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.””

Bloomington city council OKs annexation on 6-3 votes for all territories, except north area

The outcomes on the remaining annexation votes taken by Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday night unfolded as expected, based on the previous week’s initial session on the topic.

Including Area 1A on the west side of the city, which got an OK last week, seven of the eight proposed areas for annexation were approved, all on 6–3 votes. The three dissenting votes came from Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg and Ron Smith.

A key argument for the three dissenters was the idea that the city of Bloomington was not in a position to extend some services to the new territory. The specific services causing concern relate to public safety.

The current disparity between the number of sworn officers employed by Bloomington’s department (91) and the number who are authorized (105)—in the context of the 23 to 35 additional officers called for in the fiscal plans—led dissenters to conclude it is unrealistic to think Bloomington could provide public safety services to the new areas.

Those voting in favor cited standard arguments in favor of annexation, including: the idea that annexation is a natural part of the history of cities; that those who own land near municipal boundaries already enjoy several benefits of that proximity, so it’s fair for them to pay city property taxes; and the idea that the remonstrance waivers signed by landowners in exchange for extension of sewer service is a contractual agreement that landowners should expect to fulfill. Continue reading “Bloomington city council OKs annexation on 6-3 votes for all territories, except north area”

1 down, 7 to go: Bloomington city council OKs westside area for annexation, recesses meeting until Sept. 22 for remaining votes

Just one of eight proposed areas for annexation was put to a vote by Bloomington’s nine-member city council on Wednesday night.

Councilmembers voted 6–3 to make Area 1A on Bloomington’s west side a part of Bloomington. Dissenting were Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg, and Ron Smith.

Before taking votes on the seven other proposed annexation areas, the council recessed its meeting until next Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m.

The 6–3 split on Area 1A was the same breakdown for Wednesday’s council votes on all but one of the fiscal plans associated with the annexation ordinances.

Also on Wednesday, the same 6–3 split divided the council on a proposal to subtract some territory from proposed annexation Area 2, which lies to the southeast of the city. Rollo and Smith moved an amendment that would have deleted from Area 2 a chunk that looked identical to one Smith had previously proposed to delete at a special Aug. 31 council meeting.

The ordinance adding Area 2 did not get a vote from the council on Wednesday. It will have to wait until next week, along with the other remaining ordinances.

Based on the deliberations so far, it looks likely that next week the ordinances that add six more areas, including Area 2, will get majority support by at least the same 6–3 margin.

The seventh piece of territory, which is Area 7 on the north side, is expected to be voted down unanimously, because Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s administration no longer thinks it needs to be brought into the city of Bloomington.

The unanimous vote to recess the meeting came at 11:21 p.m., which was just short of five hours after the meeting started. Continue reading “1 down, 7 to go: Bloomington city council OKs westside area for annexation, recesses meeting until Sept. 22 for remaining votes”

Bloomington annexation now two small chunks smaller, votes set for Sept. 15

Bloomington’s city council voted on Tuesday night to exclude two small chunks (Am 02 and Am 03) from the proposed annexation Area 2. The dots representing the population are based on the count from the 2020 decennial count by the US Census (1 dot = 1 person). A bigger chunk that was proposed to be removed (encompassing all the area of Am 03 plus an additional L-shaped piece) did not get enough support, failing on a 3–6 vote.

Bloomington’s city council voted on Tuesday night to exclude two small chunks from one of the proposed areas in the currently pending eight-area annexation plan.

The chunks that are no longer on the table to be made a part of the city of Bloomington, came from Area 2, which also goes by the label “South-East Bloomington Annexation Area.” It wraps around the southeast part of the city, extending from SR 46 on the east, to the Rogers and Walnut area on the south.

Separate votes on the eight annexation areas are set for the city council’s Sept. 15 meeting.

Area 2 no longer extends all the way to SR 46 for its whole width, based on Amendment 03, which was approved on Tuesday night. On an 8–1 vote of the council, the Edgewood Hills neighborhood, accessible from SR 46 via Lori Lane, was removed from the annexation plan. It was Kate Rosenbarger who dissented on the vote.

The Edgewood Hills chunk included 86 parcels out of the more than 6,600 that are a part of the annexation plan.

A slightly bigger chunk that was proposed to be removed in the same general vicinity—which included Edgewood Hills plus an additional L-shaped piece right on the city border—did not have enough support for removal. Amendment 04 failed on a 3–6 vote, with support from its sponsor Ron Smith, who was joined only by Susan Sandberg and Dave Rollo.

Getting unanimous support from the council for removal from the annexation plan was a five-parcel piece of territory, south of the bend where Rogers Road curves north to become Smith Road.

The biggest piece of the territory removed by Amendment 02 is a part of the Sycamore Land trust. So it has little potential for future development or additional property tax revenue to the city.

Continue reading “Bloomington annexation now two small chunks smaller, votes set for Sept. 15”

Potential amendments to Bloomington’s annexation plan on Tuesday special meeting agenda

Three different map amendments (numbered Am 02, Am 03, and Am 04) appear on Bloomington’s Aug. 31 city council agenda. The amendments would remove some parcels from the proposed annexation Area 2. Am 04 would remove all of the area proposed to be removed by Am 03, plus some additional area, up to the existing city boundary. (Dots on the map are based on the 2020 US Census count: 1 dot = 1 person) Images links to map of all annexation areas.

On the agenda for Tuesday’s special meeting of Bloomington’s city council are three potential amendments to the map for one of the proposed areas in the city’s annexation plan.

The only area that is subject to any potential boundary amendments put forward by councilmembers is Area 2. That’s the area that also goes by the label “South-East Bloomington Annexation Area.”

No modifications to the other seven separate proposed annexation areas appear on Tuesday’s agenda. Area 7, to the north of the city, was not expected to see any amendments, because the ordinance for Area 7 is almost certain not to win city council approval, based on a recent recommendation from mayor John Hamilton’s administration.

Also a part of the package of amendments to be considered on Tuesday are some changes to the ordinances for Area 2 and Area 1A, which would establish an “impoundment fund” and a corresponding advisory board for each of those two areas.

Continue reading “Potential amendments to Bloomington’s annexation plan on Tuesday special meeting agenda”

City council budget hearing draws questions for Bloomington Transit on fare-free rides, geographic expansion

At Tuesday’s hearing of Bloomington Transit’s proposed 2022 budget in front of the city council, BT’s general manager, Lew May, fielded a question he’s heard many years before, including last year.

Has BT considered making the public bus service fare free?

A new question this year: How is BT thinking about providing service in the context of Bloomington’s annexation proposal?

May’s answer on the fare-free question was the same as it has been before: Yes, but that would depend on identifying a source of funding to make up the revenue shortfall.

Fares make up a relatively small percentage of BT’s revenue budget, which totals about $15 million in 2022.

But there would still be around $600,000 in annual fares to cover, that normally is paid by regular rank-and-file resident passengers.

Also potentially in the mix would be a roughly $1-million annual contribution made by Indiana University to allow faculty, students and staff to board without paying a fare. Continue reading “City council budget hearing draws questions for Bloomington Transit on fare-free rides, geographic expansion”

Column: Connecting some annexation dots with Bloomington’s 2020 Census data

A week ago, the US Census released the data from its 2020 decennial count.

The image links to the original .jpg file which has a higher resolution that what is shown on the screen. Here’s a link to a .pdf with a vector graphic version of the map, which includes all of Monroe County: 2020 Census Monroe County dot map

Locally, the immediate focus was on Bloomington’s count of 79,168—which came in lower than had been estimated. It was lower even than the 2010 count of 80,405.

A fair amount of effort has already gone into trying to understand why the US Census Bureau’s actual count put Bloomington’s population lower than the same agency’s most recent estimates.

Not receiving as much attention has been the potential utility of the fresh census numbers for Bloomington’s current plans to add territory to the city.

The 2020 Census count outside Bloomington has not been subject to the same kind of skepticism as the area inside the city.

So the population of the proposed annexation areas, as measured by the 2020 Census, could factor into upcoming Bloomington city council deliberations, unimpeded by doubts about accuracy.

Of course, population density (at least 3 people per acre) is just one of the statutory considerations in Indiana’s annexation laws.

Another statutory consideration includes how much of the proposed annexation areas is subdivided or is parceled through separate ownerships into lots or parcels. A third factor mentioned in the state statute is whether the territory is zoned for commercial, business, or industrial uses.

Still, the fresh, fine-grained geographic detail of the census data released last Thursday seems like information that should be incorporated into the Bloomington city council’s deliberative process. Mid-September votes are currently contemplated on each of the eight proposed annexation areas. Continue reading “Column: Connecting some annexation dots with Bloomington’s 2020 Census data”

Cost for flyer against annexation reimbursed, Monroe County commissioners announce official opposition to Bloomington’s plan

Claims record showing payment and reimbursement of printing cost.

Monroe County’s three county commissioners have made a joint statement opposing Bloomington’s annexation plan for all eight proposed areas.

The announcement came near the start of the board’s regular Wednesday meeting, after several weeks of remarks in public settings that indicated their individual opposition to Bloomington’s annexation proposal.

With Wednesday’s joint statement, the county commissioners as a group are opposed to annexation.

A few weeks ago, the formally and publicly established position of the board—that the body was opposed to annexation—was a missing element.

That’s when county attorney Jeff Cockerill concluded it had been inappropriate for county commissioners to have spent $300 of county money, to print a flyer that included a viewpoint opposing annexation.

It was in late June when commissioners paid for the informational flyer out of county funds. The $300 was reimbursed a week later, by Julie Thomas, president of county board.

Last month, the question of the county board’s formal position on Bloomington’s proposed annexation led to some brief discussion on rental property inspection programs, at a meeting of the county’s affordable housing advisory commission.

Continue reading “Cost for flyer against annexation reimbursed, Monroe County commissioners announce official opposition to Bloomington’s plan”

Annexation update: Electronic access at city hall for public hearing, city releases waiver data, Area 7 likely out

In a news release issued on Monday, the city of Bloomington announced that it will provide electronic access at city hall to a public hearing on annexation that is being continued this week on Wednesday starting at 6 p.m.

The city has also released its data on annexation remonstrance waiver dates, in response to a records request from The B Square, made under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.

[Updated at 4:59 p.m. on Aug. 10: The mayor’s office has issued a news release recommending the removal of Area 7 from the proposed annexations. Area 7 is the northernmost of the eight areas proposed for annexation. Area 7 had already received three city councilmember votes in opposition, when the annexation ordinances were amended in mid-May to update them from the 2017 process.]

[Updated at 4:07 p.m. on Aug. 11: Van Buren Township office will be open at 5:30 p.m., if anyone would like to comment to the Bloomington city council, according to township trustee Rita Barrow. The office is now located across the road from the fire station in a white building. 2123 S Kirby Rd. 812-825-4490]

The continued public hearing this week will be convened on the Zoom video-conferencing platform.

According to Monday’s news release, computers at city hall will be available for use by residents who are “interested in watching or participating in the meeting who might otherwise be without internet capability.”

The news release continues, “City staff will also provide guidance to those who join the meeting at city hall about using online tools to make a comment during the public hearing.”

According to the news release, “Visitors may use computers set up in the city hall atrium, or watch the meeting on monitors in the adjacent council chambers.”

The electronic access provided by the city for this Wednesday’s continuation of the public hearing could be analyzed as an attempt to address some criticism heard by city officials last week.

That criticism came after the cancelation of the in-person component of last week’s public hearing. City representatives suggested that the public could get access to the electronic meeting by visiting the Monroe County Public Library and using the computing resources there. Continue reading “Annexation update: Electronic access at city hall for public hearing, city releases waiver data, Area 7 likely out”

Concern about Bloomington’s police staffing levels in light of potential annexations: By the numbers

According to Bloomington’s fiscal plan in support of its proposed annexation of territory,  the police department would need to add between 24 and 31 sworn officers, at a cost of up to around $2.6 million a year.

The additional officers would be needed in order to provide service to 9,000 more acres of area, and about 14,000 more people, based on Bloomington’s annexation plans.

At Wednesday’s public hearing on the proposed annexations, the president of Bloomington’s police union spoke about his concerns.

Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 88 and a senior police officer for BPD, asked the city council: “Will the city have enough police officers to provide basic police services for the new version of Bloomington?”

It’s an open question, according to Post, because BPD has not been able to maintain the number of officers authorized in the city’s current budget.

BPD has fewer sworn officers than its budgeted number, but is losing officers as fast as the department can replace them, based on Post’s description.

The immediate consequence of the officer shortage, according to Post, is that all three of BPD’s uniformed patrol shifts have had to lower their daily minimum staffing levels. BPD is working at or below minimum staffing, Post said.

That means there are fewer officers who are available to field increased calls for service like “weapons in progress,” according to Post.

The numbers in Bloomington’s online payroll system and calls for service dataset basically square up with Post’s remarks.

Continue reading “Concern about Bloomington’s police staffing levels in light of potential annexations: By the numbers”