Bloomington council delays 2022 budget vote until Oct. 27: Will mayor concede on police, climate?

On Wednesday, when a decision was scheduled on the 2022 Bloomington budget, the city council chose to recess its meeting without voting, less than 90 minutes after it was called to order.

The recess came when it became apparent that the mayor’s budget did not have majority support on the nine-member council to pass that night.

Some councilmembers, like Dave Rollo, say that in order to support the 2022 budget, it has to include a re-opening of the collective bargaining agreement with the police union and a $5,000 base pay increase for sworn officers.

Other councilmembers, like Isabel Piedmont-Smith, say that in order to support the 2022 budget, it has to include an appropriation for a new job at the city—director of climate action.

That’s not an exhaustive list of all the changes councilmembers say they want to see, before they’ll vote to adopt the 2022 budget.

In any case, councilmembers want Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to make further revisions to the roughly $107 million budget, before they take it up again in two weeks. That amount does not include the budgets for Bloomington Transit (BT) and city of Bloomington utilities (CBU).

Before recessing its meeting, the council approved two of the appropriation ordinances that are part of the six-ordinance package of legislation that makes up the annual budget. Getting unanimous approval were the budgets for BT and city of Bloomington utilities CBU.

On Oct. 27, in addition to the appropriation ordinance for the basic city budget, the council will still have on its agenda three salary ordinances—one for police and fire, one for other city employees, and one for elected officials. Continue reading “Bloomington council delays 2022 budget vote until Oct. 27: Will mayor concede on police, climate?”

4-member advisory committee appointed to help with Monroe County redistricting

At its Wednesday meeting, the three-member Monroe County board of commissioners appointed four residents to give advice on the upcoming task of redrawing boundaries for precincts, as well as for county council and county commissioner districts.

The redistricting work on the local level has the same impetus as the state level process—the need to incorporate the results of the 2020 decennial census into voter districts for different elected offices.

The four appointees to the precinct and district boundary advisory committee (PDBAC) are: Regina Moore, Ed Robertson, Joyce Poling, and Hal Turner.

Elected to the city of Bloomington clerkship as a Democrat, Moore served in that role from 2000 to 2015.

Robertson is deputy chair of headquarters for the Monroe County Democratic Party.

Poling is assistant to the chancellor for community engagement at Ivy Tech Community College. Poling served as a Republican through 2007 on the Monroe County board of commissioners, which wrapped up a couple of decades of service in county government.

Hal Turner is currently the Republican appointee to the county election board.

The PDBAC will have to complete its work on a compressed timeline compared to previous years, because of the ripple effect of the late 2020 census. The late timing for release of 2020 census numbers led to a late start for state legislators on their work to redraw state-level boundaries. Continue reading “4-member advisory committee appointed to help with Monroe County redistricting”

Monroe County OKs animal care deal with Bloomington, shelter numbers for 2020 way down

Non-Bloomington residents will most likely be able to surrender their animals to Bloomington’s animal shelters without paying a fee again in 2022, the way they have for several years.

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved their side of an interlocal agreement that the county has maintained for several years with Bloomington and Ellettsville to cover Bloomington’s cost for animals surrendered by non-city county residents and animal control officers.

On the county’s side, the interlocal agreement still needs to be approved by the county council. It will also need to be approved by the Bloomington city council.

Under the terms of this year’s agreement, the amount paid to Bloomington by Monroe County will be $342,912. Ellettsville will pay $18,612. That’s a total of $361,524.

The total is based on 1,282 animals that were surrendered to the shelter in 2020 by Monroe County or Ellettsville, at a net cost of $282 per animal. Continue reading “Monroe County OKs animal care deal with Bloomington, shelter numbers for 2020 way down”

No fine this time for poison ivy vine, says city of Bloomington

An appeal by B&L Rentals of a $50 fine imposed by the city of Bloomington for poison ivy and other plants growing taller than 8 inches did not need to be heard at Tuesday’s board of works meeting.

Part of the photographic documentation provided by the city of Bloomington in connection with the fine, converted to a warning, of the property owner at 1120 N. Lincoln,

That’s because the notice of violation was converted into a warning.

As public works director Adam Wason explained for the public’s benefit, before the three-member board of works got into its regular agenda, “The board found that it was prudent to ask that that be turned into a warning instead of an actual notice of violation with a fine.”

Bloomington’s city code reads like this: “It is unlawful for the owner of any lot or tract of ground within the city to allow it to become overgrown with weeds, grass, or noxious plants beyond the height of eight inches or to such extent that the growth is detrimental to the public health and constitutes a nuisance.”

The notice of violation was issued by the housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department.

The appeal by B&L Rentals complained that no warning had been issued before the notice of violation was issued: “This seems like a warning, an email or a phone call, since I’ve worked with HAND for 20 years with no violation.”

The appeal continued, “This ivy is not near anyone, not hanging from a tree, or in a tree plot.”

The city staff’s case noted that city code does not require that a warning be issued. Continue reading “No fine this time for poison ivy vine, says city of Bloomington”

First annual Monroe County event: “The complexities of the Latino community are tremendous.”

On Monday evening, during question time at a community gathering, Hana Yuisa Vargas rose to speak from a seat in the second tier of the auditorium at Monroe County’s public library.

Vargas said, “My ancestors helped [Christopher Columbus] to survive. We indigenous people, we’ve been helping everyone. White people. African people. Asian people. And we’ve been mistreated and invisible until today. And I’m raising my voice, because today is my day and supposed to be not just one day—supposed to be three hundred and sixty-five days, all my life, every single year.”

Vargas had earlier identified ancestors from the Taino, Mexica, and Apache tribes, as well as the Yoruba nation in West Africa.

It was the second Monday in October, a day that in some places is still called Columbus Day, but recognized this year by President Joe Biden as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Locally, the designation was put on the calendar by Bloomington’s city council two years ago.

The occasion for Vargas’s remarks was the first annual “State of the Latino Community in Monroe County” event. The evening was sponsored by the La Casa/Latino Cultural Center at Indiana University, the city of Bloomington’s Latino programs and outreach, Bloomington’s commission on Hispanic and Latino affairs, and the 9th District Latino Caucus.

Vargas put a question to the panelists: “Why do you generalize the Hispanic or Latino community in general, like it was one community, where in reality it is a division of languages?” Continue reading “First annual Monroe County event: “The complexities of the Latino community are tremendous.””

Bloomington acts on plan to nix 7th Street stop signs to aid traffic flow for bicycle lane

Washington Street looking south at 7th Street. (Dave Askins/B Square 2021-10-09)

In a news release issued on Friday (Oct. 8), the city of Bloomington publicized its removal of stop signs along 7th Street at cross streets between Walnut Street and Indiana Avenue.

The removal of the stop signs is intended to help the traffic flow on 7th Street.

The east-west street will eventually see the completion of the 7-Line, a separated bicycle lane, which is under construction on the south side of the roadway. The two-way bicycle lane on 7th Street will stretch from the B-Line on the west, to Woodlawn Avenue on the east.

In transportation engineering terms, what the city is implementing is a new “traffic pattern.”

As a practical matter, the removal of stop signs on 7th Street means that motorists and other users of the cross streets will have to be alert. The traffic on 7th Street no longer has to stop at four intersections.

Vehicles on Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Dunn streets will continue to see a stop sign when they reach the 7th Street intersection.

To help get drivers and other users of the roadway accustomed to the new traffic pattern, yellow “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” signage has been attached to the stop signs for cross streets. Electronic signs that flash a warning about the new traffic pattern have also been placed at some of the intersections.

The removal of the 7th Street stop signs was approved by Bloomington’s city council over a year ago, on Aug. 12, 2020. Continue reading “Bloomington acts on plan to nix 7th Street stop signs to aid traffic flow for bicycle lane”

Bloomington water rates will still go higher, but by less: Details of proposed settlement filed

Customers of city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) will be paying more for their drinking water starting Jan. 1, 2022.

But the increase will not be quite as much as CBU originally proposed.

CBU took the rate case to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), after it was approved by the city council in mid-March. The IURC recognized Indiana University and Washington Township Water as intervenors.

After wrangling back and forth since the initial filing, a settlement among Bloomington and the intervenors was filed, on Oct. 6 this past week.

Under the proposed settlement, which still needs approval by the IURC, residential customers will still see an increase in two phases. But the overall increase for residential customers will go from $3.73 to $4.38 per 1,000 gallons, instead of $4.54 per 1,000 gallons.

The 16-cent smaller increase that residential customers will pay compares to a 32-cent smaller increase for Indiana University. Indiana University is a separate customer class for CBU. Indiana University’s increase will go from $2.37 to $2.99 per 1,000 gallons instead of $3.31 per 1,000 gallons.

That still leaves Indiana University with a higher percentage increase (26.16 percent) than residential customers (17.43 percent). Continue reading “Bloomington water rates will still go higher, but by less: Details of proposed settlement filed”

Photos: Science Fest achieves Dunn Meadow liftoff

In Dunn Meadow on Saturday morning, Indiana University’s Science Fest provided touchdowns aplenty despite the football team’s bye week.

Every 20 minutes or so, a model rocket or two, sometimes four at a time, were sent soaring 800 feet or more into the clear skies, undisturbed by much of a measurable breeze.

After its engine backfired (by design), to pop off the nose cone and deploy the parachute, one of the rockets landed just a few feet from the launch pad. Others landed a bit farther away, towards 7th Street.

Supervising the activity was IU professor of physics Paul Sokol and lecturer Dilara Sultana, along with a handful of graduate students in the department.

Science Fest activities were planned for much of the campus. The B Square confined its coverage to Dunn Meadow.

More photos are included after the jump. Continue reading “Photos: Science Fest achieves Dunn Meadow liftoff”

Jan. 6, 2022 deadline: Remonstrance against Bloomington annexations gets energetic start: “We are to be reckoned with.”

On Friday morning, the first remonstrators against Bloomington’s annexations showed up at Monroe County courthouse.

Friday was the start to the formal petitioning process for property owners inside any of the seven areas that Bloomington wants to annex. That’s because Friday’s edition of The Herald-Times carried a public notice of the city council’s adoption of annexation ordinances.

The notice is required to be published in a newspaper as defined under Indiana state law.

Under state law, the 90-day window to submit remonstration petition signatures translates into a deadline of Jan. 6, 2022 at 4 p.m.

Continue reading “Jan. 6, 2022 deadline: Remonstrance against Bloomington annexations gets energetic start: “We are to be reckoned with.””

Bin there done that: Bloomington council OKs garbage fees retroactively, preps for report

At its regular Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council ratified garbage collection fees that expired nearly a year ago, on Nov. 1, 2020.

Sanitation worker uses a mechanical arm to empty a Bloomington solid waste cart. Screengrab from city of Bloomington video.

In the future, the council won’t have to worry about fees expiring. That’s because on Wednesday, the council eliminated the city code’s entire “sunset” clause for the fees.

The sunset clause was added as an amendment, when the council adopted the 2017 ordinance that set the fees for the new system of refuse carts.

The clause was intended to trigger a review of rates, after sufficient data had been collected by public works staff from the new system.

Wednesday’s action did not raise garbage collection rates.

Based on March 22, 2017 meeting minutes, the council was supposed to undertake a rate review last year with an eye towards possibly providing a rebate to residents who generate less garbage.

Based on the meeting minutes, it appears that the debate on the exact date of the sunset clause lasted about an hour. The initial date proposed was July 1, 2019, but public works director Adam Wason said if there were to be a sunset date, he’d prefer Nov. 1, 2020. Wason said the later date would allow more data to be collected.

On Wednesday, the ordinance passed by the city council was approved at the same meeting on the same day when it was first introduced, which required and received a unanimous vote.

Under state law, the council is able to ratify the authorization of the fees retroactively, according to assistant city attorney Larry Allen.

City council president Jim Sims said the public works department is scheduled on Oct. 20 to deliver the report that the department would have given last year. That seemed to help head off extensive council discussion of solid waste issues, which came up during the council’s hearings on the public works departmental budget. Continue reading “Bin there done that: Bloomington council OKs garbage fees retroactively, preps for report”