Bloomington RDC hopes to seal deal on smell for some offices at adaptive reuse coworking project

B Square file photo of The Mill, a co-working space in Bloomington, Indiana.

Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) is hoping that a $12,000 contract with Ann-Kriss, Inc.—to paint and seal some brick and concrete surfaces in an old industrial building—will wrap up an issue with lingering odor that has beleaguered part of the roughly $5.5 million adaptive reuse project.

According to Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley, the issue with the unpleasant smell is limited to the confined space inside some of the interior offices. It has apparently not been a problem throughout the relatively open layout of the former dimension mill of the Showers Company furniture factory.

The building, which is located north of city hall in the Trades District, launched as a coworking space in 2018. The RDC leases the building to the Dimension Mill, Inc., which is a nonprofit formed to operate it.  Under the terms of the lease, DMI is paying the RDC $75,000 this year. Next year that amount goes up to $100,000.

The sealing work was described by Crowley at Tuesday’s RDC meeting as the final step of some measures that had been recommended by VET Environmental Engineering, after the company conducted some indoor air testing in early 2020 and again in early 2021. Continue reading “Bloomington RDC hopes to seal deal on smell for some offices at adaptive reuse coworking project”

First phase demolition for Hopewell: Bloomington picks Renascent for $589K job

By the end of summer, all but three of the buildings on a central Bloomington block, near the former IU Health hospital site, are set to be demolished.

It’s the area that has been named the Hopewell neighborhood.

On Tuesday evening, Bloomington’s board of public works, as well as the city’s redevelopment commission (RDC), approved the $588,755 contract with Indianapolis-based Renascent, Inc. for the demolition work.

It’s a separate demolition project from the one already underway on the west end of the former IU Health hospital site. IU Health has to demolish all the structures on the main site, except for the parking garage and the Kohr administration building, before transferring ownership to the city of Bloomington.

It’s part of a $6.5-million real estate deal. In early December last year,  IU Health moved to its new facility on the east side of town, on the SR 45/46 bypass.

The focus of the demolition work approved on Tuesday is Phase 1 East in the city’s master plan for redevelopment of the former hospital site.  It’s the block bounded by 1st and 2nd streets on the north and south, and Morton and Rogers on the east and west. The demolition contract approved on Tuesday involves property already under the city’s control. Continue reading “First phase demolition for Hopewell: Bloomington picks Renascent for $589K job”

Video: Race Across America leader hits Bloomington time point @ 11:23:40 on June 21, 2022

Late Tuesday evening, Nicole Reist cycled through Bloomington, Indiana as the overall leader in the 2022 Race Across America—a 3,079-mile west-to-east bicycle race across the United States.

Racers start in Oceanside, California, and finish in Annapolis, Maryland.

Reist has been leading the race since La Veta, Colorado, which was the 1,181.9-mile mark. She hit Bloomington’s time check at 11:23:40 p.m.. That was about seven hours later than her pace a couple days earlier had projected her to hit town. Her speed slowed a bit, because she took more time off the bike in Illinois than she had up to that point. Continue reading “Video: Race Across America leader hits Bloomington time point @ 11:23:40 on June 21, 2022”

June 27 start for Uber/Lyft in place of Bloomington bus night runs, Aug. 15 start for new fixed routes

Bloomington Transit’s (BT’s) new optimized bus routes will finally debut on Aug. 15 this year.

That’s the result of BT board action at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The routes were supposed to roll out two years ago, in fall 2020, but that launch date was delayed until this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the new routes to be implemented later this fall will be a lot different from those recommended by BT’s consultant three years ago.

Also getting a mention at Tuesday’s board meeting was the June 27 launch of subsidized rides on Uber or Lyft  as a replacement for night service (9 p.m. to midnight) on several BT fixed routes. The board had previously approved the service change. The only question had been the start date.

Under terms of the late-night service, which is branded as “BT Late Night,” passengers pay the usual $1 fare, with the difference, up to $19, paid by BT. Rides have to start and end inside a prescribed area of the city, which does not include chunks of the Indiana University campus, because fixed route bus service will continue for those parts of town.

The Uber/Lyft subsidized service for late evening hours was originally supposed to start on May 9, right after Indiana University’s spring semester ended. But details related to the technology platform took longer than expected to iron out.

At its Tuesday meeting, BT’s five-member board touched on several other familiar topics. Continue reading “June 27 start for Uber/Lyft in place of Bloomington bus night runs, Aug. 15 start for new fixed routes”

Tuesday evening: Leader in cross-country bicycle race to cruise through Bloomington

Sometime early Tuesday evening, the leader in the Race Across America (RAAM), is projected to pedal through Bloomington, Indiana.

The RAAM is a 3,079-mile west-to-east bicycle race across the United States.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, the overall leader was Nicole Reist, who has solid credentials, as the RAAM’s first woman finisher in 2016 and 2018.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, Reist had 2,045.5 miles behind her, after starting in Oceanside, California six days earlier. That left 337.7 until the Bloomington time stop, and another 1,033.5 miles to go until the finish line in Annapolis, Maryland. Continue reading “Tuesday evening: Leader in cross-country bicycle race to cruise through Bloomington”

Bloomington awards $330K in socials services funds, Jack Hopkins total now $5.8 million since 1993

At its regular Wednesday meeting last week, Bloomington’s city council approved a total of $339,000 in grants, to 28 different projects for which local non-profits had requested funding.

These are the top 10 Jack Hopkins social services awards by amount of the grant. A complete table appears below.

The funding is described by the city as supporting projects that “make a difference in the lives of city residents in need.”

The annual allocation of social services funding has been made since 1993. Counting this year, about $5.8 million has been awarded, compared to around $12 million that has been requested.

This year, a total of $563,516 was requested for 32 different projects.

The top five awards were to: St. Vincent de Paul for a utility assistance program ($30,000); Boys and Girls Clubs of Bloomington for accessibility improvements for Crestmont youth with disabilities ($23,005); Monroe County United Ministries to pay for a new service van ($23,000); Indiana Recovery Alliance to pay for a syringe service program coordinator position ($21,600); and HealthNet Inc. to pay for rent ($20,875).

This year’s $7,500 award to Planned Parenthood drew objection during the meeting’s public comment time, because the nonprofit also provides abortion services. This year’s Jack Hopkins award is to fund the contraceptives for the non-profit’s safety net family planning services. Continue reading “Bloomington awards $330K in socials services funds, Jack Hopkins total now $5.8 million since 1993”

Bloomington redistricting advisory commission finally appointed, has 12 weeks to complete first task

Nearly 18 months after it was supposed to be seated, a citizens redistricting advisory commission has been appointed by Bloomington’s city council.

99-year-old Liberty silver dollar used for coin flip to determine membership on redistricting advisory commission.

Their task is to recommend to the city council new boundaries for the six city council districts, to even out the population imbalances that might have resulted from the 2020 census.

The five members of the new commission were chosen by the council’s selection committee, which met early Friday morning to determine five two-person candidate pools.

The choice between the two candidates in each pool was made by a coin flip.

Under the ordinance that the city council enacted in late 2020—then amended in early February this year, and again in mid-May—the commission was supposed to be seated by Jan. 1, 2021.

The five-member group has to give the city council a recommendation for a new district map by the first Wednesday in September this year. But there’s nothing in the ordinance that says the recommendation can’t come sooner.

That first deadline is just shy of 12 weeks away. The city council has a regular meeting scheduled for Sept. 7, which is the first Wednesday of the month. That means, at the latest, the city council would have a chance on Sept. 7 to decide the council districts that will be used for the 2023 municipal elections. Continue reading “Bloomington redistricting advisory commission finally appointed, has 12 weeks to complete first task”

3 OKs in 3 days: Bloomington gets needed nods for high-speed internet fiber deal with Meridiam

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton (right) addresses the Bloomington city council on June 15, 2022.

At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council took a couple of steps, on 8–1 votes, as a part of a potential deal to get high-speed internet connections built for most of the city.

The pending agreement would be inked between Paris-based Meridiam and Bloomington.

Under the arrangement, Meridiam would construct a fiber-to-the-home open-access network offering symmetric 1-Gigabit service. Meridiam would offer symmetric 250-Megabit service to low-income residents at zero net cost.

The arrangement would add another competitor to Bloomington’s market by giving an as-yet-unnamed internet service provider (ISP) exclusive access to the new network for at least five years. The initial ISP would also have exclusive access to the roughly 17 miles of conduit and fiber—the Bloomington Digital Underground—which has already been constructed by the city.

The agreement has been analyzed by the Indiana Cable & Broadband Association as “unfairly favoring one provider over others,”  which ICBA says conflicts with the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. ICBA’s legal objections got no mention during deliberations by Bloomington public officials this week.

Wednesday was the third day in a row that three different public bodies took required steps for the deal to go through. All of the votes were unanimous except for those by the city council. Continue reading “3 OKs in 3 days: Bloomington gets needed nods for high-speed internet fiber deal with Meridiam”