Bad Bloomington water taste not a threat to human health, possibly caused by algae, says CBU

“Our water tastes and smells like mold,” reads a complaint logged in the city’s uReport system on Sept. 15 by a city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) customer.

A Bloomington cat was still willing to drink Bloomington tap water on Sept. 14, 2021.

Reports like that have been coming in from all parts of the city, CBU communications manager Holly McLauchlin told the B Square on Tuesday.

McLauchlin said the bad taste and odor don’t pose a threat to human health or safety. That’s also part of the message in a news release that was issued by the city early Wednesday afternoon.

It’s possible that the bad taste and odor are caused by increased levels of algae in Lake Monroe, which is the source of Bloomington’s drinking water, McLauchlin said.

[Updated at 12:22 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2021: CBU has now confirmed the cause of bad taste and order is increased levels of algae in Lake Monroe.]

On Tuesday, McLauchlin told The B Square that CBU was investigating the cause of the bad taste and odor. One of several possibilities being explored was a potential problem with the mechanism used by CBU to add powdered activated carbon (PAC) to the city’s drinking water. It now appears unlikely that’s the cause. Continue reading “Bad Bloomington water taste not a threat to human health, possibly caused by algae, says CBU”

Sides settle in historic house demolition lawsuit, Bloomington doesn’t levy $83.5K fine

A settlement agreement approved by the court last week means that the owner of a house at 523 West 7th St. across from Fairview Elementary School will not be fined $83,500 for demolishing it about two years ago without the proper permit.

It was Monroe County circuit court judge Kara Krothe who signed off on the settlement, by ordering the case dismissed, based an a joint motion from the two sides—the owners and the city of Bloomington.

In fall 2019, the house was under consideration by Bloomington’s historic preservation commission (HPC) for designation as historic.

It was on Aug. 8, 2019 when the HPC recommended that the city council consider designating the house as historic. But the commission’s resolution was missing a crucial element: It did not explicitly say that the house was being put under interim protection.

Before it was put on the city council’s agenda for action, towards the end of September 2019, owners David Holdman and Judie Baker had the house demolished. They did not have the required certificate of zoning compliance. Continue reading “Sides settle in historic house demolition lawsuit, Bloomington doesn’t levy $83.5K fine”

Old Colonial Crest redux: Bloomington OKs mostly same site plan for 671-bedroom student-oriented housing project, but under different zoning

Approved by Bloomington’s plan commission on Monday night was a site plan for a project that would demolish the old Colonial Crest apartment complex, now called The Arch, on the north side of town.

In the place of 206 apartments and 393 bedrooms, spread across 15 separate two-story buildings, the developer plans to construct four residential buildings with a total of 241 apartments and 675 bedrooms, according to a letter from Smith Design Group, which is the consultant for the Aspen TOPCO II Acquisitions project.

That nets roughly 270 more bedrooms on the same site.

It’s basically the same site plan that the plan commission approved in mid-June.

According to Bloomington senior zoning planner Eric Greulich, the big difference between the version approved by the plan commission on Monday, compared to what was approved three months ago, is the lack of any new public roads proposed inside the project site.

Instead, Greulich said, one long driveway will wind through the site, with perpendicular parking off the driveway. A total of 495 parking spaces is included in the site plan. Continue reading “Old Colonial Crest redux: Bloomington OKs mostly same site plan for 671-bedroom student-oriented housing project, but under different zoning”

236-bedroom project on east side gets green light from Bloomington plan commission

Getting unanimous approval from Bloomington’s plan commission on Monday night was a development on the east side of town that will construct 176 new apartments with 236 total bedrooms in five buildings.

Called The Overlook on 3rd, the planned development also includes a self-storage building and a clubhouse, and 265 parking spaces.

The site is a vacant parcel on the south side of 3rd Street,  just west of the WHCC radio tower. The new development will leave in place existing buildings in the immediate vicinity.

The plan commission’s Monday night discussion centered on the new driveway cut onto 3rd Street. The new cut will replace an existing driveway opening that is offset from Morningside Drive to the north. The new driveway entrance, from the south, is planned to align with Morningside Drive.

The question of the driveway entrance nearly caused the petition to be delayed. But a motion to continue consideration of the petition until the plan commission’s October meeting failed on a 3–6 vote. Continue reading “236-bedroom project on east side gets green light from Bloomington plan commission”

Bloomington street sheds eugenicist’s name on unanimous plan commission vote, will now be called Eagleson Avenue

The north-south street that cuts through the Indiana University campus in Bloomington will no longer be named after David Starr Jordan, the school’s president from 1885 to 1891.

Jordan was a proponent of eugenics, which advocates for the improvement of the human species through selective mating.

On a unanimous vote taken Monday night, the city’s plan commission changed the name of the street from Jordan Avenue to Eagleson Avenue—for the portion of the road that runs from Davis Street to 17th Street.

The name change does not take effect for another four and a half months. It’s not effective until Feb. 1, 2022.

The street is being renamed for four-generations of the Eagleson family, starting with Halson Vashon Eagleson who was born a slave in 1851.

According to a mayoral-appointed 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.

A  little less than a year ago, in October 2020, the IU Board of Trustees voted to remove the name Jordan from Jordan Hall, Jordan Avenue Parking Garage, and Jordan River.

To make its recommendation, a joint IU and city task force worked on the Jordan Avenue renaming from April through July of 2021.

Despite the unanimous vote, the renaming of the street was not an easy decision for some of the Bloomington plan commissioners. Continue reading “Bloomington street sheds eugenicist’s name on unanimous plan commission vote, will now be called Eagleson Avenue”

For now, “free” parking in Bloomington’s new 4th Street garage, due to computer chip shortage

Bloomington’s new 4th Street parking garage opened for use three weeks ago on Monday, Aug. 23.

The opening was announced in a release issued by the mayor’s office the previous week.  It means the city hit its hoped-for opening date of August 2021.

The city has sold 370 monthly permits for the garage. Hourly parking will eventually be charged at 50 cents an hour.

But for now, it’s possible for visitors to downtown Bloomington to park without paying for a space in the new 4th Street garage.

That’s not because the city has adopted a philanthropic approach to parking garages. It’s due to a worldwide supply chain problem, according to the mayor’s office. The metering of time spent in the garage, as well as the customer service portal, run on technology that requires a computer chip from China, where it’s being manufactured.

As soon as the equipment arrives and is installed, the gates will go down, and daily parkers will start getting charged, according to the mayor’s office. Continue reading “For now, “free” parking in Bloomington’s new 4th Street garage, due to computer chip shortage”

Column | Because sometimes it takes a village: Local diner says, “We need your help!”

Next Friday it looks like I will again be able to enjoy a breakfast of biscuits and gravy from Village Deli on Kirkwood Avenue.

A temporary shutdown was supposed to go through Sept. 1. There was no word as that date came and went, so speculation had tended towards permanent closure.

But in a Facebook post this past Friday morning, the diner announced an attempted re-opening on a limited basis starting Sept. 17.

According to the Facebook post, online orders only will be taken on Fridays, with full table service for “very limited seating” to be offered on Saturdays and Sundays.

The missing ingredient for a more ambitious re-opening is staff. The Facebook post invites people to apply for positions online.  As of Sunday morning, the Facebook post has been shared 120 times. That’s a measure of the affection Bloomington has for the place.

Lots of folks don’t hang out on Facebook. If you have a network that includes folks looking for work, please help spread the word.

And to be clear, it’s not just Village Deli that needs more staff.

I think the next several months could help decide what Bloomington’s retail and restaurant landscape looks like in the downtown area through the mid-2020s.

On Sunday morning, a quick lap around the courthouse square and down Kirkwood Avenue confirmed that Village Deli is not the only place looking for help. Here’s a list of the 14 places I saw with help-wanted signs or notices about staff shortages: B-Town Diner; Baked!; Cafe Pizzaria; The Indiana Store; Nick’s; Five Guys; Noodles and Company; Soma; CVS; Pili’s Party Taco & Deli; Bub’s; Bloomington Bagel Company; B-Town Smoke Time; and Taco Bell.

And I know there’s plenty more places looking for help that don’t happen to have a sign posted on their front window. One of those is my favorite place of all: Function Brewing. From their Facebook post a week ago,  “The position requires multitasking, efficiency, precision, and the ability to follow directions independently. Prior kitchen experience is a plus but not required as this can be a good first kitchen job.” Continue reading “Column | Because sometimes it takes a village: Local diner says, “We need your help!””

Resolution supporting $5K more for Bloomington police gets OK from city council

A resolution that expresses support for revising the current collective bargaining agreement with the police union, to increase sworn officer pay by $5,000, was approved by Bloomington’s city council at a special meeting on Wednesday.

The vote was 7–1–1

Dissenting on the vote were Matt Flaherty, who voted against the resolution, and Kate Rosenbarger, who abstained from the vote after participating in deliberations.

Spurring the resolution, which was sponsored by Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg, and Ron Smith, are Bloomington police department’s (BPD’s) challenges with recruitment and retention.

Two recent resignations have dropped the number of sworn officers to 91, out of 105 that are authorized. The proposed 2022 budget provides funding for 105 sworn officers.

BPD’s union, FOP Lodge 88, has provided certified salary amounts to the state’s police pension fund for comparisons that show Bloomington ranks 68th out of 153 departments in the state.

Sandberg said at Wednesday’s meeting, “We should have been doing more to retain officers. And our failure to keep pace with competitive salaries has brought us to this critical point where action is needed now.”

Around 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, about an hour before the city council’s Wednesday sessions started, a joint statement on the resolution was issued by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton and police chief Mike Diekhoff. The statement essentially opposed the resolution. Continue reading “Resolution supporting $5K more for Bloomington police gets OK from city council”

Column: Bloomington’s city council should allow future annexees to serve on redistricting advisory commission

All eight annexation ordinances that Bloomington’s city council will consider on Sept. 15 include a date on which their affected areas become a part of the city: Jan. 1, 2024.

To achieve the need population balance for city council districts, the results of the 2020 decennial census would already point to a need to redraw district boundaries. The assignment of an annexation area to one of the six city council districts as a part of an annexation ordinance is required by statute. Annexations would add to the pressures to redraw city council districts. (Map does not reflect the amendments made at the council’s Aug. 31, 2021 meeting)

That’s less than two months after the next city elections for mayor, city clerk and city councilmembers.

If the effective date were set for Jan. 1, 2023, annexees would be able to participate in the ordinary democratic process for choosing local representatives.

The fact that new residents of the city would have to wait until 2027 to participate in city elections is a source of fair complaint. Even some Bloomington city council members have admitted they feel bad about it.

While the council could vote to amend the annexation ordinances to change their effective dates to Jan. 1, 2023, the council has shown no visible signs that it’s inclined to do that.

If the city council does not want to make annexees city residents in time to give them the right to vote in the 2023 municipal elections, then the council should at least allow future annexees to have some influence on the upcoming process for re-drawing city council districts.

That would mean altering the city ordinance enacted late last year that establishes a citizens redistricting advisory commission (CRAC). Only city residents are allowed to serve on the nine-member group. Continue reading “Column: Bloomington’s city council should allow future annexees to serve on redistricting advisory commission”