Jan. 6, 2022 deadline: Remonstrance against Bloomington annexations gets energetic start: “We are to be reckoned with.”

On Friday morning, the first remonstrators against Bloomington’s annexations showed up at Monroe County courthouse.

Friday was the start to the formal petitioning process for property owners inside any of the seven areas that Bloomington wants to annex. That’s because Friday’s edition of The Herald-Times carried a public notice of the city council’s adoption of annexation ordinances.

The notice is required to be published in a newspaper as defined under Indiana state law.

Under state law, the 90-day window to submit remonstration petition signatures translates into a deadline of Jan. 6, 2022 at 4 p.m.

Continue reading “Jan. 6, 2022 deadline: Remonstrance against Bloomington annexations gets energetic start: “We are to be reckoned with.””

Bin there done that: Bloomington council OKs garbage fees retroactively, preps for report

At its regular Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council ratified garbage collection fees that expired nearly a year ago, on Nov. 1, 2020.

Sanitation worker uses a mechanical arm to empty a Bloomington solid waste cart. Screengrab from city of Bloomington video.

In the future, the council won’t have to worry about fees expiring. That’s because on Wednesday, the council eliminated the city code’s entire “sunset” clause for the fees.

The sunset clause was added as an amendment, when the council adopted the 2017 ordinance that set the fees for the new system of refuse carts.

The clause was intended to trigger a review of rates, after sufficient data had been collected by public works staff from the new system.

Wednesday’s action did not raise garbage collection rates.

Based on March 22, 2017 meeting minutes, the council was supposed to undertake a rate review last year with an eye towards possibly providing a rebate to residents who generate less garbage.

Based on the meeting minutes, it appears that the debate on the exact date of the sunset clause lasted about an hour. The initial date proposed was July 1, 2019, but public works director Adam Wason said if there were to be a sunset date, he’d prefer Nov. 1, 2020. Wason said the later date would allow more data to be collected.

On Wednesday, the ordinance passed by the city council was approved at the same meeting on the same day when it was first introduced, which required and received a unanimous vote.

Under state law, the council is able to ratify the authorization of the fees retroactively, according to assistant city attorney Larry Allen.

City council president Jim Sims said the public works department is scheduled on Oct. 20 to deliver the report that the department would have given last year. That seemed to help head off extensive council discussion of solid waste issues, which came up during the council’s hearings on the public works departmental budget. Continue reading “Bin there done that: Bloomington council OKs garbage fees retroactively, preps for report”

$82.5K OK’d to get help naming new Bloomington neighborhood: “Hospital Redevelopment Site doesn’t really roll off the tongue.”

The new Bloomington neighborhood, which is to be developed on the site of the IU Health hospital, will get a name of its own.

That’s among the tasks the city’s redevelopment commission (RDC) wants Borshoff, an Indianapolis public relations firm, to help complete.

At Monday’s regular RDC meeting, commissioners approved an amendment to the review and approval form for the nearly $13-million redevelopment project, so that it now includes a $82,500 contract with Borshoff.

The firm is supposed to facilitate public engagement on the naming of the neighborhood, according to Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley.

About the need for a neighborhood name, Crowley said, “Hospital Redevelopment Site doesn’t really roll off the tongue.” He added, “I’m not sure that would make a nice road sign.”

The hospital property at 2nd and Rogers streets will be turned over to Bloomington by IU Health as part of a $6.5 million real estate deal. Except for the parking deck and the administration building, the structures on  the site are to be demolished by IU Health. Continue reading “$82.5K OK’d to get help naming new Bloomington neighborhood: “Hospital Redevelopment Site doesn’t really roll off the tongue.””

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”

Monroe County commissioners deny rezone for 125 single-family houses: “No matter what we do, people are going to be angry with us.”

A rezone petition for a 44-acre piece of land south of Bloomington’s current boundaries was denied on a unanimous vote of the three Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday meeting.

The rezoning, from estate residential (RE1) to medium density residential (MR), would have allowed around 125 single-family houses to be built there, about three times as many as the roughly 40 that would be possible under the current zoning.

Part of the pitch from developers Donnie Adkins and Kevin Schmidt was that the denser development would allow for the houses to be priced around $300,000 to $400,000. That’s lower than the $700,000 or more that houses built under current zoning would likely cost, they said. The site is currently largely open, the site of the former Robertson farm. Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners deny rezone for 125 single-family houses: “No matter what we do, people are going to be angry with us.””

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.””

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″

Continued calls for vaccination against COVID-19: “There’s no reason to be ‘right’—we all just want to be happy here.”

The percentage of eligible Monroe County residents who have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic virus is still just under 60 percent.

At the current pace of vaccinations in the county, which is around 60 additional people a day, it will take another week or so to eke out the next few tenths of a point to get past the 60-percent milestone.

At Friday’s weekly news conference of local leaders on pandemic response, Monroe County’s department of health public information officer Kathy Hewett said about the remaining 40 percent of the eligible population, “We still have a ways to go.”

For those who have not yet received a jab, could a decision now to get vaccinated feel like an admission that they’ve been wrong up to this point?

Responding to a question from a reporter about that possibility, Indiana University’s health officer Aaron Carroll said, “There’s no reason to be ‘right’—we all just want to be happy here.”

Carroll continued, “Everyone will be safer if they get vaccinated.” He added, “If you need an excuse, more recently, I think you could point to recent data, and that the hospitals are still filling up, that things are still very dangerous.” Continue reading “Continued calls for vaccination against COVID-19: “There’s no reason to be ‘right’—we all just want to be happy here.””