Contested Bloomington plan commission spot goes to Smith not Piedmont-Smith, standing committees question still pending

From left: Bloomington city councilmembers Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Ron Smith at the Oct. 31, 2021 announcement of Democrat Penny Githens’ candidacy for District 62 state representative. All nine members of Bloomington’s city council are Democrats.

At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council made Ron Smith its appointee to the city plan commission for the coming year.

The other councilmember who had asked to be appointed was Isabel Piedmont-Smith.

For Piedmont-Smith it was the second year in a row that she was not the council’s pick as its appointment to the plan commission. The outcome was decided  by the same 5–4 margin. Last year, it was Susan Sandberg who was put in the plan commission seat.

Smith prevailed on the same 5–4 split as last year, which broke down along the same lines as the vote for council president and vice president at last week’s meeting.

The five voting for Smith were: Smith, Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri, Dave Rollo, and Jim Sims. The four voting for Piedmont-Smith were: Piedmont-Smith, Matt Flaherty, Steve Volan and Kate Rosenbarger.

Also on Wednesday’s agenda was a resolution that would eliminate most of the council’s standing committees.

After two hours of debate, mostly in the guise of questions that were put to the resolution’s sponsors, the council voted to postpone consideration of the resolution until its Jan. 19 meeting.

The resolution eliminating several of the council’s standing committees is sponsored by Sandberg, Sgambelluri and Sims.

Continue reading “Contested Bloomington plan commission spot goes to Smith not Piedmont-Smith, standing committees question still pending”

City of Bloomington: Unsafe building order for Johnson’s Creamery smokestack, section of B-Line Trail to be closed

In a news release issued early Thursday morning, the city of Bloomington announced that it has issued an “Unsafe Building Order to Repair” to the owners of the the old Johnson Creamery building on 7th Street, across the B-Line Trail from city hall.

The building is owned by Peerless Capital of Chicago, Illinois. It’s the site of planned new housing construction that would incorporate the existing structure. According to the news release, the unsafe order was issued under city code  and state statue.

The reason for the unsafe building order, according to Thursday’s news release, is the 140-foot-tall smokestack, which is located on the property. The iconic smokestack has vertical lettering that reads “Johnson’s” on its east side.

The B-Line Trail, where it passes between city hall and the Johnson Creamery building, will be closed off, according to the news release. As of around 8 a.m. Thursday morning, the B-Line was still open. [Updated 2:53 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2022: The latest word from the city is that as of around 11 a.m. the fencing has been installed.] Continue reading “City of Bloomington: Unsafe building order for Johnson’s Creamery smokestack, section of B-Line Trail to be closed”

Bloomington signs off on animal care agreement with Monroe County, Ellettsville

At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council approved an agreement with the other governments in the county that spells out how Bloomington’s cost is covered for animals surrendered to the city shelter by non-city county residents and county animal control officers.

On the county’s side, the interlocal agreement was approved last year by county commissioners  and the county 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 “Bloomington signs off on animal care agreement with Monroe County, Ellettsville”

Bloomington’s Trades District technology center takes small step forward

At its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) gave a green light to the next incremental step in the construction of a technology center north of Bloomington’s city hall building, in the Trades District.

The Trades District is a certified technology park.

What the RDC approved was a revision to the project review form for a roughly $5.5-million technology center.

The center is expected to break ground in mid-2022 and be open in early- to mid-2024, according to Bloomington director of economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley.

The timing depends in part on some back-and-forth the city is having with the federal Economic Development administration (EDA), in connection with a $3.5 million grant awarded by the EDA for the center, Crowley wrote in a late-December email to The B Square.

Wednesday’s project form revision spells out $500,000 as the amount planned for the design services for the project. The firm that has done the initial conceptual and preliminary designs is Axis Architecture + Interiors. Continue reading “Bloomington’s Trades District technology center takes small step forward”

Plat for part of former IU hospital site gets OK to go in front of Bloomington plan commission

At its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) signed off on a proposed plat for some of the land to be redeveloped as a part of the reuse project for the former IU Health hospital at 2nd and Rogers Streets.

A plat is a map that shows how the land is divided into lots.

What the RDC was approving was the submission of the plat to the city plan commission. Once the plan commission approves it, probably at its Feb. 7 meeting, the RDC will confirm the plat with another vote, according to the RDC’s meeting information packet.

The land in question is bounded by 1st and 2nd streets on the north and south. The boundaries to the east and west are formed by Morton and Rogers streets. Continue reading “Plat for part of former IU hospital site gets OK to go in front of Bloomington plan commission”

Analysis: Bloomington city council splits on officer elections, members air past grievances

Last Wednesday, the annual election of Bloomington city council officers—president, vice president, and parliamentarian—took about an hour.

On a vote that was split 5–4, the council put Susan Sandberg, instead of Matt Flaherty, in the president’s chair. On a vote that was also split 5–4, the council returned Sue Sgambelluri to the vice president’s seat, instead of putting Flaherty there.

Questioning of candidates for the leadership positions was sharp, fueled by conflicts over the first two years of the current council’s four-year term.

Even though Dave Rollo was the only candidate put forward for parliamentarian, he was questioned by Flaherty in a way that alluded to an aggravated verbal exchange between the two at an early March 2021 meeting.

The 5–4 split was the same for the vote on president and vice president.

Voting for Sandberg and Sgambelluri were: Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri, Dave Rollo, Ron Smith, and Jim Sims. Voting for Flaherty both times were: Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, and Steve Volan.

No one dissented on the vote for Rollo as parliamentarian.

All nine of Bloomington’s city councilmembers are Democrats. Continue reading “Analysis: Bloomington city council splits on officer elections, members air past grievances”

Vax-or-test policy: Lawsuit against Bloomington filed by three city unions contends new regs on COVID-19 impose new unnegotiated employment conditions

A lawsuit filed on Tuesday against the city of Bloomington in Monroe County circuit court claims that a new COVID-19 policy is in conflict with union contacts.

The city’s policy requires employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or get tested weekly for an infection. If any employee does not show proof of vaccination or get tested weekly, then under the policy, they will be “removed from the workplace until they provide a test result.”

Absences caused by failure to comply with the vax-or-test policy will necessarily mean lost income. The policy states: “They will not be allowed to use benefit time to cover their absences; the absence will be unpaid.”

On Saturday morning through mid-day, a dozen or so members of the city’s AFSCME local, including some workers in the public works and utilities departments, demonstrated on the courthouse square in downtown Bloomington against the city’s vax-or-test policy. They held signs with slogans like, “Please Don’t Abuse Loyal Employees” and “Keep Compassion in Fashion”

The lawsuit contends that the city’s new policy imposes new conditions of employment that the City did not negotiate with the unions. Continue reading “Vax-or-test policy: Lawsuit against Bloomington filed by three city unions contends new regs on COVID-19 impose new unnegotiated employment conditions”

Annexation fight: Strong signature counts in all areas as deadline passes, wait starts for final tally

The close of the business day on Thursday marked an end to the 90-day period of remonstration against the decision by Bloomington’s city council in late September 2021 to annex seven separate territories into the city.

Remonstration means signing an official petition in opposition to annexation. On Thursday, the Monroe County auditor’s office had fresh signature numbers to report, as of Wednesday.

Based on those numbers, property owners in six of seven areas have a decent chance of blocking Bloomington’s annexation effort outright. In those six areas, more than 65 percent of property owners have submitted signatures. That’s the key threshold.

Here’s the breakdown: Area 1-A (73.83%); Area 1-B( 56.90%); Area 1-C (87.62%); Area 2 (80.44%); Area 3 (75.25%); Area 4 (71.74%); and Area 5 (68.13%)

The numbers reported on Thursday do not reflect the county auditor’s final determination. Any number of reasons could still cause the auditor, on further review, to conclude that a signature is not valid. Among the reasons: The signature a duplicate.

The auditor could also conclude that a remonstrance waiver attached to a property in connection with sewer service is valid, which would eliminate the signature from the count.

About the timeline for final counts, Monroe County auditor Cathy Smith told The B Square: “We know it won’t be any sooner than the third week of January.” That depends in part on how long some final back-and-forth takes between the auditor’s office and Bloomington’s city attorney.

But Smith said she would love for the signature validation process for all the areas to be wrapped up by the end of January. If not, she would like it to be done by mid-February. Continue reading “Annexation fight: Strong signature counts in all areas as deadline passes, wait starts for final tally”

Public works notebook: Scooter contracts, underpass mural repair, sidewalk fines

Bloomington’s short-handed board of public works still worked its way through a Tuesday agenda that included: renewal of the $10,000 annual licenses for two scooter companies; an agreement with an artist to refurbish the 7th Street underpass mural; two public improvement bond estimates; and a noise permit for a Rally for Life event.

The three-member board has one open seat, due to the resignation of Dana Henke, which was effective at the end of the year. For Tuesday’s meeting, that still left a quorum in the form of Kyla Cox Deckard and Beth Hollingsworth. Acting as president for Tuesday’s meeting was the board’s secretary, Kyla Cox Deckard.

Public works director Adam Wason indicated at Tuesday’s meeting that it is hoped a replacement for Henke would be named in time for the board’s next meeting on Jan. 19. Continue reading “Public works notebook: Scooter contracts, underpass mural repair, sidewalk fines”

Pandemic notebook: Highest ever rolling daily case average for Hoosier state, vaccine clinic in Bloomington Jan. 5 to Jan. 8

The datasets maintained by Indiana’s state department of health were updated Monday afternoon, with the COVID-19 numbers from the previous four days.

Indiana’s rolling average of daily positive test results now stands at 8,175 as of Jan. 2. That’s an all-time pandemic high, eclipsing the previous absolute peak of 6,895 on Dec. 6 of 2020.

In Monroe County, the rolling average now stands at 105 cases a day. That’s not the all-time high. But it’s in the neighborhood of the absolute peak of 114 on Nov. 20, 2020.

A COVID-19 vaccination and testing clinic that’s open to the public is being held from noon to 8 p.m. for four days on Jan. 5, Jan. 6, Jan. 7 and Jan. 8 at 800 N. Indiana Ave. in Bloomington. The location is between 11th and 12th streets. Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Highest ever rolling daily case average for Hoosier state, vaccine clinic in Bloomington Jan. 5 to Jan. 8”