Metal Works Brewing gets OK from Bloomington historic district commission for new signage

New individual aluminum block letters, lit with LEDs will soon replace the temporary vinyl banner sign on the facade of Metal Works Brewing Company in downtown Bloomington.

The new signage got approval from Bloomington’s historic preservation commission (HPC) on Thursday.

Metal Works needed a nod from the HPC, because the building, which was constructed in 1905, sits a half block east of the courthouse square, on 6th Street. That puts it just inside the eastern boundary of the courthouse historic district.

The new signage comes after a recent name change to the business, which was formerly known as Function Brewing. The new name was foreshadowed by an ownership change at the start of this year.

Some Function fans were caught off guard by the name change, which came on June 10, when the Function letters were unceremoniously unbolted from the building facade. In a Facebook post, Metal Works responded to some of the pushback by writing, “First and foremost, we want to say sorry for the scare.” Continue reading “Metal Works Brewing gets OK from Bloomington historic district commission for new signage”

Bloomington Transit driver now on board US citizens bus: “Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans!”

Bloomington Transit bus driver Cristian Miguel Ramirez spent Thursday afternoon piloting one of the public bus agency’s 40-footers.

Earlier that morning, Ramirez had been congratulated by BT staff and board members on passing a recent milestone: Six weeks ago, he took the oath to become a US citizen.

On May 17, he joined 32 other Hoosiers for the naturalization ceremony, at a venue where the vehicles roll along a smidgen faster than the average BT bus—the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In his remarks on Thursday morning in the BT driver’s break room, BT general manager John Connell led off by thanking all the BT employees, who had all worked so hard through the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Ramirez, Connell said, “He’s worked a lot of overtime. He’s been an outstanding employee.” Connell added, “He’s found time to do everything necessary to become a US citizen. So we’d like to congratulate him and wish him the best!” Continue reading “Bloomington Transit driver now on board US citizens bus: “Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans!””

Commissioners update firearms prohibition in some Monroe County buildings

Two more buildings have been added to a codified list of Monroe County facilities where the possession of firearms—licensed or unlicensed—is prohibited.

Already on the list were the courthouse, the justice center, the Curry Building (7th Street), and the old Johnson’s Hardware building (7th Street).

Joining those four are the recently renovated county health services building (7th Street) and the youth services bureau (Adams Street).

The ordinance amendment was approved Wednesday morning by the three county commissioners on a unanimous vote.

What’s the common denominator for the county buildings where firearms are prohibited? They all contain a circuit courtroom of some kind.

Under state law  a local government can prohibit possession of a firearm “in a building that contains the courtroom of a circuit, superior, city, town, or small claims court.” [IC 35-47-11.1-4]

Bloomington’s city council has recently heard public comment, calling on the city’s legislative body to use the same state law to ban firearms at the city’s farmers market.

Continue reading “Commissioners update firearms prohibition in some Monroe County buildings”

Monroe County GOP gives greenlight to county chair to fill ballot vacancies

At a meeting of Republican Party precinct chairs held at Ellettsville town hall on Tuesday evening, they gave county party chair Taylor Bryant the authority to fill vacancies on the Nov. 8 election ballot.

Bryant would have until noon on July 3 fill ballot vacancies.

Before the vote, county vice chair William Ellis said Bryant’s authority is just for cases where no GOP candidate filed for the May 3 primary election, and does not extend to filling a vacancy for an office due to resignation or death.

As of Tuesday, the GOP does not have on-the-ballot candidates for several Monroe County races, like prosecutor, clerk, assessor, and two judgeships. That’s due in part to the fact that Monroe County voters favor Democratic Party candidates. In the 2020 presidential race, Democrat Joe Biden won over Republican Donald Trump by a 28-point margin.

Responding to a B Square question after Tuesday’s meeting, Bryant said for township trustee and township board positions she’s heard some interest expressed from potential candidates. About county-level positions, Bryant said, “We’ve had some conversations—I don’t know if we’re going to get anybody for those.” Continue reading “Monroe County GOP gives greenlight to county chair to fill ballot vacancies”

Taking BT Late Nite for a spin: $1 trip by public bus for ice cream, same $1 for trip with Uber back home

Starting Monday, scheduled bus service on several Bloomington Transit fixed routes are ending a couple hours earlier.

By around 9:30 p.m. on Monday, the big 40-foot buses on Routes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 had ended their runs for the day.

But Bloomington residents could still take rides using the public transportation system—from 9 a.m. to midnight—through a program that Bloomington Transit is marketing as BT Late Nite.

For areas of the city within a quarter mile of those early-ending routes, BT Late Nite now offers passengers who have a smartphone the option of taking rides using Uber or Lyft—for just the regular $1 fare. BT Late Nite operates Monday through Friday.

The difference between the actual cost of the ride on Uber/Lyft and the $1 fare paid by the passenger is covered by BT. Both ride hailing companies are handling the BT portion of the fare through a voucher system.

After the BT Late Nite test ride taken by The B Square on Monday evening, the Uber fare of $8.90 was still shown on the digital receipt as a “pending” charge against the B Square’s credit card. Based on Uber documentation, that should eventually be adjusted down to $1, with the rest of the amount covered by the BT Late Nite voucher. Continue reading “Taking BT Late Nite for a spin: $1 trip by public bus for ice cream, same $1 for trip with Uber back home”

Column: A transparency platform for Bloomington’s mayoral candidates

The word “transparency” gets bandied around a lot by local government officials—not just here in Bloomington.

It’s a vague concept.

Just because some local government news breaks that was unforeseen by a journalist or the public does not necessarily mean a failure on the government’s part.

Sometimes we could probably do a better job of paying attention to the information that the local government does make available.

But often, I think, the problem is not on our end.

What more could Bloomington’s government do, to make its workings more accessible and transparent to the public?

To answer that question, I draw on three years spent covering Bloomington area local government for The B Square.

Given that the Bloomington mayoral campaign season has already started for 2023, my answer takes the form of a possible mayoral transparency platform.

All other things being equal, if a mayoral candidate supports the platform below, I think readers should consider supporting that candidate. Continue reading “Column: A transparency platform for Bloomington’s mayoral candidates”

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”