2022 budget OK’d by Bloomington council on 9–0 vote

On Wednesday night, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s roughly $107 million budget for 2022 was approved on a unanimous vote of the city council.

Two weeks ago some city councilmembers had threatened to vote against it.

After expressing discontent with the mayor’s 2022 budget at their Oct. 13 meeting, and before voting on it, councilmembers had recessed their meeting until this Wednesday.

Approval of next year’s budget came five days ahead of a statutory deadline, which makes Nov. 1 the last day it can be adopted.

Under state law, if the deadline for adoption had been missed, Bloomington would have had to get through 2022 with the same tax rate and levy as specified in the 2021 budget. That would have meant $1.2 million less in general fund revenue than was called for in Hamilton’s 2022 budget.

Hamilton’s 2022 budget fell short of councilmember expectations in two areas—police pay and climate action.

But in remarks explaining their support for the budget, councilmembers pointed to some positive movement on Hamilton’s part that they discerned in the administration’s news release from the day before. Continue reading “2022 budget OK’d by Bloomington council on 9–0 vote”

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”

Township trustee sues city of Bloomington over records requests about displacement of homeless encampments

Perry Township trustee Dan Combs has filed a lawsuit against the city of Bloomington.

The suit demands that the city produce records related to decision making and the development of policies connected to displacement of homeless encampments in the last year.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday evening. By midday on Friday, the complaint with its exhibits had been uploaded to the state’s online court document system. The lawsuit was filed in Monroe County superior court.

The question of law is whether the city of Bloomington has met its obligations under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA), to response to records requests made by Combs, about the city’s homeless encampment policies, among other matters.

What prompted the records requests in the first place, from an elected township trustee, was an interest in understanding Bloomington’s decision making process related to homeless encampments, because of the potential impact that the city’s policies have on township government.

Combs, who is named as an individual plaintiff, and in his capacity as township trustee, told The B Square on Friday that the township board had approved going ahead with the litigation that has now been filed.

City attorney Mike Rouker responded to The B Square’s emailed inquiry about the lawsuit, by writing that the city does not comment on pending litigation. Continue reading “Township trustee sues city of Bloomington over records requests about displacement of homeless encampments”

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.””

Column: Bloomington city council needs to shift out of park, into legislative gear

Bloomington’s city councilmembers want mayor John Hamilton’s administration to make policy choices that are consistent with the community’s values. And they want to see those choices reflected in the annual budget.

Otherwise put, Bloomington’s city council is like any other city council in America.

It’s a reasonable and normal expectation for the legislative branch of local government that the budget will be a reflection of local community priorities.

And that’s why the annual budget is the most important legislation considered by the city council every year.

But the budget is not the only piece of legislation that the city council could take up in the course of a calendar year. The legislative body does not need to wait for the administration to propose the annual budget or any other law.

Bloomington’s city council has, on occasion, proven that it’s aware of its own ability to originate new local laws.

For example, when some councilmembers determined that prohibiting turns on red lights at several additional downtown intersections would improve pedestrian safety, they initiated a traffic ordinance and worked with the city staff to get the details right. It was enacted as local law by the city council in early April.

But shifting itself out of park and into legislative gear is not an approach that appears to be favored by the council.

And that’s too bad.

On the upside, during budget season, some councilmembers seem to have sorted out a good answer to this question: What’s the clearest way to signal to the mayor what a majority of city councilmembers think? Take an actual vote. Continue reading “Column: Bloomington city council needs to shift out of park, into legislative gear”

$82.5K OK’d to get help naming new Bloomington neighborhood: “Hospital Redevelopment Site doesn’t really roll off the tongue.”

The new Bloomington neighborhood, which is to be developed on the site of the IU Health hospital, will get a name of its own.

That’s among the tasks the city’s redevelopment commission (RDC) wants Borshoff, an Indianapolis public relations firm, to help complete.

At Monday’s regular RDC meeting, commissioners approved an amendment to the review and approval form for the nearly $13-million redevelopment project, so that it now includes a $82,500 contract with Borshoff.

The firm is supposed to facilitate public engagement on the naming of the neighborhood, according to Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley.

About the need for a neighborhood name, Crowley said, “Hospital Redevelopment Site doesn’t really roll off the tongue.” He added, “I’m not sure that would make a nice road sign.”

The hospital property at 2nd and Rogers streets will be turned over to Bloomington by IU Health as part of a $6.5 million real estate deal. Except for the parking deck and the administration building, the structures on  the site are to be demolished by IU Health. Continue reading “$82.5K OK’d to get help naming new Bloomington neighborhood: “Hospital Redevelopment Site doesn’t really roll off the tongue.””

Bloomington resumes curbside recycling pickup week of Oct. 4

In a news release issued early Saturday evening, the city of Bloomington has announced that curbside recycling service will resume on Monday, Oct. 4.

Last week the recycling service was cancelled, because not enough sanitation workers were available to work. Several workers had tested positive for the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

For residents whose recycling efforts exceed the size of the cart in any one week, for the coming week, they can set out additional items in other containers. The news release cautions, “Recycling placed in plastic bags will not be collected.”

Last week, the news release announcing the cancellation of recycling pickup did not come until Sunday afternoon.

The word did not get out to every resident. A uReport from Thursday noted: “Although my trash was taken my recycling was left Tuesday morning. There was no indication or notice sticker as to why.”

Regular trash pickup was not affected. Continue reading “Bloomington resumes curbside recycling pickup week of Oct. 4”

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”

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”

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”