Bloomington annexation remonstrance final raw tally: Automatic stop in play for six of seven areas, court review now possible for one

When the Jan. 6 deadline passed for submitting remonstrance petitions against Bloomington’s annexation ordinances, the Monroe County auditor’s office was able to provide only a preliminary raw tally of signatures.

That’s because several signatures were submitted on the final day.

Based on the now final but still raw tally, every area but one would have enough signatures to meet the 65-percent threshold that automatically blocks Bloomington’s annexation attempt.

That’s the same basic picture that was already known on the final day of remonstrance.

What’s different is the status of Area 1B, which by the auditor’s count at the time had not yet achieved even a lower threshold of 50-percent. That’s a benchmark that doesn’t stop the annexation but does ensure that a judge reviews a city’s annexation ordinance.

Adding in the final day’s count has bumped the total for Area 1B past the 50-percent threshold.

But it’s still short of the 65-percent mark. The area has 2,102 unique owners, of which 1,342 signed a remonstrance petition. That’s 63.8 percent. The 65-percent threshold would have required signatures from 25 more property owners. Continue reading “Bloomington annexation remonstrance final raw tally: Automatic stop in play for six of seven areas, court review now possible for one”

COVID-19 numbers continue steep climb as Monroe County and Bloomington take different paths after Supreme Court vax-or-test ruling

The number of positive COVID-19 cases across Indiana and in Monroe County has continued its steep rise.

The big case numbers form part of the background to Thursday’s U.S. Supreme ruling on the OSHA emergency temporary standard set forth by the Biden administration.

It’s the standard that includes a requirement for employers with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or get tested weekly for the pandemic virus.

The Supreme Court ruling imposes a stay on the OSHA rule.

A 6–3 majority on the nation’s highest court agrees that OSHA’s mandate “exceeds its statutory authority and is otherwise unlawful,” which means that the majority thinks the plaintiffs in a lower federal court battle are likely to prevail.

Based on remarks from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton at Friday’s weekly news conference, it sounds like the city of Bloomington is going to stick with its implementation of the OSHA mandate, while a local lawsuit against the city plays out. Three city unions  filed a lawsuit against the city of Bloomington in Monroe County circuit court  over the city’s vax-or-test policy.

Based on an email message sent to department heads by a Monroe County staff attorney, Monroe County will hold off on enforcing its plan to conform with the OSHA mandate.  The email message states: “[D]epartment leaders are being asked to not enforce the additional requirements found in that particular policy.” The message continues, “Compliance with the local health order and other aspects of the County Continuity of Operations Plan is still expected.” Continue reading “COVID-19 numbers continue steep climb as Monroe County and Bloomington take different paths after Supreme Court vax-or-test ruling”

Column | The calculus of a great local business: Function Brewing changes owners

I will miss Steve and Arlyn Llewelyn as owners of Function Brewing.

A pint of Theorem at Function Brewing on Jan. 14, 2022.

It’s the brewpub downstairs from my 6th Street apartment in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.

They have sold the business to Endeavor Hospitality Group, a Bloomington firm that owns several other local restaurants.

Sadie Clark, director of operations at Endeavor, confirmed the acquisition in an email to The B Square on Wednesday.

Function Brewing joins Southern Stone, Grazie Italiano, Garnish Catering, Underground Bakery, The Owlery, Feast, Market and Cellar, The Fresh Fork, The Court Room, Beaumont House, and Wagon Wheel Meats as part of the family of businesses that Endeavor has acquired.

On Friday, the official publicity came in the form of a personal message from Steve and Arlyn on the brewery’s Facebook Page.

Steve and Arlyn launched the brewery in 2014, right around this time of year. Their message posted on Friday reflected on those eight years: “The last eight years have been full of joy but also deeply exhausting. Owning a business is hard; and this past year, in particular, has been brutally hard. Honestly, we just couldn’t do it any longer.”

About the new owners, the message adds, “We are thrilled and relieved to hand off our business to a local company with more energy and resources than we have, that can take our little brewery and grow it in ways that we could only imagine.”

What is great about Function Brewing? For one thing Steve brews great beer.

But I am not an aficionado of beer—I cannot tell you the difference between a stout, an ale, a lager or a porter. I had to look up “kinds of beer” on the internet in order to type out that list. Continue reading “Column | The calculus of a great local business: Function Brewing changes owners”

Contested Bloomington plan commission spot goes to Smith not Piedmont-Smith, standing committees question still pending

From left: Bloomington city councilmembers Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Ron Smith at the Oct. 31, 2021 announcement of Democrat Penny Githens’ candidacy for District 62 state representative. All nine members of Bloomington’s city council are Democrats.

At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council made Ron Smith its appointee to the city plan commission for the coming year.

The other councilmember who had asked to be appointed was Isabel Piedmont-Smith.

For Piedmont-Smith it was the second year in a row that she was not the council’s pick as its appointment to the plan commission. The outcome was decided  by the same 5–4 margin. Last year, it was Susan Sandberg who was put in the plan commission seat.

Smith prevailed on the same 5–4 split as last year, which broke down along the same lines as the vote for council president and vice president at last week’s meeting.

The five voting for Smith were: Smith, Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri, Dave Rollo, and Jim Sims. The four voting for Piedmont-Smith were: Piedmont-Smith, Matt Flaherty, Steve Volan and Kate Rosenbarger.

Also on Wednesday’s agenda was a resolution that would eliminate most of the council’s standing committees.

After two hours of debate, mostly in the guise of questions that were put to the resolution’s sponsors, the council voted to postpone consideration of the resolution until its Jan. 19 meeting.

The resolution eliminating several of the council’s standing committees is sponsored by Sandberg, Sgambelluri and Sims.

Continue reading “Contested Bloomington plan commission spot goes to Smith not Piedmont-Smith, standing committees question still pending”

City of Bloomington: Unsafe building order for Johnson’s Creamery smokestack, section of B-Line Trail to be closed

In a news release issued early Thursday morning, the city of Bloomington announced that it has issued an “Unsafe Building Order to Repair” to the owners of the the old Johnson Creamery building on 7th Street, across the B-Line Trail from city hall.

The building is owned by Peerless Capital of Chicago, Illinois. It’s the site of planned new housing construction that would incorporate the existing structure. According to the news release, the unsafe order was issued under city code  and state statue.

The reason for the unsafe building order, according to Thursday’s news release, is the 140-foot-tall smokestack, which is located on the property. The iconic smokestack has vertical lettering that reads “Johnson’s” on its east side.

The B-Line Trail, where it passes between city hall and the Johnson Creamery building, will be closed off, according to the news release. As of around 8 a.m. Thursday morning, the B-Line was still open. [Updated 2:53 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2022: The latest word from the city is that as of around 11 a.m. the fencing has been installed.] Continue reading “City of Bloomington: Unsafe building order for Johnson’s Creamery smokestack, section of B-Line Trail to be closed”

Bloomington signs off on animal care agreement with Monroe County, Ellettsville

At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council approved an agreement with the other governments in the county that spells out how Bloomington’s cost is covered for animals surrendered to the city shelter by non-city county residents and county animal control officers.

On the county’s side, the interlocal agreement was approved last year by county commissioners  and the county 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 “Bloomington signs off on animal care agreement with Monroe County, Ellettsville”

Pretrial public defender money cut: Indiana awards half the grant amount Monroe County was expecting

At its Tuesday meeting, the Monroe County council dealt with the news that the state grant that has historically funded the pretrial public defender program had been cut in half for the coming year.

Screenshot of the Jan. 11, 2022 Monroe County council meeting, which was conduced by Zoom videoconference.

Instead of the $183,390 that had been requested, the county received $92,038.

That leaves the county $84,507 short for a public defender and $7,000 short for the benefits that go with a pretrial probation officer position.

According to the memo attached to Tuesday’s meeting agenda item, the funding covers a public defender who appears at initial hearings so that a “meaningful first appearance addressing bail may be held.”

A memo from staff who work in the pretrial program states that Monroe County’s pretrial services grant for 2022 was cut to half the 2021 grant level, with no advance notice. The news came on Dec. 30, according to the memo, two days before the grant is scheduled to begin.

The county council’s action on Tuesday night was to appropriate the grant funding that was awarded.

As council president Kate Wiltz put it, “Let’s appropriate what we have and get thinking on how we can keep this program going for the future.”

At the start of the meeting, Wiltz was chosen as the county council’s president for the coming year. Trent Deckard was chosen as vice president. Continue reading “Pretrial public defender money cut: Indiana awards half the grant amount Monroe County was expecting”

Bloomington’s Trades District technology center takes small step forward

At its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) gave a green light to the next incremental step in the construction of a technology center north of Bloomington’s city hall building, in the Trades District.

The Trades District is a certified technology park.

What the RDC approved was a revision to the project review form for a roughly $5.5-million technology center.

The center is expected to break ground in mid-2022 and be open in early- to mid-2024, according to Bloomington director of economic and sustainable development Alex Crowley.

The timing depends in part on some back-and-forth the city is having with the federal Economic Development administration (EDA), in connection with a $3.5 million grant awarded by the EDA for the center, Crowley wrote in a late-December email to The B Square.

Wednesday’s project form revision spells out $500,000 as the amount planned for the design services for the project. The firm that has done the initial conceptual and preliminary designs is Axis Architecture + Interiors. Continue reading “Bloomington’s Trades District technology center takes small step forward”

Plat for part of former IU hospital site gets OK to go in front of Bloomington plan commission

At its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) signed off on a proposed plat for some of the land to be redeveloped as a part of the reuse project for the former IU Health hospital at 2nd and Rogers Streets.

A plat is a map that shows how the land is divided into lots.

What the RDC was approving was the submission of the plat to the city plan commission. Once the plan commission approves it, probably at its Feb. 7 meeting, the RDC will confirm the plat with another vote, according to the RDC’s meeting information packet.

The land in question is bounded by 1st and 2nd streets on the north and south. The boundaries to the east and west are formed by Morton and Rogers streets. Continue reading “Plat for part of former IU hospital site gets OK to go in front of Bloomington plan commission”

Analysis: Bloomington city council splits on officer elections, members air past grievances

Last Wednesday, the annual election of Bloomington city council officers—president, vice president, and parliamentarian—took about an hour.

On a vote that was split 5–4, the council put Susan Sandberg, instead of Matt Flaherty, in the president’s chair. On a vote that was also split 5–4, the council returned Sue Sgambelluri to the vice president’s seat, instead of putting Flaherty there.

Questioning of candidates for the leadership positions was sharp, fueled by conflicts over the first two years of the current council’s four-year term.

Even though Dave Rollo was the only candidate put forward for parliamentarian, he was questioned by Flaherty in a way that alluded to an aggravated verbal exchange between the two at an early March 2021 meeting.

The 5–4 split was the same for the vote on president and vice president.

Voting for Sandberg and Sgambelluri were: Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri, Dave Rollo, Ron Smith, and Jim Sims. Voting for Flaherty both times were: Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, and Steve Volan.

No one dissented on the vote for Rollo as parliamentarian.

All nine of Bloomington’s city councilmembers are Democrats. Continue reading “Analysis: Bloomington city council splits on officer elections, members air past grievances”