Advisory committee dives into precinct boundary work for Monroe County

A four-member committee established by the Monroe County board of commissioners has now met twice as it tackles the task of making recommendations on new precinct boundaries for the county.

Once the precincts are settled, the group will make recommendations on boundaries for county council and county commission districts. It will be the three county commissioners who make the decision on all the boundaries.

Appointed by county commissioners to the committee were two Democrats (Regina Moore and Ed Robertson) and two Republicans (Joyce Poling and Hal Turner). Continue reading “Advisory committee dives into precinct boundary work for Monroe County”

Monroe County health board: Mask mandate to continue into November, tied to pandemic case numbers

Monroe County’s indoor mask mandate, for the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, will continue into November and possibly even beyond—until the county’s positive COVID-19 case numbers drop to fewer than 50 cases per week per 100,000 residents.

That was the unanimous vote of Monroe County’s board of health at its Thursday meeting.

The current regulation goes through the end of October. In the current regulation, a drop in positive case numbers below 50 cases per week per 100,000 residents is also a condition tied to an end to the mask mandate.

Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, county health administrator Penny Caudill said the exact wording of the new regulation was not yet determined.

The state dashboard’s color-coded map gets updated every Wednesday. Because of that, the board wants the mask mandate to end at midnight on whichever Wednesday the state’s dashboard shows a weekly case total for Monroe County of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. Continue reading “Monroe County health board: Mask mandate to continue into November, tied to pandemic case numbers”

County commissioner described as mocking county clerk, as tough talks on election space continue

Two local groups have issued statements about Zoom video-conference footage from a Monday meeting between county commissioners and the county election board, to discuss needs for physical space.

“One of our commissioners openly mocked our elected county clerk on screen,” reads part of the statement from the Monroe County chapter of the National Organization for Women about the video footage.

Naming the commissioner and the clerk was a statement from the Monroe County Black Democratic Caucus, issued by its president, William Hosea: “Monroe County Commissioner Lee Jones appears to be openly mocking the person who’s speaking. The target of her contemptuous disdain is Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne.”

Reached by The B Square, Jones said the target of her disdain was her cat. Jones says the cat was playing with yarn from a knitting project that Jones was unraveling, and hit her computer keyboard, switching on her camera.

Jones is one of three county commissioners and represents District 1, on the west side of the county, but is elected by voters countywide. As county clerk, Browne is also elected by voters countywide. The seats for both four-year terms are up for election in 2022. Continue reading “County commissioner described as mocking county clerk, as tough talks on election space continue”

Bloomington fire department’s top ISO score feted

On Friday morning, just outside the pavilion at Switchyard Park, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton and city council president Jim Sims undraped a new logo on the fire department’s Engine 5.

The new design features the numeral “1” and the phrase “ISO Class,” to highlight the Bloomington fire department’s recent score of 1, awarded by Insurance Service Office, Inc. (ISO).

That’s the top score on a 10-point scale, which is based on: the fire department’s equipment, staffing, training, and geographic distribution of stations (50%); water supply (40%); and emergency communications (10%).

Fire chief Jason Moore noted that the truck used for the unveiling is the oldest in the department’s fleet. But it’s not that old—it was purchased in 2016 and delivered in 2017.

Replacement of fire apparatus has been one of the investments made with revenue from the public safety local income tax, which was authorized in 2016.

Up-to-date fire trucks are one of factors feeding into the ISO score. Continue reading “Bloomington fire department’s top ISO score feted”

Township trustee sues city of Bloomington over records requests about displacement of homeless encampments

Perry Township trustee Dan Combs has filed a lawsuit against the city of Bloomington.

The suit demands that the city produce records related to decision making and the development of policies connected to displacement of homeless encampments in the last year.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday evening. By midday on Friday, the complaint with its exhibits had been uploaded to the state’s online court document system. The lawsuit was filed in Monroe County superior court.

The question of law is whether the city of Bloomington has met its obligations under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA), to response to records requests made by Combs, about the city’s homeless encampment policies, among other matters.

What prompted the records requests in the first place, from an elected township trustee, was an interest in understanding Bloomington’s decision making process related to homeless encampments, because of the potential impact that the city’s policies have on township government.

Combs, who is named as an individual plaintiff, and in his capacity as township trustee, told The B Square on Friday that the township board had approved going ahead with the litigation that has now been filed.

City attorney Mike Rouker responded to The B Square’s emailed inquiry about the lawsuit, by writing that the city does not comment on pending litigation. Continue reading “Township trustee sues city of Bloomington over records requests about displacement of homeless encampments”

Part of Monroe County’s $3.1 million bond issuance: Design for sidewalk near new library branch

A pedestrian connection between the intersection of Country Club Drive and Rogers Street, heading southward towards the new library branch, is part of the list of capital projects to be funded with a $3.1-million bond issuance from Monroe County.

The bond issuance was given approval by the Monroe County council at its Tuesday meeting. The county commissioners had signed off on the bonds six weeks earlier, on Sept. 1.

The annual issuance of bonds, to pay for a collection of capital projects, is an approach that the county government has taken for the last few years.

Besides $250,000 for the Rogers corridor sidewalk project, which will start with design work, this year’s list of bond projects includes: Phase 2 health building renovation; virtual cluster upgrade; non-law-enforcement vehicles; solar infrastructure; a vacuum truck; a mini excavator; a grader; a low boy; trail connections; and park renovations. Continue reading “Part of Monroe County’s $3.1 million bond issuance: Design for sidewalk near new library branch”

Bloomington council delays 2022 budget vote until Oct. 27: Will mayor concede on police, climate?

On Wednesday, when a decision was scheduled on the 2022 Bloomington budget, the city council chose to recess its meeting without voting, less than 90 minutes after it was called to order.

The recess came when it became apparent that the mayor’s budget did not have majority support on the nine-member council to pass that night.

Some councilmembers, like Dave Rollo, say that in order to support the 2022 budget, it has to include a re-opening of the collective bargaining agreement with the police union and a $5,000 base pay increase for sworn officers.

Other councilmembers, like Isabel Piedmont-Smith, say that in order to support the 2022 budget, it has to include an appropriation for a new job at the city—director of climate action.

That’s not an exhaustive list of all the changes councilmembers say they want to see, before they’ll vote to adopt the 2022 budget.

In any case, councilmembers want Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to make further revisions to the roughly $107 million budget, before they take it up again in two weeks. That amount does not include the budgets for Bloomington Transit (BT) and city of Bloomington utilities (CBU).

Before recessing its meeting, the council approved two of the appropriation ordinances that are part of the six-ordinance package of legislation that makes up the annual budget. Getting unanimous approval were the budgets for BT and city of Bloomington utilities CBU.

On Oct. 27, in addition to the appropriation ordinance for the basic city budget, the council will still have on its agenda three salary ordinances—one for police and fire, one for other city employees, and one for elected officials. Continue reading “Bloomington council delays 2022 budget vote until Oct. 27: Will mayor concede on police, climate?”

4-member advisory committee appointed to help with Monroe County redistricting

At its Wednesday meeting, the three-member Monroe County board of commissioners appointed four residents to give advice on the upcoming task of redrawing boundaries for precincts, as well as for county council and county commissioner districts.

The redistricting work on the local level has the same impetus as the state level process—the need to incorporate the results of the 2020 decennial census into voter districts for different elected offices.

The four appointees to the precinct and district boundary advisory committee (PDBAC) are: Regina Moore, Ed Robertson, Joyce Poling, and Hal Turner.

Elected to the city of Bloomington clerkship as a Democrat, Moore served in that role from 2000 to 2015.

Robertson is deputy chair of headquarters for the Monroe County Democratic Party.

Poling is assistant to the chancellor for community engagement at Ivy Tech Community College. Poling served as a Republican through 2007 on the Monroe County board of commissioners, which wrapped up a couple of decades of service in county government.

Hal Turner is currently the Republican appointee to the county election board.

The PDBAC will have to complete its work on a compressed timeline compared to previous years, because of the ripple effect of the late 2020 census. The late timing for release of 2020 census numbers led to a late start for state legislators on their work to redraw state-level boundaries. Continue reading “4-member advisory committee appointed to help with Monroe County redistricting”

Monroe County OKs animal care deal with Bloomington, shelter numbers for 2020 way down

Non-Bloomington residents will most likely be able to surrender their animals to Bloomington’s animal shelters without paying a fee again in 2022, the way they have for several years.

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved their side of an interlocal agreement that the county has maintained for several years with Bloomington and Ellettsville to cover Bloomington’s cost for animals surrendered by non-city county residents and animal control officers.

On the county’s side, the interlocal agreement still needs to be approved by the county council. It will also need to be approved by the Bloomington city 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 “Monroe County OKs animal care deal with Bloomington, shelter numbers for 2020 way down”

No fine this time for poison ivy vine, says city of Bloomington

An appeal by B&L Rentals of a $50 fine imposed by the city of Bloomington for poison ivy and other plants growing taller than 8 inches did not need to be heard at Tuesday’s board of works meeting.

Part of the photographic documentation provided by the city of Bloomington in connection with the fine, converted to a warning, of the property owner at 1120 N. Lincoln,

That’s because the notice of violation was converted into a warning.

As public works director Adam Wason explained for the public’s benefit, before the three-member board of works got into its regular agenda, “The board found that it was prudent to ask that that be turned into a warning instead of an actual notice of violation with a fine.”

Bloomington’s city code reads like this: “It is unlawful for the owner of any lot or tract of ground within the city to allow it to become overgrown with weeds, grass, or noxious plants beyond the height of eight inches or to such extent that the growth is detrimental to the public health and constitutes a nuisance.”

The notice of violation was issued by the housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department.

The appeal by B&L Rentals complained that no warning had been issued before the notice of violation was issued: “This seems like a warning, an email or a phone call, since I’ve worked with HAND for 20 years with no violation.”

The appeal continued, “This ivy is not near anyone, not hanging from a tree, or in a tree plot.”

The city staff’s case noted that city code does not require that a warning be issued. Continue reading “No fine this time for poison ivy vine, says city of Bloomington”