Column: Check out the Bloomington Jazz Orchestra!

On Friday evening, the Bloomington Jazz Orchestra delivered an hour’s worth of music from the edge of the Monroe County Public Library’s parking lot in downtown Bloomington.

Bloomington Jazz Orchestra (Aug. 12, 2022)

I counted more than 50 people in the crowd. Many had brought lawn chairs because they’d seen the advertising for the event, while some had just stumbled across the free concert like I had.

If the parking lot had a roof, the 19-piece ensemble would have blown it off the place. Some people got out of their seats to dance.

I don’t know anything about music, especially not jazz music, but I can tell when musicians are good and when they’re not, and BJO is really good.

If you see BJO on a future event listing, mark your calendar to go.

The orchestra is led by Janis Stockhouse, who retired as Bloomington High School North’s band director in spring of 2019.

Continue reading “Column: Check out the Bloomington Jazz Orchestra!”

Column: Quorum issue for Bloomington city council highlights need for objective study of procedures

Attendance at Bloomington city council committee-of-the-whole meetings, chronological from left to right.
Attendance at Bloomington city council work sessions, chronological from left to right.
Percentage of votes at council meetings (regular and special sessions, not including committee-of-the-whole meetings) for which councilmembers were present. For this chart, abstentions are counted as present for the vote.

This past Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council failed to achieve a quorum for its committee-of-the-whole meeting.

For the nine-member council, a quorum is five. But only four councilmembers showed up: Susan Sandberg, Jim Sims, Dave Rollo, and Ron Smith.

In practical terms, the lack of a quorum just meant that the four councilmembers could not take an advisory vote on the one agenda item, which was the historic designation of the Bethel AME church.

The four councilmembers still heard the presentation from the city’s historic preservation program manager, and comments from the public.

The lack of quorum did not mean the church’s historic designation was delayed. That item will still appear on the city council’s Wednesday, Aug. 17 agenda, but without a committee recommendation.

But as Wednesday’s gathering was wrapping up, councilmember Jim Sims remarked on the lack of quorum.

He started by noting who else was in the room: “I probably shouldn’t say anything, but I just got to say, we’ve got people from the public that have come here to share their voices, staff that is here to make a presentation. We’ve got a couple of historic preservation commissioners here.”

Sims added: “I personally think it’s a bit of a disservice that we don’t have at least five people here on this council as a quorum to conduct proper business.”

Sims was right to say something. But I think it’s time for the city council to do something. Continue reading “Column: Quorum issue for Bloomington city council highlights need for objective study of procedures”

Bloomington police update: 23-year-old arrested in connection with July 27 killing

In a Thursday news release, Bloomington police reported that a 23-year-old man, described as a “transient,” has been arrested in connection with the July 27 shooting death of a Kinser Flats resident on the city’s north side.

The news release says that Kendrick Q. Webb was arrested in Melrose Park, Illinois, which is just west of Chicago, but still in Cook County.

Webb has been charged with murder and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

It was Bloomington police detectives working with members of the United States Marshals Service who took Webb into custody without incident on Aug. 10 around 2:30 p.m., the news release says.

Webb was then taken to the Cook County jail, where he waits for transport to Monroe County.

According to the news release, detectives used “a variety of investigative techniques” to determine that Webb had fled to the Chicago area. Continue reading “Bloomington police update: 23-year-old arrested in connection with July 27 killing”

Bloomington’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church set to get historic district OK from city council

Bloomington’s Bethel AME church, which sits on the northeast corner of 7th and Rogers Street on the western edge of downtown, is set to receive historic designation from the city council at its meeting next Wednesday (Aug. 17).

The parsonage, which sits to the north of the church, will also receive a vote on its historic designation.

This Wednesday, four members of the city council got a preview of the agenda item at a scheduled committee-of-the-whole meeting. The meeting turned out to be just a gathering, not an official meeting, because a quorum of five was not achieved. Continue reading “Bloomington’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church set to get historic district OK from city council”

County council warm to Bloomington’s pitch for convention center transfer

While a lot of details remain to be worked out, Monroe County councilors appear receptive to the basic idea of transferring ownership of the county’s convention center and related properties to the city of Bloomington.

The city’s hoped-for timeline for getting the deal done is the end of September.

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, county councilors took turns responding to a pitch from Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Eric Spoonmore, who is their former colleague, and Bloomington deputy mayor Don Griffin. The two gave a somewhat longer version of the proposal that county commissioners had heard during public commentary at their regular meeting last Wednesday. Continue reading “County council warm to Bloomington’s pitch for convention center transfer”

SR 46 & I-69 crash: Driver charged with reckless homicide, Bloomington police say 46-year old woman was intoxicated when she crashed SUV into truck

In a news release issued Tuesday afternoon, Bloomington police reported the outcome of their investigation into a crash on Saturday (Aug. 6), which took place at the intersection of SR 46 and the southbound entrance ramp to I-69, on the northwest edge of the city.

On Tuesday, police arrested Charity D. Hall, a 46-year-old Bloomington resident, as soon as she was released from the IU Health Bloomington hospital, where she had been taken for treatment of her crash-related injuries three days earlier.

According to the news release, Hall was taken taken to the Monroe County jail, and charged with several crimes: Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated Causing Death (level 4 felony); Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated Causing Catastrophic Injury (level 4 felony); Reckless Homicide (level 5 felony); Battery Against a Public Safety Official (level 6 felony); and Resisting Law Enforcement (class A misdemeanor).

Hall is alleged to have driven her Toyota 4Runner sport utility vehicle eastbound on SR 46 through the intersection of the southbound onramp to I-69 without stopping at the red light. The news release says she crashed into the passenger side of a teal Chevrolet S-10 pickup that had a green arrow for its left turn from SR 46 westbound onto the southbound onramp to I-69, according to the news release. Continue reading “SR 46 & I-69 crash: Driver charged with reckless homicide, Bloomington police say 46-year old woman was intoxicated when she crashed SUV into truck”

Telecom gear gone from Johnson’s Creamery smokestack, partial demolition to come next week

The actual “H” in the word “Johnson’s”—which is spelled out in the brick on the Johnson’s Creamery historic smokestack, off 7th Street in downtown Bloomington—is now visible.

Until Monday, the letter had been obscured by some AT&T telecommunications equipment that was installed at the top of the smokestack.  Two bars of the telecom gear had been colored white, as a stand-in for the “H” so that the name of the historic creamery was still legible.

On Monday morning, a crew from an AT&T contractor removed the telecommunications equipment from the top of the smokestack.

AT&T had been ordered to remove the equipment by Bloomington’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department.

The removal of the gear sets the stage for the partial demolition of the smokestack, which has been ordered by Bloomington’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department, because an engineering study determined that the smokestack is structurally unsound.

The smokestack, with its unsafe lean, is supposed to be knocked down from 140 feet to 60 feet.

The Johnson’s Creamery building, which is now its own local historic district, is owned by Peerless Development.

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, Peerless founder Michael Cordaro indicated on Monday that his contractors should be on site next week to begin the demolition and restoration work on the smokestack. He estimated the time for that work at four to six weeks. Continue reading “Telecom gear gone from Johnson’s Creamery smokestack, partial demolition to come next week”

Photos: Hawk checks in at Hyatt Place

On Earth Day this year, The B Square spotted a red-tailed hawk perched on top of the Monroe County courthouse.

In the last three months, several more  downtown hawk sightings have been made.

These shots are from the Monday morning (Aug. 8, 2022). It was perched on the courthouse weathervane, but flew off to the east, then looped back around to the southwest side of the square and landed on top of the Hyatt Place hotel building. It sat there for a couple minutes, surveying downtown Bloomington, before heading off north towards the Johnson’s Creamery smokestack. It did not land on top of the smokestack. Continue reading “Photos: Hawk checks in at Hyatt Place”

COVID-19 update: Case numbers steady but hospitalizations up, more vaxxed patients than not

Friday’s news conference of leaders in the Bloomington area is one indicator that the local spread of COVID-19 virus is up.

It was the first such news conference since March, a time when IU Health south central region president Brian Shockney described a “sense of calm” after two years of pandemic.

At the time, just two patients at IU Health south central region hospitals had diagnoses for COVID-19.

On Friday, Shockney reported a total of 31 patients who were diagnosed with the virus at IU Health’s hospitals in Bloomington, Bedford and Paoli.

Shockney said, “Over the last 90 days, we have seen a continued increase in our inpatients.” He added, “With the workforce shortages across the state, and nation along with the highly complex care that our patients require, it’s difficult to provide care for all those who need it.”

The number of cases has remained pretty steady for the last three months and would qualify as “low” community spread under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) categories.

But the number of hospitalizations has pushed Monroe County to the CDC “medium” level of community spread. Continue reading “COVID-19 update: Case numbers steady but hospitalizations up, more vaxxed patients than not”

Bloomington’s initial convention center pitch: County transfers property, city pays debt, gets hotel tax

The initial potential term sheet that has been floated by the city of Bloomington for the acquisition of the Monroe County convention center is now public.

The key points of the proposal include the transfer of the convention center at 3rd Street and College Avenue to the city of Bloomington—as well as other property that has been purchased by the county government with proceeds from the innkeeper’s tax.

The city wants to acquire the convention center, in order to purse an expansion of the facility independent of the county, because the joint venture between the two governments was stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Under the terms, the county would also have to support an annual transfer from the county to Bloomington, or its property manager, the proceeds from the county’s 5-percent innkeeper’s tax. The tax is overseen by a five-member convention and visitors commission, which is appointed by county government. It’s the innkeeper’s tax that is used by the county to make the payments on the existing debt on the convention center.

As part of the term sheet, Bloomington would pay off the existing debt, which is about $2.5 million. The only other direct compensation for any real estate would be for property that the county has acquired using “non-convention center-dedicated funds.” That appears to be synonymous with “funds other than innkeeper’s tax revenue.”

Other property that has been acquired by the county for the convention center expansion, like the former NAPA auto parts store at 3rd and Walnut Streets, would simply be transferred to the city, without cash compensation. Continue reading “Bloomington’s initial convention center pitch: County transfers property, city pays debt, gets hotel tax”