It’s not just parks: Bloomington looking to add law against camping in public right-of-way

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s administration wants to put a law on the books that prohibits camping or storing personal belongings in the public right-of-way.

To that end, at its Tuesday meeting, Bloomington’s three-member board of public works will consider a resolution that asks the city council to consider a new ordinance against camping in the public right-of-way.

It’s part of a general effort that the administration is now making, to regulate occupancy of public property—in light of its use by many members of the city’s unhoused community.

In addition to the resolution to be considered by the board of public works on Tuesday, the board of park commissioners is set on Wednesday to consider a change in the current policy on tents in parks during the day. Tents are currently allowed.

But under a proposed policy change to be considered at Wednesday’s special board of park commissioners meeting, tents and other “enclosed structures” would be prohibited in public parks. However, “shade structures” would still be allowed.

The draft ordinance that the board of public works will consider recommending to the city council states:  “It is unlawful to camp in the right-of-way, store personal property in the right-of-way, or otherwise block the right-of-way in a manner that obstructs pedestrian traffic, vehicular traffic, or public travel on any sidewalk, street, or other public right-of-way.” Continue reading “It’s not just parks: Bloomington looking to add law against camping in public right-of-way”

$80K emergency repair of bridge north of Bloomington OK’d by county commissioners

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a $79,725 contract with CLR, Inc to fix a hole in the bridge on Bus SR 37 (aka North Walnut Street), just south of the on-ramp to I-69.

The bridge spans Beanblossom Creek.

The emergency work is expected to be done sometime in mid-August.

Of the three companies contacted by Monroe County’s highway department, CLR, Inc. was the only company to provide a quote. The other two companies that were asked for a quote were Force Construction and Ragle, Inc.

According the meeting information packet, those two companies were not able to give quotes, due to their current workload.

Highway director Lisa Ridge confirmed to The B Square that the steel plate that has been laid over the hole—marked with orange barrels and indicated on the bridge’s approach for drivers with signage reading “BUMP”—is a temporary measure, not the emergency fix. Continue reading “$80K emergency repair of bridge north of Bloomington OK’d by county commissioners”

Traffic commission agrees with bike/ped group on 7th Street: Reinstall stop sign only at Dunn

A recommendation from city engineer Andrew Cibor, to reinstall five stop signs along 7th Street in downtown Bloomington, will not have complete support from two advisory groups when it lands in front of the city council.

On Monday, the bicycle and pedestrian safety commission (BPSC) recommended reinstalling just one of the five stop signs, which were removed in connection with the construction of the 7-Line separated bicycle lane under an ordinance enacted by the city council.

On Wednesday, the traffic commission followed suit, unanimously recommending that the intersection at 7th and Dunn street be restored to an all-way stop.

It’s not clear when the recommendation will be put in front of the city council for a vote.

The impetus behind Cibor’s recommendation to reinstall the stop signs is an increase in crashes at the intersections after the 7-Line was opened in late 2021.

Both appointed groups explicitly rejected Cibor’s recommendation that stops for 7th Street traffic at Morton, Lincoln, Washington, and Grant streets also be reinstalled.

The vote against reinstallation of the other four stop signs was unanimous on the BPSC. But traffic commissioners were split 4–2.

Cibor is a member of the city’s traffic commission and voted to support his own recommendation. The other vote for reinstallation came from Bloomington police officer and traffic commissioner Benjamin Burns. Continue reading “Traffic commission agrees with bike/ped group on 7th Street: Reinstall stop sign only at Dunn”

A decision to withdraw: Democratic Party city council candidate under investigation over residency

“David [Wolfe Bender] has decided to withdraw his candidacy for Bloomington Common Council District 6.”

That’s the opening line of a letter received by Monroe County’s election board from Bender’s attorney, Manny Herceg, with the Taft-Jaffe law firm.

An Indiana University student, Bender is the sole Democrat for District 6 who appears on the May 2 primary election ballot. District 6 is centered around the university campus and downtown—its entire area is north of 3rd Street.

The letter was read aloud by Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne at Thursday afternoon’s meeting of the three-member election board.

The board’s meeting this Thursday was a continuation of its meeting last week, when the board started an investigation into whether Bender’s candidacy broke any election laws.

The investigation was based on a complaint made by vice chair of the Republican Party, William Ellis, which in turn was based on an Indiana Daily Student article published on Feb. 17, 2023.

The headline to the IDS piece describes the basic idea of the complaint: City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender is running in District 6, residents say he doesn’t live there.

The election board did not decide much on Thursday, but did make some incremental progress, and agreed to resume meeting on the topic in two weeks, on March 23. Continue reading “A decision to withdraw: Democratic Party city council candidate under investigation over residency”

2023 election notebook: $190K raised in 2022 by Bloomington mayoral campaigns

Wednesday at noon was the deadline for political campaign committees to file their finance paperwork—the CFA-4.

Hitting that deadline were all three declared candidates for mayor of Bloomington: Don Griffin, Susan Sandberg, and Kerry Thomson.

Raising the most was Thomson with $92,828. That’s more than three times what each of the other two candidates raised.

Griffin raised $25,987 which was just a little more than Sandberg’s $25,217.

With his mid-December fundraising launch, compared to mid-summer for Thomson and Sandberg, Griffin got the latest start of the three. They’re all competing for the nomination of Democratic Party in the May 2 primary.

There’s still time for candidates to declare a candidacy for either major party’s nomination—that deadline is Feb. 3 at noon.

Griffin’s later start came only after incumbent mayor John Hamilton announced in mid-November he would not be seeking reelection to a third term.

Added to the amounts raised by the three declared candidates for mayor, Hamilton’s roughly $45,000 brings the total amount generated by Bloomington mayoral campaigns in 2022 to about $190,000. Continue reading “2023 election notebook: $190K raised in 2022 by Bloomington mayoral campaigns”

Bloomington Transit OKs 5-year deal, will get $3.8 million annually from city’s local income tax

Bloomington Transit will receive at least $3.8 million a year for the next five years from the city of Bloomington, under an interlocal agreement approved by BT’s five-member board at its final meeting of the year, on Dec. 20.

The agreement still needs to win approval from Bloomington’s city council.

The deal is expected to appear on a city council meeting agenda sometime in January, based on remarks from BT general manager John Connell at last week’s board meeting.

The money is coming from the increase to the local income tax that was approved by the city council in May of 2022.

The big initiative that the money is supposed to help fund is an east-west crosstown express route.

Some other specific initiatives that the money is supposed to pay for include: implementation of Sunday service in the first quarter of 2023; enhancement of the paratransit microtransit services; increasing frequency of weekday service; and development of a ridership subsidy program.

The new transit initiatives come as BT is clawing back ridership on its regular fixed route service, after a big drop when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit OKs 5-year deal, will get $3.8 million annually from city’s local income tax”

Election recount paused for Benton Township board as winter storm hits Midwest

Republican Jake Dodds will have to wait until after Christmas for confirmation of his election to one of the three seats on the Benton Township board in Monroe County, Indiana.

The three-member recount commission that is conducting a manual review of the ballots got started at 9 a.m. on Thursday, but was not able to complete the work by the end of the day.

The margin for Dodds over fourth-place finisher Hans Kelson was 4 votes.

They will pick back up in a week, on Dec. 29. The election took place on Nov. 8.

The recount commission’s work day was shortened by a winter storm that led the Monroe County government to send workers home at 3 p.m. Continue reading “Election recount paused for Benton Township board as winter storm hits Midwest”

Winslow Road resurfacing gets some discussion by Bloomington RDC, but no vote on contract

The yellow area is Bloomington’s consolidated TIF district. The purple line is the original scope of the Winslow Road project all the way to High Street. That scope has been dialed back to Allendale Drive.

An item related to a Winslow Road resurfacing project—which was postponed by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission from its meeting two weeks ago—still did not get a vote by the RDC on Monday.

The resolution that appeared Monday’s meeting agenda did not need a vote, according to assistant city attorney Larry Allen, because the construction contracts were not yet ready to be approved. And the contract approvals were not yet ready because the grant from INDOT’s Community Crossings matching grant program has not yet been awarded.

But public works director Adam Wason was able to respond to questions from RDC members about the project. The item had been postponed from two weeks ago, because Wason was not able to attend that meeting.

On Monday, Allen also sketched out the legal department’s position on why TIF (tax increment finance) funds are allowed to be spent on a project like Winslow Road resurfacing. The project entails milling down the surface of the road by a couple of inches, laying new asphalt and re-striping the pavement.

Winslow Road cuts east-west across the southern part of Bloomington. Continue reading “Winslow Road resurfacing gets some discussion by Bloomington RDC, but no vote on contract”

Griffy Lake wildlife interview: Kingfisher weighs in on belts versus suspenders

On Saturday’s visit to Griffy Lake, a public park on the north side of Bloomington, The B Square observed a belted kingfisher as it flitted low over a log where three turtles were sitting, lined up nose to tail.

Belted kingfisher and turtles, Griffy Lake (July 2, 2022)

Later, the bird consented to an interview on condition that it not be identified except by its Latin name, Megaceryle alcyon, or Megabird for short.

Responding to a B Square question, Megabird said that belted kingfishers do not take the extra precaution of wearing suspenders, because the straps would slide right off their slender shoulders.

Megabird continued, “The belt is also part of our brand identity—it’s why they call us belted kingfishers and not suspendered kingfishers.” He added, “The belt also helps avoid confusion between us and the stupid blue jays.”

Wrapping up his remarks, Megabird said, “You know, the bald eagles, the great blue herons, and the green herons around here get all the good press, with their self-aggrandizing swooping around and whatnot. I wish you journalists would take the time to photograph more of the regular rank-and-file wildlife out here at Griffy Lake—your turtles, your deer, your raccoons, your little wood ducklings, or what have you.”

Photographs of animals suggested by Megabird are included below.

Continue reading “Griffy Lake wildlife interview: Kingfisher weighs in on belts versus suspenders”

Bloomington Chick-fil-A gets OK for night time noise permit to install awnings

The aerial image of the 3rd Street Chick-fil-A is from Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

A request for a night time noise permit at the 3rd Street Chick-fil-A restaurant got approved by Bloomington’s board of public works at its regular Tuesday meeting.

The noise permit is related to the planned installation of some awnings for the drive-thru area of the restaurant. The request came from the Georgia-based Horizon Construction Company. Georgia is also the national restaurant chain’s home state.

The calendar dates for the planned construction of the steel-framed shade structure run from July 21 through Aug. 24.

Horizon wants to be able to work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Monday through Saturday, and all day on Sundays.

The request was made to allow Chick-fil-A to maintain its normal business hours, according to the board’s meeting information packet.

The board’s approval came with some concerns and caveats, which were discussed at the board’s Tuesday meeting. Continue reading “Bloomington Chick-fil-A gets OK for night time noise permit to install awnings”