Bloomington public buses skipping scheduled runs due to driver shortage

On Monday morning, Bloomington Transit’s Twitter feed announced that service along the Route 6 Limited and the Route 9 Limited would be cut during specific times during the day.

A tweet sent at 8:02 a.m. said, “There will be no 6 Limited this morning and no 9 Limited this evening. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

The first tweet was followed by another one at 8:26 a.m. clarifying the times when those routes would be curtailed: “The 6 Limited will resume at 1:10 today. 9 Limited will end at 2:30.”

BT has confirmed to The B Square the connection between the skipped routes on Monday and BT’s current driver shortage.

Based on discussion at the BT board’s most recent meeting, Bloomington’s regular public bus staffing is short 12 drivers. Continue reading “Bloomington public buses skipping scheduled runs due to driver shortage”

Likely response to new charges in year-old Lake Monroe incident: Challenge to special prosecutor’s jurisdiction

Last Friday, charges of battery and criminal trespass were filed by a special prosecutor against former Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker, in connection with an incident that took place a year ago on July 4, near Lake Monroe.

A motion to challenge the special prosecutor’s jurisdiction to file charges against Booker will probably be made in the next few weeks.  In any event, that motion would come before the scheduled first hearing date in front of a judge, currently set for Sept. 14.

That’s the word from Booker’s attorney, Katherine Liell, who joined Booker and representatives from the Monroe County branch of the NAACP, for a news conference early Monday afternoon.

The news conference, held on the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse lawn, was attended by at least a half dozen news outlets.

The NAACP released a statement last Friday evening condemning special prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp’s decision to charge Booker.

The filing of charges against Booker came a year after two other men were charged in their role of allegedly assaulting Booker in an incident at Lake Monroe, which Booker described at the time as an “attempted lynching.”

Booker’s team released a statement on Friday that described how the special prosecutor allegedly threatened him with the charges that were filed, if he did not participate in a “restorative justice” process. Booker said he withdrew from that process when it was evident to him that his alleged attackers felt no remorse.

On Friday, Booker alluded to the restorative justice process in his concluding remarks at the news conference. “They wait till after I refuse to publicly go on a ‘forgiveness tour’ with these men to charge me.”

Booker added, “This isn’t about justice. This is about making me bend to the will of folks that feel like they should be over me.

Continue reading “Likely response to new charges in year-old Lake Monroe incident: Challenge to special prosecutor’s jurisdiction”

New Bloomington mural, planned renaming of street both send same message: Black Lives Matter

Last week came the announcement that a Bloomington task force has recommended new names for two parts of Jordan Avenue, a north-south street that splits the Indiana University campus.

In its report, the task force recommended renaming Jordan Avenue south of 17th Street as Eagleson Avenue.

North of 17th Street, the street is recommended to be called Fuller Lane.

Both names honor the contributions of Black residents to Bloomington.

The announcement of the task force report came just a month after the installation of a “Black Lives Matter” mural—on the street that is now slated to be renamed for four-generations of the Eagleson family, starting with Halson Vashon Eagleson who was born a slave in 1851.

According to the task force report, Halson Eagleson arrived in Bloomington in the 1880s and became a prominent barber. His five children attended Indiana University. The report describes how in 1910, he opened Industrial City, a home for “colored” orphans in Unionville.

Joa’Quinn Griffin, an Indiana University student who helped lead the effort to install the street mural, told The B Square that the choice of Jordan Avenue was deliberate, for two reasons.

First, the mural would provide a counterpoint to the legacy of the past IU president for whom the street was named. David Starr Jordan was a proponent of eugenics, which advocates for the improvement of the human species through selective mating.

Second, the place on Jordan Avenue selected for the mural installation is in front of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

Continue reading “New Bloomington mural, planned renaming of street both send same message: Black Lives Matter”

$32K lawsuit payout for scooter crash on bad concrete: A quick look at Bloomington’s plan for sidewalk repair

In October of 2018, just a month after shared-use electric scooters arrived in Bloomington, a downtown worker was scooting home late at night, when he crashed as he was cruising downhill on a North College Avenue sidewalk.

The crash, which broke a bone in the scooter rider’s hand, occurred along the sidewalk on the west side of College, between 15th and 17th streets.

The scooter rider filed a lawsuit against the city of Bloomington and eventually against the adjoining property owner as well. The legal complaint contended that the crash was caused by the bad condition of the sidewalk.

Bloomington answered the complaint with a number of defenses, among them that the city “did not have prior notice of, nor opportunity to correct” the condition of the sidewalk that was alleged to have caused the scooter crash.

According to court documents, in late May of this year, a mediated settlement was reached, which resulted in a payment of $11,000 by Bloomington and $21,000 by the adjoining property owner.

If a sidewalk is bad enough to cause an accident, how is it supposed to get repaired? And what is the general condition of Bloomington sidewalks? Does Bloomington have a systematic approach to putting public sidewalks in good repair? Continue reading “$32K lawsuit payout for scooter crash on bad concrete: A quick look at Bloomington’s plan for sidewalk repair”

Monroe County likely to bring back indoor mask requirement to help stop spread of pandemic virus

By next Wednesday, all Monroe County residents, even those who are vaccinated, will likely be under a renewed mandate to wear a mask to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

According to Monroe County health administrator Caudill, a new order from county health officer Thomas Sharp will also say that schools should follow guidance from the CDC, the Indiana Department of Health, and the Indiana Department of Education.

What does guidance from those three entities mean for area K-12 schools? Caudill concluded: “At this time, that means masks should be worn in schools.”

The announcement about a new mask mandate came at Friday’s biweekly news conference on local COVID-19 pandemic response. The usual order of speakers was altered to put Monroe County healthy administrator Penny Caudill first, so she could deliver the news on masks.

Before announcing the new mask mandate for indoor public settings, Caudill described the negative trends that led to the decision: increased confirmed COVID-19 case numbers, increased positivity rates and increased hospitalizations, and less-than-hoped-for vaccination rates.

Caudill reported at the news conference that the county’s board of health would meet to deliberate on the mask mandate on Tuesday, Aug. 3 at 9:15 a.m. on a Zoom video conference.

The following day, at its regular Wednesday meeting, county commissioners could approve the mandate. The need for the board of county commissioners to act is due to a recent statutory change. The new law [SEA 05]  requires the board of county commissioners sign off on local health orders.

Continue reading “Monroe County likely to bring back indoor mask requirement to help stop spread of pandemic virus”

Victim now also charged in year-old July 4 Lake Monroe incident described as “attempted lynching”

A little more than a year ago, Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant charged two men in connection with a July 4 incident, which then-Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker described at the time as an “attempted lynching.”

B Square file photo of Vauhxx Booker at a news conference in People’s Park in Bloomington on July 10, 2020, a week after the incident at Lake Monroe.

Booker has now been charged as well, by a special prosecutor who was appointed to handle the cases of Booker’s alleged assailants, Sean M. Purdy and Jerry Edward Cox, II.

The special prosecutor is Sonia Leerkamp, a former prosecutor for Hamilton County.

The charges against Booker appeared on Indiana’s mycase.IN.gov public court records system late Friday afternoon.

Booker is charged with two offenses: battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, which is a felony; and criminal trespass, which is a misdemeanor.

Purdy and Cox were charged a year ago by Oliphant with the felonies of battery and criminal confinement or aiding in confinement. Video footage of the incident posted on Facebook and other social media shows Purdy holding Booker down against a tree.

The Monroe County branch of the NAACP released a statement Friday evening reacting to the charges.

The NAACP statement concludes: “The Monroe County Branch of the NAACP condemns the prosecution of Vauhxx Booker, demands that the charges against him be dropped immediately, and calls on special prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp to resign.”
Continue reading “Victim now also charged in year-old July 4 Lake Monroe incident described as “attempted lynching””

Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue

A two-person team from the Baker Tilly accounting firm, hired by Monroe County’s board of commissioners to review Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan, presented its report to the county council on Tuesday night.

Baker Tilly found that in Year 2, the impact on local income tax (LIT) revenue to Monroe County government would be negative $1.4 million. That’s a $866,000 bigger impact than Reedy Financial Group reported in Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan. Reedy analyzed the impact as negative $534,694.

Paige Sansone and Deen Rogers, the accountants from Baker Tilly who did the work for the county, noted a handful of other issues with Bloomington’s fiscal plan, none of which had a significant financial impact. Continue reading “Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue”

CDC: Wear a mask indoors in Monroe County, Indiana even if fully vaccinated

Based on new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, even Monroe County residents who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus should wear a face covering when they’re in public indoor settings.

This screen shot of the CDC map links to the map.

The CDC guidance, released on July 27, recommends that people wear a face covering indoors, if it’s in a public setting and if it’s in a county where there is “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus.

Monroe County is classified as having “substantial” transmission, because it has 52.55 new cases per 100,000 population in the last 7 days. That’s just over the lower threshold for the “substantial” category, which starts at 50 new cases per 100,000 and goes up to 99.99 cases.

The other criterion used by the CDC to determine transmission categories is the rolling positivity rate for tests. The CDC reports a positivity rate of 6.54 percent for Monroe County, which would put it in the “moderate” transmission category, which goes from 5 percent to 7.99 percent. But the CDC takes the worse of the two categories to categorize each county. Continue reading “CDC: Wear a mask indoors in Monroe County, Indiana even if fully vaccinated”

Bloomington expands private security to 7 more parks across city, including B-Line Trail

Private unarmed security patrols will now be checking a total of eight parks in Bloomington, a collection that extends a bit farther, north-to-south, than the extent of the B-Line Trail.

The $52,500 contract addendum with Marshall Security, to cover the additional parks, was approved by Bloomington’s board of park commissioners at its Tuesday afternoon meeting.

That brings the total amount of the contract with Marshall to $113,000. The money is being drawn from CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds.

At their June meeting, park commissioners approved the initial $60,588 contract, which included just Switchyard Park, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day of the week. The reason given for the Switchyard Park security was an increase in after-hours vandalism and substance use, and overnight camping.

For the additional parks and the trail, the additional private security is needed because of “a number of incidents that have occurred lately on both the B-Line trail and in several other…core corridor parks around the downtown area,” according to Tim Street, who’s operations and development division director for Bloomington parks and recreation.

The list of parks to be patrolled by Marshall is now: Switchyard Park, RCA Park, Seminary Park, B-Line Trail, Building Trades Park, Rev Ernest D. Butler Park, Crestmont Park, Miller-Showers Park, and Waldron Hill Buskirk Park. Continue reading “Bloomington expands private security to 7 more parks across city, including B-Line Trail”

Draft 2022 Bloomington Transit budget would bump pay by 3 percent, recruitment of drivers a worry

At just a smidgen over $15 million, Bloomington Transit’s preliminary budget for 2022 is about 3.7 percent more than last year’s approved total amount.

That’s the number that Bloomington Transit’s general manager Lew May presented to BT’s five-member board at its meeting last Tuesday.

Some of that increase is due to an increase in employee compensation. The preliminary budget is based on a 3-percent increase in wages. How much the increase actually turns out to be will depend on the outcome of negotiations with the drivers, who are represented by AFSCME Local 613.

Those negotiations will need to take place over the next few months, because BT’s labor agreement ends on Dec. 31, 2021.

The timing for the back-and-forth between BT and drivers will coincide broadly with BT’s transition from May’s leadership, who has served 22 years as general manager, to John Connell’s, who was the board’s pick last week to succeed May. Connell is now operations manager for the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation.

BT’s board will likely vote on the final budget at its August meeting. The budget will then be presented to Bloomington’s city council for review and approval, in a separate vote from the city’s own budget.

The collective bargaining agreement could be a factor in addressing BT’s current shortage of drivers. A June job fair attracted no new applicants to fill the 12 positions that BT is currently short. Continue reading “Draft 2022 Bloomington Transit budget would bump pay by 3 percent, recruitment of drivers a worry”