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”

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”

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”

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.””

Pandemic notebook: Surge subsiding, but slowly

The current surge in COVID-19 case numbers seems to be past its peak statewide and in Monroe County.

But  IU Health south central region president Brian Shockney said on Friday that this one seems to be a little different from previous surges.

That’s because hospitalization numbers are decreasing more slowly after hitting their peak. He was speaking at the weekly news conference of local leaders on pandemic response.

Shockney said IU Health’s facility has continued to see a steady volume of COVID-19 patients over the past few weeks. “We’re seeing a longer tail in this surge than previous surges,” Shockney said. He added, “We may be coming out of this surge for a longer period of time than previously thought.” Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Surge subsiding, but slowly”

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.””

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.””