Trash talk analysis: Bloomington city councilmembers want to rethink cart fees

The roughly 6,000 Bloomington residents who currently pay the city $11.61 a month for weekly pickup of their 64-gallon trash cart, could see that amount more than doubled—to around $24 a month.

That kind of increase would come from applying some assumptions floated at city council sessions—like eliminating general fund support for trash pickup, and increasing rates only for medium and large carts, not for the smallest size.

While the amount and the timing of an increase is not clear, some Bloomington city councilmembers are looking at a significant increase to trash collection fees and possibly a different approach to the rate structure. Continue reading “Trash talk analysis: Bloomington city councilmembers want to rethink cart fees”

Advisory committee dives into precinct boundary work for Monroe County

A four-member committee established by the Monroe County board of commissioners has now met twice as it tackles the task of making recommendations on new precinct boundaries for the county.

Once the precincts are settled, the group will make recommendations on boundaries for county council and county commission districts. It will be the three county commissioners who make the decision on all the boundaries.

Appointed by county commissioners to the committee were two Democrats (Regina Moore and Ed Robertson) and two Republicans (Joyce Poling and Hal Turner). Continue reading “Advisory committee dives into precinct boundary work for Monroe County”

Monroe County health board: Mask mandate to continue into November, tied to pandemic case numbers

Monroe County’s indoor mask mandate, for the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, will continue into November and possibly even beyond—until the county’s positive COVID-19 case numbers drop to fewer than 50 cases per week per 100,000 residents.

That was the unanimous vote of Monroe County’s board of health at its Thursday meeting.

The current regulation goes through the end of October. In the current regulation, a drop in positive case numbers below 50 cases per week per 100,000 residents is also a condition tied to an end to the mask mandate.

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, county health administrator Penny Caudill said the exact wording of the new regulation was not yet determined.

The state dashboard’s color-coded map gets updated every Wednesday. Because of that, the board wants the mask mandate to end at midnight on whichever Wednesday the state’s dashboard shows a weekly case total for Monroe County of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. Continue reading “Monroe County health board: Mask mandate to continue into November, tied to pandemic case numbers”

OK’d by Bloomington city council: Wheeler Mission rezone for program expansion, not bed number increase

On a unanimous vote Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council approved a rezone for a property owned by Wheeler Mission, so that its shelter beds can be shifted to a parcel that the nonprofit acquired in May of this year.

In zoning district terms, the rezone is from mixed-use employment (ME) to mixed-use medium scale (MM).

Wheeler Mission’s plan is not to increase its number of shelter beds beyond 130, but to expand its programs on life skills training, financial management and job readiness.

During the council’s Wednesday meeting, no public commentary was offered.

When the rezone request was heard by the plan commission and during the council’s committee meeting surrounding business owners described the impact they’ve seen from the behavior of some Wheeler Mission shelter guests.

In supporting the rezone request, councilmembers distinguished between the unacceptable behaviors exhibited by some of the shelter guests and the rezone request. Continue reading “OK’d by Bloomington city council: Wheeler Mission rezone for program expansion, not bed number increase”

Careers, not jobs: Bloomington Transit GM describes new bus driver contract

On Tuesday night, Bloomington Transit’s five-member board approved a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME Local 613, the bus drivers union.

Under the new contract, for full-time fixed-route bus drivers in their third year of service, the hourly wage will increase from $19.69 now to $21.19 in January 2022. That’s a 7.6-percent increase.

By the fourth year of the contract, those drivers will be paid $25.69 an hour, which is a 30.5-percent increase over their current wage.

New BT general manager John Connell, who took over from retiring Lew May at the start of the month, told the board, “One of the goals that we set out was to establish an increase in pay and benefits where we could be in a position to offer careers, not jobs. And I think this contract does that.”

Connell continued, “It’s a four-year term. And in the fourth year, our wages will be very competitive.”

He added, “We’re hoping to see some improvements in our recruiting efforts.” Due to a driver shortage, BT is currently making just about 70 percent of the runs that it would normally make this time of year, Connell said at Tuesday’s board meeting. Continue reading “Careers, not jobs: Bloomington Transit GM describes new bus driver contract”

County commissioner described as mocking county clerk, as tough talks on election space continue

Two local groups have issued statements about Zoom video-conference footage from a Monday meeting between county commissioners and the county election board, to discuss needs for physical space.

“One of our commissioners openly mocked our elected county clerk on screen,” reads part of the statement from the Monroe County chapter of the National Organization for Women about the video footage.

Naming the commissioner and the clerk was a statement from the Monroe County Black Democratic Caucus, issued by its president, William Hosea: “Monroe County Commissioner Lee Jones appears to be openly mocking the person who’s speaking. The target of her contemptuous disdain is Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne.”

Reached by The B Square, Jones said the target of her disdain was her cat. Jones says the cat was playing with yarn from a knitting project that Jones was unraveling, and hit her computer keyboard, switching on her camera.

Jones is one of three county commissioners and represents District 1, on the west side of the county, but is elected by voters countywide. As county clerk, Browne is also elected by voters countywide. The seats for both four-year terms are up for election in 2022. Continue reading “County commissioner described as mocking county clerk, as tough talks on election space continue”

Dissent from some social workers, as Bloomington’s national conference on police social work kicks off

On Monday, a bit after noon, a half dozen protesters gathered at the west entrance of the Monroe County convention center.

They confronted Bloomington chief of police Mike Diekhoff as he arrived at the National Conference on Police Social Work. Diekhoff didn’t break stride as he entered the building, but greeted one of the demonstrators by name: “Hi, Alex, how are you!”

The three-day conference, which started Monday, was organized and is hosted by Bloomington’s police department. The idea that BPD would host a conference on police social work fits with the fact that BPD was the first police agency in the state of Indiana to hire a full-time social worker to be embedded in the department.

It’s the embedding of social workers in police departments that demonstrators were protesting against.

Calling themselves “abolitionist social workers,” they don’t think an organizational structure that puts social workers under the control of the police is consistent with the ethics of the social work profession. What they’d like to see abolished is policing itself.

As masters of social work student Grace Mitchell put it, as they spoke through a megaphone pointed toward the open convention center door, “There is little evidence that [social workers’] presence will reduce the disproportionate use of lethal force against Black, Latinx, or indigenous people.”

Mitchell continued, “It will not prevent [police] from patrolling certain communities over others, while serving the interests of gentrifiers, and will not demilitarize them. It will not hold them accountable for misconduct or abuse.”

Later inside the convention center, after the first day’s keynote speech, Diekhoff described to The B Square his department’s approach to asking social workers to respond to non-criminal situations. He called it a “co-response” of police officers and social workers.

Diekhoff said, “When people don’t know who to call, they call the police. We’re responding. We’re coming up with another way to respond—which is what everybody’s talking about, which is all these co-response things. That’s what this is.” Continue reading “Dissent from some social workers, as Bloomington’s national conference on police social work kicks off”

Bloomington fire department’s top ISO score feted

On Friday morning, just outside the pavilion at Switchyard Park, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton and city council president Jim Sims undraped a new logo on the fire department’s Engine 5.

The new design features the numeral “1” and the phrase “ISO Class,” to highlight the Bloomington fire department’s recent score of 1, awarded by Insurance Service Office, Inc. (ISO).

That’s the top score on a 10-point scale, which is based on: the fire department’s equipment, staffing, training, and geographic distribution of stations (50%); water supply (40%); and emergency communications (10%).

Fire chief Jason Moore noted that the truck used for the unveiling is the oldest in the department’s fleet. But it’s not that old—it was purchased in 2016 and delivered in 2017.

Replacement of fire apparatus has been one of the investments made with revenue from the public safety local income tax, which was authorized in 2016.

Up-to-date fire trucks are one of factors feeding into the ISO score. Continue reading “Bloomington fire department’s top ISO score feted”

Township trustee sues city of Bloomington over records requests about displacement of homeless encampments

Perry Township trustee Dan Combs has filed a lawsuit against the city of Bloomington.

The suit demands that the city produce records related to decision making and the development of policies connected to displacement of homeless encampments in the last year.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday evening. By midday on Friday, the complaint with its exhibits had been uploaded to the state’s online court document system. The lawsuit was filed in Monroe County superior court.

The question of law is whether the city of Bloomington has met its obligations under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA), to response to records requests made by Combs, about the city’s homeless encampment policies, among other matters.

What prompted the records requests in the first place, from an elected township trustee, was an interest in understanding Bloomington’s decision making process related to homeless encampments, because of the potential impact that the city’s policies have on township government.

Combs, who is named as an individual plaintiff, and in his capacity as township trustee, told The B Square on Friday that the township board had approved going ahead with the litigation that has now been filed.

City attorney Mike Rouker responded to The B Square’s emailed inquiry about the lawsuit, by writing that the city does not comment on pending litigation. Continue reading “Township trustee sues city of Bloomington over records requests about displacement of homeless encampments”

Part of Monroe County’s $3.1 million bond issuance: Design for sidewalk near new library branch

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. Continue reading “Part of Monroe County’s $3.1 million bond issuance: Design for sidewalk near new library branch”