Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue

A two-person team from the Baker Tilly accounting firm, hired by Monroe County’s board of commissioners to review Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan, presented its report to the county council on Tuesday night.

Baker Tilly found that in Year 2, the impact on local income tax (LIT) revenue to Monroe County government would be negative $1.4 million. That’s a $866,000 bigger impact than Reedy Financial Group reported in Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan. Reedy analyzed the impact as negative $534,694.

Paige Sansone and Deen Rogers, the accountants from Baker Tilly who did the work for the county, noted a handful of other issues with Bloomington’s fiscal plan, none of which had a significant financial impact. Continue reading “Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue”

CDC: Wear a mask indoors in Monroe County, Indiana even if fully vaccinated

Based on new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, even Monroe County residents who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus should wear a face covering when they’re in public indoor settings.

This screen shot of the CDC map links to the map.

The CDC guidance, released on July 27, recommends that people wear a face covering indoors, if it’s in a public setting and if it’s in a county where there is “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus.

Monroe County is classified as having “substantial” transmission, because it has 52.55 new cases per 100,000 population in the last 7 days. That’s just over the lower threshold for the “substantial” category, which starts at 50 new cases per 100,000 and goes up to 99.99 cases.

The other criterion used by the CDC to determine transmission categories is the rolling positivity rate for tests. The CDC reports a positivity rate of 6.54 percent for Monroe County, which would put it in the “moderate” transmission category, which goes from 5 percent to 7.99 percent. But the CDC takes the worse of the two categories to categorize each county. Continue reading “CDC: Wear a mask indoors in Monroe County, Indiana even if fully vaccinated”

Draft 2022 Bloomington Transit budget would bump pay by 3 percent, recruitment of drivers a worry

At just a smidgen over $15 million, Bloomington Transit’s preliminary budget for 2022 is about 3.7 percent more than last year’s approved total amount.

That’s the number that Bloomington Transit’s general manager Lew May presented to BT’s five-member board at its meeting last Tuesday.

Some of that increase is due to an increase in employee compensation. The preliminary budget is based on a 3-percent increase in wages. How much the increase actually turns out to be will depend on the outcome of negotiations with the drivers, who are represented by AFSCME Local 613.

Those negotiations will need to take place over the next few months, because BT’s labor agreement ends on Dec. 31, 2021.

The timing for the back-and-forth between BT and drivers will coincide broadly with BT’s transition from May’s leadership, who has served 22 years as general manager, to John Connell’s, who was the board’s pick last week to succeed May. Connell is now operations manager for the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation.

BT’s board will likely vote on the final budget at its August meeting. The budget will then be presented to Bloomington’s city council for review and approval, in a separate vote from the city’s own budget.

The collective bargaining agreement could be a factor in addressing BT’s current shortage of drivers. A June job fair attracted no new applicants to fill the 12 positions that BT is currently short. Continue reading “Draft 2022 Bloomington Transit budget would bump pay by 3 percent, recruitment of drivers a worry”

Bloomington Transit board makes new general manager choice, will negotiate contract details for vote at August meeting

Bloomington Transit’s five-member board voted unanimously Tuesday night, on its pick for the next general manager of the city’s public bus system: John Connell.

A view of the Bloomington Transit board room at the Grimes Lane facility for the July 20, 2021 meeting. Board members are seated at the table on the left. The two candidates for the general managership of BT and representatives from the two management companies are seated in the audience to the right.

He is now operations manager for the public bus system in Lafayette and West Lafayette, another Indiana college town. The bus system there is called the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation, and operates as CityBus.

BT’s general manager position would have become vacant at the end of September when current general manager Lew May’s contract runs out.

May had originally intended to retire last year after more than two decades of service. He agreed to stay on, to shepherd the bus system through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Board members indicated some interest in negotiating some overlap for May and Connell when the details of the contract are worked out, between now and the board’s August meeting. At that meeting, the board will vote on a contract. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit board makes new general manager choice, will negotiate contract details for vote at August meeting”

Possibly closed through mid-2022 or longer: Flood-damaged downtown Bloomington fire station

A temporary location at 4th Street and College Avenue could be serving as Bloomington’s downtown fire station for another year and a half.

That’s based on a “right of access” agreement for the property, which was approved by the Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC), at its regular meeting on Monday. The  fire department’s right of access to the RDC’s property runs through the end of 2022.

Station 1 was damaged in the flooding that hit areas of downtown on the night of June 18.

The heavy rains that night filled the fire station’s basement with eight feet of water, drowning the building’s telecommunications center. Station 1 also served as the department’s administrative headquarters.

The temporary site—in the former Bunger & Robertson building at College Square—is four blocks east west of Station 1.

It has been housing the department’s administrative functions since the flood hit. On Monday, Bloomington fire chief Jason Moore told The B Square that the department also has operational crews stationed there from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

When the firetrucks are not at the temporary site, they are distributed to other stations in a way to optimize fire protection coverage from those four sites.

Providing fire protection around the clock from the temporary downtown location will be made possible by the RDC’s approval at its Monday meeting. The right of access includes permission to establish a temporary fire truck bay in the parking lot, which will allow the trucks to be secured overnight.

In connection with the temporary fire engine bay, Bloomington’s board of public safety will be asked at its Tuesday meeting to approve a $101,850 base contract with Mahaffey USA, to erect the structure. Continue reading “Possibly closed through mid-2022 or longer: Flood-damaged downtown Bloomington fire station”

Bloomington redev commission gives initial OK for $660K to 9 nonprofits in special CDBG funding round

At its regular Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission gave its approval of federal Community Development Block Grant awards totaling $660,602 to nine local nonprofits.

It was a special funding round to address impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The requirement of a COVID-19 connection led to the recommendation of a three-member committee against funding some of the projects of five other applicants, according to John Zody, director of Bloomington’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department.

The total amount awarded worked out to about half of the $1.3 million that was requested.

Of the nine applicants that received recommendations for funding, seven received the full amount requested. Continue reading “Bloomington redev commission gives initial OK for $660K to 9 nonprofits in special CDBG funding round”

American Rescue Plan Act: Bloomington mayor’s initial request to city council: $3.35M for support of housing, the arts, lead pipe removal

When Bloomington mayor John Hamilton announced at a news conference in early June that some of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding would be used for housing supports, no dollar amounts were attached.

Now released as a part of the city council’s July 21 meeting information packet is a plan for spending the estimated $22.3 million in ARPA funding that the city is expected to receive through the federal legislation.

An appropriation ordinance that echoes the numbers in the ARPA plan will get a first reading at the meeting.

The ARPA is a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, to help counter the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Housing supports, at $1.65 million, are about half of the total in the initial ordinance.

The breakdown for housing is: a $1.2 million grant to the United Way of Monroe County to address homelessness and housing insecurity; a $250,000 grant to the Bloomington Housing Authority to create affordable housing options; and $200,000 to encourage participation by landlords in the federal Section 8 voucher program.

On Friday, the United Way released the report and recommendations of a working group that has been convening since last year to address the question of how to make homelessness “rare, brief and non-repeating.” [Heading Home 2021] Continue reading “American Rescue Plan Act: Bloomington mayor’s initial request to city council: $3.35M for support of housing, the arts, lead pipe removal”

Indiana releases numbers over time for COVID-19 variants, revises dashboard presentation to reflect Delta dominance

At a news conference last week, Indiana’s state health commissioner Kris Box sounded the alarm about the increased number of  COVID-19 cases in the state due to the Delta variant.

“The Delta variant is now the one that we are seeing most frequently,” Box said.

The Delta variant, one of several mutations that have been discovered, is more easily transmitted than the basic COVID-19 virus.

When Box delivered her remarks, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard still showed the cumulative numbers for variants, ever since the genetic sequencing of positive samples started. That meant the relative proportion of the Delta variant was portrayed by the dashboard as still small—just 3 percent of positive samples.

But in recent weeks, since mid-June, the percentage of positive samples with the Delta variant has vacillated between 50 and 80 percent.

That’s based on the health department’s release to The B Square on Thursday of the daily time series for the numbers of variants, broken down by variant type.

The state’s dashboard data presentation has now been revised to show the percentage of variants in the current month, with an indication of the change over the previous month. As of Friday, the Delta variant was found in 67 percent of positive COVID-19 samples for the current month.

According to the dashboard, for the current month, in about 96 percent of positive COVID-19 cases that were sequenced, one of the variants of concern was found. Continue reading “Indiana releases numbers over time for COVID-19 variants, revises dashboard presentation to reflect Delta dominance”

Long-time election worker retires: “We’re here for one thing. And that’s to make a good election.”

Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Browne, told The B Square on Thursday afternoon: “There is no replacing a Jack. He is one-of-a-kind. He is amazing. And I will miss him every single day. Every single day.”

Browne was talking about Jack Davis, a county employee whose retirement was marked Thursday at a reception held by his colleagues at Election Central, where he has worked for the election division.

Thursday was the six-year anniversary of Davis’s most recent span of service in local government—he started that half-dozen year stretch on the same day as county election supervisor Karen Wheeler.

But the octogenarian’s history of work for local government can be traced back to way earlier. Continue reading “Long-time election worker retires: “We’re here for one thing. And that’s to make a good election.””

$186K in disaster loans OK’d for homes so far to help cover damage from June 18-19 Monroe County floods

Four Monroe County homeowners or renters have received loans so far from the federal Small Business Administration for damages from the June 18-19 floods, according to Julie Garrett with the SBA.

Looking south on Grant Street from Kirkwood in the early morning hours of June 19, 2021.

Garrett briefed the Monroe County board of commissioners on the topic of loans at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

The total dollar figure of the loans approved so far is $186,900. The dollar amount, along with the number of loans approved, will probably increase.

Garrett told county commissioners that the SBA had spoken with 42 flooding victims at the information sessions that are being held at the county’s convention center on College Avenue.

Six business loans and 33 other home loans are in the works, Garrett said.

The sessions started last week. They will continue through Friday this week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Continue reading “$186K in disaster loans OK’d for homes so far to help cover damage from June 18-19 Monroe County floods”