Bloomington mayor wants Dec. 13 vote by city council on police station sale

At its Wednesday meeting in a little over a week from now, Bloomington’s city council will likely be asked by outgoing mayor John Hamilton to vote on the sale of the city’s police station.

That’s a key takeaway from a Monday noon work session of Bloomington’s city council.

Next week’s Dec. 13 council meeting is the city legislative body’s final regular meeting of the year.

But before the council is asked to approve the sale, Bloomington’s board of public works will hold a public hearing this Friday, Dec. 8. Even though the three-member board does not need to approve the sale, it is required under state law to make a recommendation to the city council and the mayor.

So on Friday, the administration is just looking for the board of public works to indicate its attitude about the sale—for, against, or no recommendation either way.

At Monday’s session, deputy mayor Larry Allen revealed that the city had so far received three offers for the purchase of the police station. The building is located on 3rd Street north of The Waldron, Hill and Buskirk Park.

One offer is right at the $3.2-million minimum offer specified in the city’s notice of sale, published on Oct. 11.  The minimum offer is the same as the lower of two fair market value appraisals that were done by the city, Allen revealed.

A second fair market appraisal, Allen said at Monday’s session, put the value of the police station at $4.4 million. The city had also received an offer to purchase the real estate at that price, Allen said.

A third offer exceeded $4.4 million, Allen said.

Even though just five of nine councilmembers attended Monday’s work session, a measure of the topic’s importance was mayor-elect Kerry Thomson’s attendance. Continue reading “Bloomington mayor wants Dec. 13 vote by city council on police station sale”

One dead in Bloomington shootings outside party, police arrest murder suspect

One man is dead and at least one more wounded after a dispute about admission to a party south of the Indiana University Bloomington campus, according to an early Sunday evening news release.

According to the news release from Bloomington police department (BPD), officers have arrested Isaiah Joseph Deleson Ramos, 21-year-old Linton, Indiana, man on a charge of murder.

The shooting took place around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning in the vicinity of Park and Hunter avenues.  According to the BPD news release, when the officers who responded to the reports of gunshots, they found the victim, a 23-year-old Bloomington man, with a gunshot wound to his chest. The efforts of officers to save him were not successful.

Another victim, a 19-year-old Bloomington man, was taken to a local hospital with injuries that are not thought to be life-threatening. Continue reading “One dead in Bloomington shootings outside party, police arrest murder suspect”

Hiccup for convention center interlocal agreement: ‘Let’s take a breath’ says Monroe County council

It might be next year before all parties have signed an interlocal agreement between Bloomington and Monroe County—in connection with an expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The effort to get final consensus on a collaboration between city and county leaders about a convention expansion dates back several years, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

But two weeks ago, both branches of Bloomington’s government approved the interlocal agreement, for the operation of the capital improvement board (CIB) and the convention and visitors commission (CVC)—in connection with the convention center expansion.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton inked the interlocal on the afternoon of Nov. 15. The city council followed suit that evening, with an uncontroversial vote to approve the interlocal agreement.

The county council and the county board of commissioners were expected to consider and approve the agreement this week.

But the item appeared on Tuesday night’s county council meeting agenda only as a discussion item. And that’s where it remained for Tuesday. No vote was taken, even though councilors expressed a fair amount of solid support for the agreement.

Part of the delay on the county council’s side relates to a request from Bloomington mayor-elect Kerry Thomson, who wrote a letter to Hamilton two weeks ago, asking him not to make strategic decisions that could have an impact lasting into 2024. Continue reading “Hiccup for convention center interlocal agreement: ‘Let’s take a breath’ says Monroe County council”

Column: A better blueprint for Bloomington city council meetings

In the last four years, one of the more controversial decisions by Bloomington’s city council was the enactment of an ordinance to reinstall stop signs on 7th Street.

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A measure of that controversy was Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s veto of the decision.  Of the three pieces of the legislation that have been vetoed by the mayor in the last eight years, the stop sign veto is the only one that was not overridden by the council.

The stop sign ordinance was a nice illustration of how the balance of power works, between the legislative and executive branches in local government.

But the ordinance was also a case study in the dysfunction that has plagued the internal workings of Bloomington’s city council for nearly the last four years—almost its entire term.

Just like better road design can lead to fewer collisions between vehicles, better city council meeting design might lead to fewer, and less damaging political collisions. Continue reading “Column: A better blueprint for Bloomington city council meetings”

Revolting Children, Santa, other usual suspects: 2023 Canopy of Lights in downtown Bloomington

On Friday night, downtown Bloomington was lit up brighter than Rudolph’s nose on Christmas Eve, and the square was packed with people, spilling onto Kirkwood Avenue, which was shut down for the occasion.

It was the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving extravaganza to flip the switch on the strands of lights that connect the courthouse building to buildings around the square—The Canopy of Lights.

Taking the edge of the 36 F degree temperatures were costumed characters, and live radio broadcasts courtesy of B97 & Hoosier Country 105, served up with hot chocolate, cookies, and kettle corn. Continue reading “Revolting Children, Santa, other usual suspects: 2023 Canopy of Lights in downtown Bloomington”

Thanksgiving Day Photos: Some local Bloomington birds that are not turkeys

The photos above were taken inside of 90 minutes on the morning of Thanksgiving Day 2023. To save future archivists one chore, that was Nov. 23, 2023.

The chronological sequence starts with a red-tailed hawk perched on the WFHB antenna just across from the 4th Street parking garage in downtown Bloomington. The photo was taken from the roof of the garage.

From there, The B Square headed north to Miller-Showers Park. The red-shouldered hawk photos were taken at Miller-Showers Park.

After Miller-Showers Park, the next stop was Griffy Lake. That’s where the photos of the woodpeckers and the great blue heron were taken.

These photos are a good reminder that not every great bird is a turkey, not even on Thanksgiving Day.

For people who earn a livelihood writing the news,  Thanksgiving Day is also a good reminder to say thank you to the folks who keep us in business: Thank you, readers!

Below are more photos, including some that were taken on the day before Thanksgiving.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving Day Photos: Some local Bloomington birds that are not turkeys”

Flood damaged Bloomington fire station gets $4.5M in construction contracts OK’d for major renovation

For the last two and a half years, Bloomington’s main fire station on 4th Street has sat unused for fire operations.  That’s because it was damaged in the flood of June 2021.

But construction work on the existing 4th Street station, to put Station 1 back into service, is set to start on Dec. 1.

About $4.5 million in construction contracts for the work was approved by Bloomington’s board of public works at its regular Tuesday meeting.

In an email responding to a B Square question, fire chief Jason Moore called the work “a much needed public safety project that has been in the works since the flood in 2021.”

Serving as a temporary downtown fire station for the last two and a half years has been the former Bunger & Robertson building at 4th and College, which was outfitted with a temporary structure that serves as a firetruck bay. Continue reading “Flood damaged Bloomington fire station gets $4.5M in construction contracts OK’d for major renovation”

Mayoral transition: Bloomington boards have upcoming vacancies, to be filled by city executive

In an open letter dated Nov. 9,  mayor-elect Kerry Thomson made a clarion call to Bloomington residents for them to participate in city government.

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Thomson wrote to residents that her administration would “make it easy for them to participate in their government.”

She added: “That starts now—with you.”

Cited in Thomson’s letter as a path to participation is service on a board or commission, through a mayoral appointment.

She invites residents to apply for an seat on a board or commission

Appointments to boards and commissions also get a mention in a Nov. 14 letter that Thomson sent to current Bloomington mayor John Hamilton.

Thomson includes such appointments in the decisions that she asks Hamilton to refrain from making in his remaining time in office (emphasis in original): “Such decisions would include, but not be limited to, signing new or extensions of contracts, purchasing or conveying property, and making future board and commission appointments.”

Most board and commission terms go through Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, which means several naturally-occurring vacancies will need to be filled. For example, two of the five mayoral appointments to the plan commission end on Jan. 1, 2023.

At least some of the mayor-appointed members of boards and commissions are described explicitly in local law as serving “at the pleasure” of the mayor—like members of the board of public works or the board of public safety.

Seats on those two boards do not have specified term lengths. There’s not a natural point in time for a mayor to swap out one of those board members, by choosing not to re-appoint them.

The request about appointments in Thomson’s letter to Hamilton is not confined to just those board members that are explicitly described in the law as serving “at the pleasure” of the mayor. Continue reading “Mayoral transition: Bloomington boards have upcoming vacancies, to be filled by city executive”

Interlocal agreement on convention center approved on Bloomington’s side, county’s OK expected soon

At its regular meeting last Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council approved its side of the interlocal agreement that will control the working relationship among local government entities as they collaborate on an expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The vote was 8–0. Kate Rosenbarger was absent.

Signing the agreement earlier in the day on Wednesday was Bloomington mayor John Hamilton. That wraps up the city of Bloomington’s side of the arrangement.

Remaining signatories of the interlocal agreement are the Monroe County council and the county’s board of commissioners. The county elected officials are expected to consider the interlocal agreement at their first meetings after the Thanksgiving holiday. Continue reading “Interlocal agreement on convention center approved on Bloomington’s side, county’s OK expected soon”

Bloomington mayor-elect asks current mayor not to make strategic choices impacting beyond year’s end

With six weeks left before she is sworn into office, Bloomington mayor-elect Kerry Thomson has sent a letter to outgoing mayor John Hamilton asking him to “refrain from making any strategic or discretionary decisions which will impact beyond December 31, 2023.”

The letter was dated Nov. 14, exactly a week after Thomson was elected Bloomington’s next mayor. A Democrat, Thomson’s was one of 10 uncontested races on the ballot for city office—mayor, city clerk, and city council. It was Democrats who were all unopposed in those races. A Democrat prevailed in the 11th race as well.

Hamilton is also a Democrat. But Thomson’s letter could be one indication that the transition between the two Dems is not without some discontent.

Still, responding to an emailed B Square question, about whether there was a precipitating event that prompted her letter, Thomson called her request of Hamilton “a fairly typical request during transitions.”

Thomson confirmed to The B Square that her request of Hamilton includes the Showers West renovation and the sale of the 3rd Street police station.

But Thomson added that her request applies “also to any other significant commitments the city is making for which I and the next city council should have the opportunity to opine as we will be in leadership to carry these out.” Continue reading “Bloomington mayor-elect asks current mayor not to make strategic choices impacting beyond year’s end”