Bloomington resumes curbside recycling pickup week of Oct. 4

In a news release issued early Saturday evening, the city of Bloomington has announced that curbside recycling service will resume on Monday, Oct. 4.

Last week the recycling service was cancelled, because not enough sanitation workers were available to work. Several workers had tested positive for the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

For residents whose recycling efforts exceed the size of the cart in any one week, for the coming week, they can set out additional items in other containers. The news release cautions, “Recycling placed in plastic bags will not be collected.”

Last week, the news release announcing the cancellation of recycling pickup did not come until Sunday afternoon.

The word did not get out to every resident. A uReport from Thursday noted: “Although my trash was taken my recycling was left Tuesday morning. There was no indication or notice sticker as to why.”

Regular trash pickup was not affected. Continue reading “Bloomington resumes curbside recycling pickup week of Oct. 4”

Data notebook: Bloomington’s electric scooter ridership at 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels

Measured by scooter rides, life in Bloomington has not yet returned to the pre-pandemic norms.

Numbers available through the city’s B Clear platform show that for August and September of 2021, a total of 106,083 rides were taken on a shared electric scooter, which is 69 percent of the 154,486 rides taken during the same period in 2019. Continue reading “Data notebook: Bloomington’s electric scooter ridership at 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels”

Pandemic notebook: Surge subsiding, but slowly

The current surge in COVID-19 case numbers seems to be past its peak statewide and in Monroe County.

But  IU Health south central region president Brian Shockney said on Friday that this one seems to be a little different from previous surges.

That’s because hospitalization numbers are decreasing more slowly after hitting their peak. He was speaking at the weekly news conference of local leaders on pandemic response.

Shockney said IU Health’s facility has continued to see a steady volume of COVID-19 patients over the past few weeks. “We’re seeing a longer tail in this surge than previous surges,” Shockney said. He added, “We may be coming out of this surge for a longer period of time than previously thought.” Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Surge subsiding, but slowly”

Rumblings among Bloomington city council members about voting against 2022 budget

Climate action, non-motorized transportation, and police pay are current sticking points between Bloomington’s city council and mayor John Hamilton, as the 2022 city budget process builds towards a mid-October council vote.

At their committee-of-the-whole meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington city council members reviewed each of the legislative items that collectively make up the annual budget.

Three appropriation ordinances cover different pieces of the city’s finances—the city’s basic budget, city of Bloomington utilities, and Bloomington Transit. The other three items are salary ordinances for different categories of employees—police and fire; other city employees; and elected officials.

The final 2022 budget, which reflected just a few adjustments since the departmental hearings in August, totals around $107 million.

Based on the straw polls they took on Wednesday, some councilmembers will be voting against the appropriation ordinance for the basic budget—unless they see some concessions from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton.

Those concessions would need to be made between now and Oct. 13—that’s when an adoption vote is scheduled. Continue reading “Rumblings among Bloomington city council members about voting against 2022 budget”

Bloomington mayor gets in last word on city council’s resolution about police pay

Despite opposition from mayor John Hamilton’s administration, on Sept. 8, Bloomington’s city council approved a resolution supporting $5,000 more in base pay for police officers.

A “resolved” clause in Res 21-27 says in part that the city council “expresses its support for an increase to salaries for all sworn officers of the Bloomington Police Department by $5,000 and requests that the Mayor and city bargaining team pursue appropriate action to modify the collective bargaining agreement accordingly…”

One of the administration’s objections to the resolution was concern that it could interfere with the collective bargaining process with the police union, which is established under Bloomington city code.

Under Indiana state law, the mayor has to either approve or veto all ordinances or resolutions passed by the city council.

In the case of Res 21-27, which the council approved on Sept. 8 on a 7–1–1 vote, Hamilton signed off on it—that is, he didn’t veto the resolution.

But Hamilton did get in a last word of sorts. There’s an asterisk next to his signature that footnotes a comment from Hamilton:

I sign this document only to affirm that it declares the Common Council’s support for certain matters. There are several factual statements in the WHEREAS clauses that are not accurate, including in the third clause.

Continue reading “Bloomington mayor gets in last word on city council’s resolution about police pay”

Reports of bad tasting Bloomington water continue, CBU says good taste will take a while to work its way back through pipes

The April 20202 image of Bloomington’s water treatment plant is from the Pictometry module of the Monroe County online property lookup system.

On Monday, reports of Bloomington’s tap water tasting and smelling bad continued to come into the city’s uReport system.

One example: “The smell and taste of the water has been absolutely disgusting for at least three weeks. Has the cause been found yet? It makes me nauseated to run the tap in my home.”

At Monday’s meeting of the utilities service board (USB), city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) director Vic Kelson told members the taste and odor issue had essentially been solved.  But it will take a while for the good tasting water to work its way through the distribution system, Kelson added.

A point of emphasis in communications from CBU over the last several days  has been that the bad taste and smell pose no danger to human health.

The cause of the dirt or fish taste, according to Kelson, is naturally occurring chemicals that are produced by algal blooms in Lake Monroe—geosmin and methyl-isoborneol (MIB).

Kelson said the long hot spell with no rain towards the end of the summer had led to a large algal bloom in Lake Monroe, the source of Bloomington’s drinking water. But results from an outside lab received Monday indicated the algal bloom has diminished dramatically since last week, Kelson said.

Water treatment plant staff had increased the feed rate of powdered activated carbon (PAC), which helps with the odor, Kelson said. The amount of additional PAC will be eased off as the quality of the water coming into the plant continues to improve, Kelson said. PAC started getting added routinely to the drinking water mix in 2017.

That doesn’t mean all of Bloomington’s water will start tasting and smelling better at the same time. Starting at the water treatment plant at Lake Monroe, for a drop of water to make its way through the pipes to the farthest point in the distribution system takes seven to 10 days, Kelson said. Continue reading “Reports of bad tasting Bloomington water continue, CBU says good taste will take a while to work its way back through pipes”

Water rate increase: Bloomington reaches settlement “in principle” with IU, other rate case opponents

CBU drinking water station set up on 6th Street in connection with the Lotus Festival last weekend.

A planned water rate increase for Bloomington utilities (CBU) customers will likely be put in place as planned on Jan. 1, 2022.

That was the big news out of Monday’s regular meeting of Bloomington’s utilities service board (USB).

At Monday’s meeting, CBU director Vic Kelson told the board that a settlement in principle had been reached last week with all the interveners in the case, which include Indiana University and Washington Township Water Authority.

Kelson told the USB he could not discuss any details, but the filing of the settlement with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) is supposed to be done by Oct. 6, with a hearing set for Oct. 22.

The case for increased water rates is currently going through the IURC review process, after the Bloomington city council’s mid-March approval  of the higher rates, which are to be phased in, with increases in 2022 and 2024.

Residential CBU customers will pay a total of 22 percent more over the course of four years.

Other customers like Indiana University, will see higher increases under the proposal, around double what residential customers will see.

The 22-percent increase brings the residential customer rate to $4.54 for every 1,000 gallons. Continue reading “Water rate increase: Bloomington reaches settlement “in principle” with IU, other rate case opponents”

Convention center expansion talk picks back up: “People want to be together.”

View of the Monroe County convention center looking southwest from the top of the new 4th Street parking garage.

Two recent meetings of Monroe County officials featured renewed enthusiasm to start thinking again about the convention center expansion project.

The downtown project, which Bloomington and Monroe County officials have been pursuing for a few years now, had hit yet another rough patch in early March 2020, just before the pandemic hit.

The COVID-19 pandemic effectively paused the effort, as city and county elected officials were at odds over the way members would be appointed to a yet-to-be-established capital improvement board (CIB).

A year and a half later, at the county council’s Sept. 15 hearing on the convention center budget, council president Eric Spoonmore helped put the expansion project back on the civic radar. “I don’t want us to lose sight of this very important convention center expansion project that we have promised to the community,” Spoonmore said. Continue reading “Convention center expansion talk picks back up: “People want to be together.””

COVID-19 impact: No recycling pickup in Bloomington for week starting Sept. 27

Recycling pickup by the city of Bloomington will be canceled for the week starting Monday, Sept. 27 according to a news release issued by the city on Sunday afternoon.

The reason for the interruption in service, which will last at least a week, according to the news release, is a shortage of sanitation workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the news release, the city’s currently available sanitation workforce is less than half the number needed for normal operations.

After last Thursday’s report of city workforce COVID-19 cases, the sanitation division reported  three more positive COVID-19 cases and six additional potential exposures, according to the news release. Continue reading “COVID-19 impact: No recycling pickup in Bloomington for week starting Sept. 27”

Budget notebook: Final 2022 Bloomington budget released, $1,000 “retention pay” for police in 2021

Screenshot of a proposed amendment to the 2021 fire and police salary ordinance, to be given a first reading at the Bloomington city council’s Sept. 29 meeting.

The final 2022 budget, on which the Bloomington city council will be expected to take action in mid-October, was released late Friday afternoon.

It’s possible to find among the documents in the meeting information packet for Sept. 29 an additional $5,000 in pay for police officers.

But that figure does not mean a $5,000 increase in base pay this year, as called for in a city council resolution approved on Sept. 8.

Instead, what Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s administration appears to be proposing is to give officers an extra $1,000 in “retention pay” per quarter, starting in 2021.

There’s five quarters from now through the end of 2022. So an extra $1,000 for each of those quarters would add up to $5,000. Continue reading “Budget notebook: Final 2022 Bloomington budget released, $1,000 “retention pay” for police in 2021″