Monroe County jail update: Roof repairs, other building maintenance in the works

At a meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC) 10 days ago, Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté and his executive team presented slides showing conditions at the jail, which confronted them when Marté was sworn into office at the start of the year.

A kind of counterpoint to Marté’s presentation came at the Wednesday morning meeting of the county commissioners.

Their regular meeting was followed by a work session, which also addressed the topic of jail maintenance.

At the work session, the county’s fleet and building manager, Richard Crider, briefed commissioners on various maintenance efforts that are underway, involving: the roof and water leaks; ventilation; plumbing; lighting; and showers.

That came after the regular meeting, when commissioners approved a $129,777 item to cover an agreement with Insulated Roofing Contractors (IRC) to scan, clean, and recoat the justice building roof.

Connected with that item was a $63,750 item to shut down, remove, and stage the roof’s solar panels on another section of the roof, until the new roof coating is applied.

About maintenance efforts, Crider said, “This process is active—it’s ongoing.”

Commissioner Julie Thomas stressed the idea that while the specific maintenance activities that Crider described would address the conditions presented by Marté, the maintenance was already in the works—not a reaction to the slide presentation. Continue reading “Monroe County jail update: Roof repairs, other building maintenance in the works”

Public works notebook: Sole $13M bid on Hopewell infra rejected, 4 maintenance of traffic plans OK’d

Bloomington’s three-member board of public works voted at its regular Tuesday meeting to reject the sole bid for a major infrastructure project at the site of the former IU Health hospital, now known as the Hopewell neighborhood.

The $13.5 million bid, from Milestone Contractors, was about 30 percent higher than the engineer’s estimate.

The area for the project is bounded by 2nd Street to the north, 1st Street to the south, The B-Line Trail to the east, and Rogers Street to the west. It’s called Phase 1 East in the master plan for the development of the site.

The demolition phase for Phase 1 East is complete. The rejected bid was for installing utilities, constructing streets, landscaping and bicycle-pedestrian facilities.

The project will now be re-bid, after the city’s staff reviews the package for items that could be modified or deleted from the current plan. “When we re-bid it, hopefully there would be a reduction in the cost there,” said engineering department project manager Matt Smethurst at the board’s Monday work session. Continue reading “Public works notebook: Sole $13M bid on Hopewell infra rejected, 4 maintenance of traffic plans OK’d”

Roundup: Reaction from city, county officials to inhumane Monroe County jail conditions

A week has passed since new Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté, chief deputy Phil Parker and jail commander Kyle Gibbons, gave a presentation on the horrific conditions at the jail, which confronted them when Marté was sworn into office at the start of the year.

A slide deck depicting current jail conditions was shown at last Monday’s meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC).

The slides showed prisoners using overturned cups as pillows as they slept on the floor, clogged toilets, overflow from showers and toilets dripping through the ceiling of the floor below, and racist graffiti, among other scenes.

As deplorable as the conditions displayed in the slides were, the images were still missing two crucial elements, Marté said: The smell and the sounds of the jail.

In public statements made by city and county officials in the week since the presentation, the jail conditions have been uniformly denounced.

The county commissioners have also been criticized for recent changes they have made to the composition of the CJRC. Continue reading “Roundup: Reaction from city, county officials to inhumane Monroe County jail conditions”

Monroe County sheriff on racist graffiti in jail cells: “When I see that word…I cannot move slow.”

“It looks like that’s not even the United States of America.”

That was Monroe County’s new jail commander Kyle Gibbons talking about a photograph he had displayed for Monday’s meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC). It was from a slide deck he’d prepared, in order to show committee members conditions inside the jail when he took over at the start of the year.

In the photo, a pitcher of water had been placed on the floor outside a cell door. Jail staff were using it as a stop gap to give inmates water on request—because the water wasn’t working in the cell at the time.

Gibbons told committee members, “The staff was just trying to make sure people had water. …They were trying to ensure that everybody had access to basic human rights.”

But the color of the water inside the pitcher looked sketchy enough that county councilor Peter Iversen asked Gibbons, “That’s drinkable water?!” The glum reply from Gibbons: “That’s drinkable water.”

Monday’s slide deck was a visual followup to oral presentations that Gibbons has given to county commissioners and county councilors in the last couple of weeks.

The visuals he presented on Monday appeared to have a sobering impact on committee members. Continue reading “Monroe County sheriff on racist graffiti in jail cells: “When I see that word…I cannot move slow.””

Committee on jail’s future gets tweaks, commander says: “We have an obligation to people here now.”

In December, Bloomington’s city council unanimously rejected a rezone request for some land in the southwestern tip of the city, where county commissioners had proposed building a new jail.

But planning for the possible construction of a new Monroe County jail continues—as a response to the reports from two consultants delivered to county government 18 months ago. As one of the reports puts it: “The jail facility is failing…”

Still set for Monday (Jan. 23) is the next meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC). That’s the group that was established by county commissioners to address the problems highlighted in the consultants’ reports.

Even as work continues on planning for the future of Monroe County’s jail, sheriff Ruben Marté’s jail commander, Kyle Gibbons, has addressed both the county council and county commissioners at recent meetings of those elected bodies. His basic message: “We have an obligation to people here now.” Continue reading “Committee on jail’s future gets tweaks, commander says: “We have an obligation to people here now.””

Potential sludge now stirring for city-county cost sharing on waste-to-energy feasibility study

At Thursday’s regular meeting for the board of the Monroe County solid waste management district (MCSWMD), county commissioners Penny Githens and Julie Thomas raised concerns about the way that a waste-to-energy feasibility study has been approached so far.

An agreement to share the study’s $129,220 cost between MCSWMD and the city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) was adopted in the first part of 2022.

The study is being done by Energy Power Partners, and is supposed to be complete by the end of January or sometime in February, based on discussion at Thursday’s meeting.

EPP’s work is supposed to cover scenarios involving the generation of biogas by using anaerobic digestion of primary sludge from the Blucher Poole wastewater treatment plan, adding FOG (fats, oil and grease) and food waste as feedstock from various large waste generators, and the workability of private-sector partnerships for construction, operations and maintenance—among other possibilities.

But at Thursday’s meeting, Githens read aloud a statement that sketches out a number of objections, including the fact that the focus of the study has shifted from CBU’s Blucher Poole wastewater treatment plant to the Dillman Road facility. Continue reading “Potential sludge now stirring for city-county cost sharing on waste-to-energy feasibility study”

Bloomington city council overrides mayoral veto on convention center governance, path forward unclear

A mayoral veto of a Bloomington city council resolution supporting a capital improvement board (CIB) as the governance method for a convention center expansion, has been overridden by the city council.

It was at 3:15 p.m. Friday, the day before Christmas Eve, when Bloomington mayor John Hamilton issued his veto of the council’s Dec. 14 resolution.

In December the council had approved the resolution by an 8–1 vote, with Kate Rosenbarger as the sole voice of dissent.

At this Wednesday’s city council meeting, the outcome of the vote was the same, satisfying the two-thirds majority required under city code to override the mayor’s veto.

On Wednesday as in December, Rosenbarger’s dissent was not based on any support for Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s preferred convention center expansion governance structure, which is a 501(c)(3). Instead, Rosenbarger is skeptical that a convention center expansion should be built at all.

Continue reading “Bloomington city council overrides mayoral veto on convention center governance, path forward unclear”

Monroe County council leadership choice starts 2023 lighthearted but serious: “I’m sorry for you that you are picked to be the loser!”

Reaching Monroe County, Indiana on Tuesday was a tiny ripple from the political splash that was made when congressional Republicans took 15 rounds of voting to finally settle last Saturday on Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House.

The little wavelet came in the form of county councilor Marty Hawk’s participation in Tuesday’s unanimous votes to reelect Kate Wiltz as council president and Trent Deckard as president pro tem.

Hawk is the sole Republican representative on the seven-member county council. The other six are Democrats.

It was the fact that Hawk participated in the votes at all that made it a little remarkable. Last year’s officer elections were typical for her historical approach: “As I have done in the past, I will pass on this, because I believe it is up to the majority caucus to decide what’s going to happen here, and I wish you well.”

Last year she had prefaced her remarks by saying, “If you succeed, that means the entire council will succeed and so I’m happy to work well with whoever the majority puts forward.”

This year, after the nominations were made, Hawk made an allusion to last week’s fight over the selection for speaker of the House: “I will say that in times past, I’ve just said ‘present’ or passed. But after what’s happened in Washington DC, I guess I won’t do that.” Continue reading “Monroe County council leadership choice starts 2023 lighthearted but serious: “I’m sorry for you that you are picked to be the loser!””

Advisory committee on Monroe County jail hits rough road trying to find common ground

Outside on the Monroe County courthouse lawn, before Monday’s meeting of the community justice reform committee (CJRC), members of a group called “Care Not Cages” held what they described as a block party—in opposition to construction of a new jail.

At the CJRC meeting itself, members were frank in airing their disappointment about the way the two representatives from the board of county commissioners have approached the work of making recommendations on addressing problems at the jail.

The facility has been described in a consultant’s report as “failing.”

The 14-member CJRC includes county councilors, judges, the sheriff, representatives from the prosecutor’s office, public defenders office, and the county health administrator, among others.

Drawing specific criticism on Monday was the lack of advance information given by commissioners to CJRC members about a trip they took last week to Arizona, to visit correctional facilities there.

Continue reading “Advisory committee on Monroe County jail hits rough road trying to find common ground”

High expectations set for new elected officials in Monroe County at swearing-in ceremony

Voters in Monroe County, Indiana, elected a total of 61 local officials in 2022, who start their terms of office on Jan. 1, 2023.

That includes judges, a county commissioner, the sheriff, the recorder, the clerk, the assessor, the prosecutor, county councilors, town councilors, township trustees, township board members, and school board members.

About one-third of them took their oath of office in a public ceremony starting at noon on Sunday, New Year’s Day in the Nat U. Hill room at the county courthouse.

It was a bipartisan event, featuring remarks from Monroe County Republican Party chair Taylor Bryant, and her counterpart for the Democratic  Party, David Henry. Continue reading “High expectations set for new elected officials in Monroe County at swearing-in ceremony”