Pandemic notebook: Monroe County case numbers leveling off, hospitalizations still low

The number of daily COVID-19 cases recorded in Monroe County looks like it has leveled off after a steady, if not dramatic climb.

The guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now peg the community spread of the virus In Monroe County at a “low” level—which is the lowest of its three categories (low, medium, and high).

Last week, the CDC reported Monroe County at a “medium” spread level, likely based on release of historical data from the state of Indiana to the CDC—which did not distribute the cases to their respective dates of testing.

That’s an issue that was addressed by Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill at last week’s board of health meeting. “We had a jump a couple of weeks ago—the state had like a ‘data dump’. So it was old reports that got entered, and those got calculated into everything,” Caudill said.

The county’s levels were rising at the time, but they were not at the level that would have indicated a “medium” level of spread, Caudill said. “Even though our numbers were rising, they weren’t necessarily at that level.”

Caudill was still cautious, and pointed out the impact of various social gatherings related to Indiana University graduation events could still be felt.

The number of gene copies of COVID-19 measured in Bloomington’s waste water is showing high levels, Caudill said, and warrants close monitoring.

The current rolling daily average of COVID-19 cases in Monroe County looks like it has leveled off in the low 30s.

Hospitalizations in Monroe County remain low. Indiana’s Health District 8, which is made up of 7 counties including Monroe, had a census of 9 COVID-19 patients on Monday this week. That’s two more than at the end of April. But that compares to more than 170 at the peak of the pandemic.

District 8 includes Monroe, Brown, Bartholomew, Lawrence, Jackson, Orange and Washington counties. Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Monroe County case numbers leveling off, hospitalizations still low”

Bloomington park commissioners give final OK to $5.8 million in GO bonds

On Monday afternoon, Bloomington’s board of park commissioners convened a special meeting to approve $5.8 million in parks general obligation bonds, to pay for some multi-use trail and protected bicycle lane projects.

The bonds were a part of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s new revenue package, which was recently approved by the city council. The whole package included another $5.8 million in public works bonds,  and a 0.69-point increase in the countywide local income tax, which is expected to generate about $14.5 million annually for the city of Bloomington.

The bond projects approved by the board of park commissioners on Monday included: replacement of missing sidewalk on Rogers St. by Switchyard Park; addition of protected bicycle lanes along Covenanter Drive (from College Mall to Clarizz Blvd); construction design for a North Dunn Street multi-use path (from the SR 45/46 Bypass to Old SR 37); the Griffy Loop Trail dam crossing and community access\ improvements; and modernization of West 2nd Street modernization, including protected bicycle lanes (from Walker Street to BLine trail).

No one spoke during the public commentary period at Monday’s meeting.

Given initial approval by park commissioners in April were two bond projects that the city council later struck from the list: replacement of gas-powered equipment with electric equipment; and a non-motorized connection from Lower Cascades Park to Miller-Showers Park.

So those two projects were not among those approved on Monday by the board of park commissioners.

The final approval of the bonds was previously on the agenda for a late-April meeting of the park commissioners. But they could not take a vote on the item. That’s because under Indiana’s Open Door Law, all members who are voting on a tax increase have to be physically present—not participating through electronic communication. Only two of the four park commissioners were physically present at the late April meeting.

That’s why a special meeting of the park commissioners had to be called. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners give final OK to $5.8 million in GO bonds”

Johnson’s smokestack: Owner’s alley request seen as chance to “leverage” historic tribute

The Johnson’s Creamery smokestack will soon be back in the civic spotlight—for two reasons.

First, at its meeting this Tuesday,  Bloomington’s three-member board of public works will be asked to affirm an order from the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department,  which requires AT&T to remove its communications equipment from the top of the smokestack by midnight on May 31.

The removal of AT&T’s equipment will help set the stage for the owner’s partial demolition of the smokestack—from 140 feet down to 60 feet. The building, with its smokestack, is owned by Peerless Development.

The partial demolition was ordered by HAND because an engineering study determined the smokestack is unsafe.

Second, Peerless Development will be asking the city council to vacate an east-west alley that cuts across the parcel.

The alley vacation is needed in order for Peerless to move ahead with a development on the northern part of the parcel. The housing development is supposed to include 60 apartments with a total of 74 bedrooms, right next to the B-Line Trail. Bloomington’s plan commission approved the site plan for the new development in October 2021.

The request for an alley vacation will likely land on the city council’s May 18 agenda as a first reading, and possibly get final action at the council’s regular meeting on June 1.

Vacating a public-right-of-way means that the city is ceding to a private entity the public’s claim to the land.

In connection with the requested alley vacation, Bloomington’s city council could be looking to extract a concession from Peerless to construct some kind of creative artwork to commemorate the lost height of the smokestack. That’s based on the discussion at the city council’s work session held last Friday.

The idea of a commemorative artwork is not new. Continue reading “Johnson’s smokestack: Owner’s alley request seen as chance to “leverage” historic tribute”

2022 Democratic Party primary election notebook: Breakdown of results by precinct for recorder, county commissioner

The precinct-by-precinct numbers for Tuesday’s primary elections are now available on Monroe County’s website.

Numbers are still unofficial.

For county offices, Democrats saw four contested races on the ballot. The race for the nomination for circuit court judge was a four-way contest, won by Emily Salzmann. The race for the nomination for sheriff was a five-way contest, won by Ruben Marté.

The B Square took a closer precinct-by-precinct look at the other two races, which were two-way affairs. The race for recorder was close, almost a dead heat. The county commissioner’s race was not as close—about a 3:2 margin for the winner.

What both races showed was a detectable, even if not dramatic difference between inside and outside the city limits of Bloomington. In both races there was about a four-point difference in results inside and outside Bloomington. Continue reading “2022 Democratic Party primary election notebook: Breakdown of results by precinct for recorder, county commissioner”

Coin toss settles tie in precinct chair election for Democrats: Alessia Modjarrad

Alessia Modjarrad will be the new precinct chair for the Bloomington 23 precinct, a predominantly university student area on the north side of town.

That was the outcome of a coin flip on Friday afternoon, which settled a tie between Modjarrad and Karen Granger in Tuesday’s elections.

Presiding over the coin toss was Democratic Party chair David Henry. Under Indiana Democratic Party rules, it’s the county chair who determines how to break the tie. Continue reading “Coin toss settles tie in precinct chair election for Democrats: Alessia Modjarrad”

Scanning, digitization project underway in Monroe County recorder’s office

A crew from US Imaging has set up a digital scanning operation in the Monroe County recorder’s office.

Their three-week mission, onsite at the county courthouse, is to scan the county’s whole collection of older deeds, back to 1817, as well as miscellaneous records. The images will then be digitized, which will make them searchable and more easily available.

The $164,000 contract with US Imaging for the scanning and digitizing work was approved by county commissioners on March 9.  The company is based in Saginaw, Michigan. Continue reading “Scanning, digitization project underway in Monroe County recorder’s office”

Bloomington city council enacts 0.69-point tax increase for Monroe County residents on 9–0 vote

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton did not get the full 0.855-point local income tax (LIT) increase he had asked Bloomington’s city council to approve.

But the council did approve a 0.69-point increase, which will generate around $14.5 million annually in new revenue for the city of Bloomington. The additional 0.69 points brings the countywide income tax rate to 2.035 percent.

The new rate will take effect on Oct. 1.

Based on the category of income tax used for the increase (economic development) and the method used for distribution (population-based), the additional 0.69 points will also mean additional annual revenue of around $10 million for Monroe County, around $1 million for Ellettsville, and around $40,000 for Stinesville.

Those are the only four units of government that receive a distribution under the economic development category of local income tax.

The original proposal from Hamilton would have generated about $18 million in annual revenue for Bloomington. The intended expenditures fall into four categories: climate change preparedness and mitigation; essential city services; public safety; and quality of life. Continue reading “Bloomington city council enacts 0.69-point tax increase for Monroe County residents on 9–0 vote”

Photo: Draft SCOTUS opinion on abortion draws courthouse square demonstration

group of people holding signs with slogans like "My body, my choice" and "Abortion is healthcare" standing in front of a 35-foot tall war memorial monument with American flag and courthouse dome in the background
People demonstrate against the US Supreme Court’s draft opinion that could overturn Roe v. Wade. (May 3, 2022)

A bit after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, at least 30 Bloomington area residents gathered on the southeast corner of the downtown courthouse square, to demonstrate their support of a legal right for women to choose an abortion.

Prompting Tuesday’s demonstration was a leaked draft of a US Supreme Court opinion that could overturn Roe v. Wade. That’s the 1973 decision by the court that concluded the Constitution confers a broad right to obtain an abortion.

The draft of the leaked memo was published by Politico on Monday evening. The analysis by the Associated Press on Tuesday allows for some possibility that the final opinion could differ in ways that matter: “[I]t’s unclear if the draft represents the court’s final word on the matter—opinions often change in ways big and small in the drafting process.” Continue reading “Photo: Draft SCOTUS opinion on abortion draws courthouse square demonstration”

2022 Monroe County primary election results: As available [final unofficial]

The B Square is on site at Election Central at the corner of 7th and Madison streets in downtown Bloomington where the 28 duffel bags from each of today’s polling locations will be deposited by a bipartisan team of poll workers.

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The polls closed at 6 p.m.

Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne has said no results are anticipated until at least 8 p.m.

The B Square will provide status reports here until the final results are announced.

6:26 p.m. Election Central: No precincts have yet arrived with their materials to report in. Monroe County. Election board members are here as well as election supervisor Karen Wheeler.

The election board has three members: the county clerk (Nicole Browne) and one appointee by each of the two major party chairs. The two appointed members are Democrat Shruti Rana; and Republican Donovan Garletts.

Continue reading “2022 Monroe County primary election results: As available [final unofficial]”