Why is the city of Bloomington allowing $1,400,000 for a single item in the 2023 budget that has for the last three full calendar years averaged about $990,000 in actual cost?
That’s basically what city councilmember Matt Flaherty wanted to know last Wednesday night.
Table: Prior actuals versus 2023 budget for general fund support of sanitation
Flaherty was focused on a particular item in the budget that he eventually wants to eliminate completely—a transfer from the general fund to the sanitation fund. The transfer supports curbside waste collection service.
But that focus revealed a pattern.
At Wednesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, Flaherty reported he’d reviewed the numbers for that fund transfer over the last four years—budgeted versus actual. And he’d discovered that on average for a four-year period the city had over-budgeted that general fund transfer to sanitation by about $550,000 every year, or by more than 50 percent.
After more than two hours of deliberation on Wednesday, the Bloomington city council postponed until Oct. 6 further consideration of new boundaries for city council districts.
The council’s special meeting, now set for Oct. 6, coincides with the Democratic Party’s Vi Taliaferro Dinner—an annual fundraiser that is scheduled to start at the council’s usual meeting time of 6:30 p.m.
That’s why the all-Democrat council voted 9–0 to convene its special meeting for Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. The council set a time limit of one hour.
The council’s annual calendar had already called for a committee meeting on Oct. 6—which is a Thursday, instead of the usual Wednesday. The one-day shift avoids a conflict with Yom Kippur, which falls on Wednesday. The council canceled that committee meeting in favor of the one-hour special meeting.
On Oct. 6, the council could vote to adopt the new map that has been recommended by Bloomington’s redistricting advisory commission.
Another option would be to reject the map, and send the matter back to the five-member redistricting commission with the reasons for the council’s rejection.
Winning unanimous approval from Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday night was a resolution that expresses support for the extension of Bloomington Transit (BT) bus service outside the city limits, to Daniels Way.
The turn off 3rd Street to Daniels Way is about three quarters of a mile west of the city limits. New bus service north on Daniels Way, to make a loop around Ivy Tech, Cook Medical, and other employers, would mean extending the route something like a mile and a half.
Wednesday’s resolution expresses intent for the council eventually to make the necessary approvals for service outside the city, but itself has no legal impact.
The resolution’s sole sponsor on the city council, Steve Volan, sees the resolution as “removing a source of doubt for the mayor and for all of our county colleagues” about the city council’s willingness to do “its part” to make public bus service outside the city limits possible.
This Wednesday morning (Sept. 7), the advisory commission is set to take a vote on the report that will be forwarded to the city council for its consideration.
Based on its current schedule, the city council could—if it set its collective mind to it—take a vote to adopt or reject the new map and report as soon as the regular council meeting that is set for Sept. 21.
Bloomington mayor John Hamilton is greeted by AFSCME workers as he leaves city hall on Aug. 30, 2022. Left in the frame is AFSCME Local 2487 president Bradley Rushton.
AFSCME Local 2487 president Bradley Rushton addresses the city council during 2023 budget week.
From left: Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff; and Paul Post, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88.
Bloomington city councilmember Jim Sims.
Bloomington city councilmember Dave Rollo.
Bloomington city councilmember Sue Sgambelluri.
The hour was close to 11:30 p.m. on Thursday when Bloomington’s city council wrapped its fourth night of departmental budget presentations in a row, each starting at 6 p.m.
Over the four days, the council racked up a total of 17 hours and 40 minutes worth of meeting time.
That intense burst of activity will be followed by the submission of written followup questions by city councilmembers to the administration. Based on past practice, answers to those questions will eventually be released, sometime before the 2023 budget ordinances get a first reading in front of the city council.
The four councilmembers still heard the presentation from the city’s historic preservation program manager, and comments from the public.
The lack of quorum did not mean the church’s historic designation was delayed. That item will still appear on the city council’s Wednesday, Aug. 17 agenda, but without a committee recommendation.
But as Wednesday’s gathering was wrapping up, councilmember Jim Sims remarked on the lack of quorum.
He started by noting who else was in the room: “I probably shouldn’t say anything, but I just got to say, we’ve got people from the public that have come here to share their voices, staff that is here to make a presentation. We’ve got a couple of historic preservation commissioners here.”
Sims added: “I personally think it’s a bit of a disservice that we don’t have at least five people here on this council as a quorum to conduct proper business.”
The land sits inside Bloomington in the southwest corner of the city.
The land deal is part of a plan to replace the jail currently located in the justice center building at 7th Street and College Avenue in downtown Bloomington. County officials hope to have the deal done by year’s end.
To preview the commission’s meeting, The B Square took a look back to the council’s work a decade ago, which is the last time the city council districts were redrawn.
The boundaries have to be reconsidered every 10 years in the context of the decennial census. If the census shows that the populations of the districts are out of kilter, the boundaries are supposed to be redrawn to balance things out.
Ten years ago, it was the at-large councilmembers who formed a committee to review potential new maps. That means it was Andy Ruff, Timothy Mayer and Susan Sandberg who confronted the redistricting task.
The map that was adopted in 2012 served to define the council districts for the 2015 and 2019 municipal elections. Whatever map the council adopts this year, sometime before Dec. 31, will serve as the district map for the 2023 elections.
A schematic proposing an alternative to an alley vacation. The idea is to relocate the existing alley (red) a bit to the south (blue)
From the Arsee Engineers March 1, 2022 study, a recent photograph of the Johnson’s Creamery smokestack with diagram showing where it could fall.
Just this week, a plot twist has emerged in connection with the potential future development of the northern part of the 7th Street parcel where the Johnson’s Creamery building sits.
The twist: Peerless Development has added a corresponding offer to its request for an alley vacation
Now, Peerless says it is willing to dedicate a new public alley on the property, just south of the existing alley. The vacation, combined with the new dedication, would amount to moving the existing alley a bit to the south.
Peerless wants the existing alley to be vacated, in order to build a 51-unit apartment complex north of the old creamery building, right next to the B-Line Trail, off 7th Street. Bloomington’s plan commission approved the site plan for the new development in October 2021. But that approval was contingent on getting a greenlight from the city council for the vacation of the east-west alley—because part of the proposed new building would sit in the right-of-way.
At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council responded to the offer to move the alley, instead of just vacating the existing public right-of-way, by putting off a decision on the alley vacation.