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”

Photos: Bird, Butterflies, Bees

It’s monarch butterfly season in downtown Bloomington.

That’s because the pollinator plantings in the flower beds at the intersections of Bloomington’s downtown courthouse square are working their magic again this year.

Here’s some photos, all taken in the last week or so.

I threw in the goldfinch, because he was flitting around the courthouse grounds when I had my camera out. Besides butterflies and the goldfinch, there’s also a bunch of shots of bumble bees. On the courthouse square…bees. Bees….square. That’s an easy joke just half a block away from where I live. Enjoy.
Continue reading “Photos: Bird, Butterflies, Bees”

11 new firefighters added to Bloomington department, some will help staff temporary location

On Friday afternoon at the bottom of the grassy landscaped tiers in front Bloomington’s city hall, Devin Owens tore open an envelope and read aloud the contents: “Probationary firefighter Owens. I am assigned to Black Shift Station 1.”

The announcement earned a round of applause from a gathering of about 60 people.

The ritual reading aloud of station assignments by Owens and 10 other new firefighters came after they were sworn in by city clerk Nicole Bolden.

Fire chief Jason Moore, deputy chief Jayme Washel, battalion chief for training Tania Daffron, and a couple of dozen other firefighters attended the ceremony, as did Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, deputy mayor Don Griffin and several other city staff.

At 11 members, it’s the largest and most diverse recruiting class ever, Moore told The B Square.

The station to which Owens was assigned is currently closed, due to around a half million dollars worth of damage, which it sustained during the June 18–19 flooding. Continue reading “11 new firefighters added to Bloomington department, some will help staff temporary location”

Bloomington climate trends could mean wetter summers, higher lake levels

Three decades from now, Indiana is forecast to see between 6 and 8 percent more rainfall than it averaged in the past, depending on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions during the lead-up to mid-century.

That’s according to a 2018 report from the Purdue Climate Change Research Center.

According to the report, in southern Indiana, the increased precipitation is predicted to come more in the winter and spring months.

But based on records of precipitation and the water levels at Lake Monroe in the past two and a half decades, southern Indiana looks like it could be seeing more rain in the first half of summer.

Earlier this week, the Indianapolis office of the National Weather Service tweeted out a link to a report on the anomaly of this summer’s first half: It has been way wetter than normal.

The abnormal amount of region-wide rainfall has caused high water on Lake Monroe. Last week Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources closed the swim beaches at the lake’s Fairfax SRA and Paynetown SRA and they’ve stayed closed.

Rainfall and lake levels are related, of course. And over the last quarter century, both seem to be showing an upward trend for this time of year. Continue reading “Bloomington climate trends could mean wetter summers, higher lake levels”

Survey: Bloomington renters more likely than homeowners to favor supportive housing for the homeless; overall trend upward

Statistically speaking, Bloomington’s renters are significantly more likely than the city’s homeowners to favor the provision of supportive housing to those who are experiencing homelessness.

Image links to the slide deck for the July 21, 2021 NRC presentation to the Bloomington city council.

That’s according to results from a community survey done by Polco’s National Research Center (NRC), Inc..

Survey results were presented to Bloomington’s city council at its regular Wednesday meeting.

Of renters who responded to the survey, 99 percent said that they strongly or somewhat support providing assistance in the form of supportive housing.

At 88 percent, a clear majority of homeowners also favor such support, but the 11-point difference is significant, according to NRC.

That’s one of the nuggets that comes to the surface when the survey results are parsed into a spreadsheet that can be sorted and filtered for the statistically significant differences in demographic categories—like homeownership, time of residency, student status, gender, and age.

The demographic breakdowns were not a highlight of the presentation given to the city council by Damema Mann, who is director of national engagement for NRC Polco.

Highlighted on one of Mann’s slides was the 12-point increase in favor of the city giving housing assistance to those experiencing homelessness. In 2019, 63 percent of respondents said they were strongly in favor of supportive housing, compared to 75 percent in 2021.

The percentage of respondents who said homelessness is a challenge for Bloomington increased by 18 points, from 56 percent in 2019 to 74 percent in 2021. Continue reading “Survey: Bloomington renters more likely than homeowners to favor supportive housing for the homeless; overall trend upward”

Bloomington Transit board makes new general manager choice, will negotiate contract details for vote at August meeting

Bloomington Transit’s five-member board voted unanimously Tuesday night, on its pick for the next general manager of the city’s public bus system: John Connell.

A view of the Bloomington Transit board room at the Grimes Lane facility for the July 20, 2021 meeting. Board members are seated at the table on the left. The two candidates for the general managership of BT and representatives from the two management companies are seated in the audience to the right.

He is now operations manager for the public bus system in Lafayette and West Lafayette, another Indiana college town. The bus system there is called the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation, and operates as CityBus.

BT’s general manager position would have become vacant at the end of September when current general manager Lew May’s contract runs out.

May had originally intended to retire last year after more than two decades of service. He agreed to stay on, to shepherd the bus system through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Board members indicated some interest in negotiating some overlap for May and Connell when the details of the contract are worked out, between now and the board’s August meeting. At that meeting, the board will vote on a contract. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit board makes new general manager choice, will negotiate contract details for vote at August meeting”

Elm Street for El Mercado: Food, crafts, and a movement for immigrant protections

India Scott held up each kind of her handmade scented candles for aromatic review by the B Square: “This is Black Love…Blackberry Cheesecake…Orange Mint…Lavender and Vanilla.”

The last one earned a request for a second whiff.

Scott’s Dakota Faith Candles and More was one of about a dozen food and craft vendors at last Sunday’s edition of the monthly farmers and artisans market called El Mercado. The market is held on the third Sunday of the month.

Launched in August 2019,  El Mercado has popped up in a handful of different Bloomington spots.

But since April of this year, the market has landed on the block of Elm Street between 7th and 8th Streets, next to the Banneker Community Center on Bloomington’s near west side. It’s the block where the first of Bloomington’s “Black Lives Matter” street murals was painted.

And through the end of the year, that will be El Mercado’s home, according to a partnership agreement with Banneker, approved earlier this year by Bloomington’s board of park commissioners.

On Sunday, the market was also the place where organizers for Movimiento Cosecha  set up a table as a followup to their Thursday march from Switchyard Park to Indiana University’s Sample Gates.

The national movement describes itself as one that fights for “permanent protection, dignity, and respect for all undocumented immigrants.” Continue reading “Elm Street for El Mercado: Food, crafts, and a movement for immigrant protections”

Possibly closed through mid-2022 or longer: Flood-damaged downtown Bloomington fire station

A temporary location at 4th Street and College Avenue could be serving as Bloomington’s downtown fire station for another year and a half.

That’s based on a “right of access” agreement for the property, which was approved by the Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC), at its regular meeting on Monday. The  fire department’s right of access to the RDC’s property runs through the end of 2022.

Station 1 was damaged in the flooding that hit areas of downtown on the night of June 18.

The heavy rains that night filled the fire station’s basement with eight feet of water, drowning the building’s telecommunications center. Station 1 also served as the department’s administrative headquarters.

The temporary site—in the former Bunger & Robertson building at College Square—is four blocks east west of Station 1.

It has been housing the department’s administrative functions since the flood hit. On Monday, Bloomington fire chief Jason Moore told The B Square that the department also has operational crews stationed there from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

When the firetrucks are not at the temporary site, they are distributed to other stations in a way to optimize fire protection coverage from those four sites.

Providing fire protection around the clock from the temporary downtown location will be made possible by the RDC’s approval at its Monday meeting. The right of access includes permission to establish a temporary fire truck bay in the parking lot, which will allow the trucks to be secured overnight.

In connection with the temporary fire engine bay, Bloomington’s board of public safety will be asked at its Tuesday meeting to approve a $101,850 base contract with Mahaffey USA, to erect the structure. Continue reading “Possibly closed through mid-2022 or longer: Flood-damaged downtown Bloomington fire station”