$9.25M real estate deal pending, could put HQs for Bloomington police, fire in same building as city hall

The view is from the west of the Showers building. The pink outline shows the portion of the building that Bloomington has made an accepted offer to purchase from CFC Properties. The image is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s property lookup system.

In a Friday mid-morning news release, the city of Bloomington has announced that it made a $9.25 million offer to purchase the 64,000-square-foot portion of the Showers building that is currently owned by CFC Properties. CFC has accepted the offer, according to the release.

CFC Properties and the city of Bloomington are currently neighbors in the Showers building.

The purchase, which would be made by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC), still depends on approval from Bloomington’s city council, according to the news release.

The agenda for the RDC’s next meeting is set for July 18.  The city council’s next meeting is scheduled for July 20. As of mid-morning on Friday, the agendas for those meetings have not yet been posted

The Showers building currently has three occupants: Bloomington’s city hall on the eastern half; Monroe County government in the northern part; and CFC Properties on the western side.

According to the news release, Bloomington is looking at consolidating its police and fire headquarters in the additional Showers building space. The police headquarters on 3rd Street was damaged in the June 2021 flood, as was the fire department headquarters on 4th Street. The fire department is currently operating the downtown station out of the  former Bunger & Robertson building at 4th and College, which is four blocks west of the flood-damaged fire station.

According to the city’s news release, the RDC will conduct due diligence on the property, before a purchase is finalized—including environmental assessment, building inspection, remodeling options, land survey, and review of existing leases and contracts. Continue reading “$9.25M real estate deal pending, could put HQs for Bloomington police, fire in same building as city hall”

Pandemic notebook: Hospital numbers push Monroe County community spread level to “medium”

Monroe County’s community spread level for the COVID-19 virus has increased from “low” to “medium” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control.

The number of cases per week per 100,000 residents is still below 200, which would put the county in the “low” category. But the latest CDC number for new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population is 13.4. That number needs to be less than 10 for a county to stay in the “low” category.

The CDC’s guidance for counties in the “medium” category looks like this:

  • If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease:
    Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions (e.g., testing)
    Have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing)
    Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies
  • If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease:
    consider self-testing to detect infection before contact
    consider wearing a mask when indoors with them
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters
  • Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible
  • Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19

Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Hospital numbers push Monroe County community spread level to “medium””

Bloomington-Meridiam fiber-to-home internet deal: 3 public bodies, 3 meetings, 3 days

Now pending is a deal between the city of Bloomington and Meridiam, a Paris-based infrastructure company, that would build a fiber-to-the-home network offering symmetric 1-Gigabit service, reaching at least 85-percent of the city.

The image links to a dynamic map. (UG = underground; AE = aerial)

The city describes the deal in terms of a $50 million investment that Meridiam will make. Meridiam has made the arrangement contingent on a kind of “tax rebate” for the company, amounting to $14.4 million over 20 years.

Meridiam says the creation of the wholesale open-access network—after an initial 5-7 year period of exclusive operation by an as-yet-unnamed internet service provider (ISP)—would create about 10 new jobs, with a payroll of about $1.1 million.

Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) got the legal process started last week, when it voted 4-0 to approve a declaratory resolution.

For the deal to go through, three different public bodies will need to give approvals, at three separate meetings, which are set for Monday (plan commission), Tuesday (economic development commission), and Wednesday (city council) of this week.

The final vote, by the RDC, is set for July 5. Continue reading “Bloomington-Meridiam fiber-to-home internet deal: 3 public bodies, 3 meetings, 3 days”

Downtown Bloomington march for stronger gun laws: “It is not about rights. It’s about lives.”

On Saturday afternoon, about 150 people were gathered on the southeast lawn of the Monroe County courthouse in downtown Bloomington. They stood in silence for 21 seconds.

The silence commemorated the lives of 21 children and teachers who were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, two weeks earlier.

The reflective moment was part of a demonstration and march that was organized by Bloomington North High School students Ingrid Pendergast and Alexandra Shirley, under the banner of the national movement called March for Our Lives. The non-profit organization advocates for stronger gun laws.

Demonstrators on Saturday marched from the southeast corner of the courthouse square, eastward down Kirkwood Avenue to Indiana Avenue, headed one block north to 6th Street, turned west, and headed back to the courthouse along 6th Street.

After demonstrators had again gathered on the courthouse lawn, Pendergast and Shirley gave remarks and invited several people to address the crowd. Then they turned the mic over to anyone who wanted to speak.

Pendergast told the crowd, “We can no longer allow gun violence to be a partisan issue. It is killing us. It is not about Republican versus Democrat.” She added, “It is not about rights. It’s about lives.” Continue reading “Downtown Bloomington march for stronger gun laws: “It is not about rights. It’s about lives.””

2022 Democratic Party primary election notebook: Breakdown of results by precinct for recorder, county commissioner

The precinct-by-precinct numbers for Tuesday’s primary elections are now available on Monroe County’s website.

Numbers are still unofficial.

For county offices, Democrats saw four contested races on the ballot. The race for the nomination for circuit court judge was a four-way contest, won by Emily Salzmann. The race for the nomination for sheriff was a five-way contest, won by Ruben Marté.

The B Square took a closer precinct-by-precinct look at the other two races, which were two-way affairs. The race for recorder was close, almost a dead heat. The county commissioner’s race was not as close—about a 3:2 margin for the winner.

What both races showed was a detectable, even if not dramatic difference between inside and outside the city limits of Bloomington. In both races there was about a four-point difference in results inside and outside Bloomington. Continue reading “2022 Democratic Party primary election notebook: Breakdown of results by precinct for recorder, county commissioner”

Monroe County campaign finance: 4 races, 17 candidates, $115K

Primary Election Day is May 3.

One limited measure of how much support candidates have among voters is the amount and range of financial contributions to their campaigns so far.

text is "pre-primary campaign finance filings" overlaid on top of a bag with a dollar sign on it

For the 2022 election season in the state of Indiana, pre-primary campaign finance forms were due at noon last Monday, April 18. Those forms are supposed to cover donations and expenditures for the period between Jan. 1, 2022 and April 8, 2022.

The B Square took a look at some of the early campaign finance filings by candidates in four Monroe County races— county commissioner; sheriff; circuit court judge; and recorder.

Those are races that have contested primaries this year for the Democratic Party.

The winner of those races will face a Republican Party candidate in the fall. None of the four races are contested in the Republican Party’s primary. The B Square has included Republican candidates in this roundup, which is compiled in a shared Google Sheet, with links to individual filings.

[Shared Goog Sheet 2020 pre-primary]

The 17 candidates in the four races have raised a combined total of around $115,000.

Counting money raised last year, six candidates for sheriff have raised a combined total of $58,000. The five candidates for judge have raised a combined total of around $28,000. The three candidates for county commissioner have raised a combined total of around $22,300. And the three candidates for county recorder have raised a combined total of around $7,000. Continue reading “Monroe County campaign finance: 4 races, 17 candidates, $115K”

Consultant: Bloomington mayor’s office should add top-level position, give better briefings to city council

In response to a records request filed by The B Square, the city of Bloomington has released a 32-page report by the Novak Consulting Group  that analyzes the organizational structure of the mayor’s office.

title page screen shot of a report that says: "City of Bloomington Organizational Assessment – Office of the Mayor Report/ April 2021" "

The report was completed and delivered to the city almost a year ago, in the third week of April 2021.

Among the recommendations in Novak’s report is to add a second deputy mayor position. Another recommendation is to “expand and enhance the City Council briefing process.”
Continue reading “Consultant: Bloomington mayor’s office should add top-level position, give better briefings to city council”

Updated: [Governor rescinds emergency order] Mask mandate rescinded by Monroe County health board effective after March 3

Monroe County’s indoor mask order was rescinded on a unanimous vote of the Monroe County board of health at its Thursday afternoon meeting.

The indoor mask mandate is no longer in effect after the end of March 3—at midnight between Thursday and Friday. The mandate is connected with an effort to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The board of health replaced the mandate with a series of strong recommendations on mask wearing, vaccination, cautions about gathering sizes, and posting of signs by businesses encouraging wearing of masks.

Among the sample signs for businesses shown to board of health members were some that promoted the message: Be nice to people who are wearing masks.

Businesses can still insist that their customers wear masks. Continue reading “Updated: [Governor rescinds emergency order] Mask mandate rescinded by Monroe County health board effective after March 3”

Pandemic notebook: Declining case numbers give momentum for lifting restrictions

The Monday update to Indiana’s COVID-19 data dashboard confirmed the trend in declining positive case numbers and hospital census statewide.

Also in Monroe County the downward trend continued, as the rolling daily average of positive cases dropped to 37. That’s still about twice the rolling average at this same time last year. But it’s just one-eighth the rolling average posted by Monroe County a month ago, on Jan. 21.

Hospitalizations statewide are down, too. The statewide hospital census of COVID-19 patients now stands at 1,093. That’s less than a third of the peak number on Jan. 13, which was 3,519.

It’s a similar picture for Hospital District 8, which includes Monroe County. The District 8 COVID-19 census is now 64 patients compared to 171 a month ago. Besides Monroe County, District 8 includes Brown, Bartholomew, Lawrence, Jackson, Orange, and Washington counties.

The improving trends after the surge, caused by the Omicron variant of the virus, has helped add momentum to sentiment in favor of lifting of various restrictions.

It’s not certain, but among B Square sources, Indiana governor Eric Holcomb is not expected to extend his current emergency order, which currently is set to expire on March 4. Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Declining case numbers give momentum for lifting restrictions”

Sheer number of COVID-19 cases has health care system struggling

The rolling average of positive COVID-19 cases in Monroe County now stands at about 152 per day. That’s almost twice the average this time last year. It’s also about 1.5 times the previous pandemic high point for the county, which came in November 2021.

It’s the same picture across all of Indiana. The rolling average of positive cases across the Hoosier state is 10,227, nearly twice the 5,500 average daily cases at this time last year.

Even if the infections caused by the Omicron variant of the virus might be comparatively milder, it’s their sheer number, and the likelihood of spread to vulnerable populations, that is still putting more people in the hospital. And that’s putting a continued strain on statewide and local health systems.

President of IU Health’s south central region, Brian Shockney, put it this way at a news conference of local leaders held Friday: “Omicron is hitting a high number of people and spreading fast to those immunocompromised patients. And they are what we can see in the initial stages here are getting hospitalized.”

Shockney continued, “IU Health is caring for its highest number of patients of the pandemic to date.” He added, “70 percent of these patients are unvaccinated.”

For the watching public, Shockney repeated what has become a kind of mantra: “Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Get tested.” Continue reading “Sheer number of COVID-19 cases has health care system struggling”