Bloomington park commissioners give final OK to $5.8 million in GO bonds

On Monday afternoon, Bloomington’s board of park commissioners convened a special meeting to approve $5.8 million in parks general obligation bonds, to pay for some multi-use trail and protected bicycle lane projects.

The bonds were a part of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s new revenue package, which was recently approved by the city council. The whole package included another $5.8 million in public works bonds,  and a 0.69-point increase in the countywide local income tax, which is expected to generate about $14.5 million annually for the city of Bloomington.

The bond projects approved by the board of park commissioners on Monday included: replacement of missing sidewalk on Rogers St. by Switchyard Park; addition of protected bicycle lanes along Covenanter Drive (from College Mall to Clarizz Blvd); construction design for a North Dunn Street multi-use path (from the SR 45/46 Bypass to Old SR 37); the Griffy Loop Trail dam crossing and community access\ improvements; and modernization of West 2nd Street modernization, including protected bicycle lanes (from Walker Street to BLine trail).

No one spoke during the public commentary period at Monday’s meeting.

Given initial approval by park commissioners in April were two bond projects that the city council later struck from the list: replacement of gas-powered equipment with electric equipment; and a non-motorized connection from Lower Cascades Park to Miller-Showers Park.

So those two projects were not among those approved on Monday by the board of park commissioners.

The final approval of the bonds was previously on the agenda for a late-April meeting of the park commissioners. But they could not take a vote on the item. That’s because under Indiana’s Open Door Law, all members who are voting on a tax increase have to be physically present—not participating through electronic communication. Only two of the four park commissioners were physically present at the late April meeting.

That’s why a special meeting of the park commissioners had to be called. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners give final OK to $5.8 million in GO bonds”

Electronic meetings statute stops vote on $5.8M bond issuance by Bloomington parks board

The final approval of $5.8-million in general obligation bonds appeared on Tuesday’s agenda for Bloomington’s board of park commissioners.

view of city council chambers with two park commissioners seated at dais with numeral "1" and "2" labeling them and a third park commission appearing on screen.
Tues. April 26, 2022 meeting of Bloomington’s board of park commissioners. Two were present in-person. One was present on the Zoom platform.

It did not get a vote, because only two of the four park commissioners were attending the meeting in person.

A special meeting will be scheduled so that a vote can be taken.

A third commissioner attended Tuesday’s meeting by using the Zoom video-conferencing platform—which allowed the board to achieve its quorum of three members to transact other items on its agenda.

Under Indiana’s Open Door Law (ODL), an attendee who participates by electronic communication counts towards satisfying a quorum.

And under ordinary circumstances a remote attendee’s votes count towards whatever majority is needed for a particular item to be approved.

But under the ODL, there are some circumstances that preclude a member’s participation in a meeting using electronic communication. Among them are meetings when the governing body is taking final action to “establish, raise, or renew a tax.”

Issuing general obligation bonds has the impact of raising property taxes. Continue reading “Electronic meetings statute stops vote on $5.8M bond issuance by Bloomington parks board”

Bloomington park commissioners give initial OK to issue $5.8M in bonds for transportation projects

At a special meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s board of park commissioners kicked off a process to issue $5.8 million worth of bonds to fund several projects.

map of the city of Bloomington with green highlights showing proposed bond projects
The dotted line for the Dunn Street project indicates the portion of the proposed path that has challenging terrain. The rest is relatively flat.

Most of them are non-motorized transportation projects. The one clear exception is a $25,000 project to replace gasoline-powered with electric-powered equipment.

At Wednesday’s meeting, director of park operations Tim Street gave some examples of the type of hand-held equipment that could be replaced: weed eaters; mowers; backpack blowers; hedge trimmers; and chainsaws.

Street also said the department is looking to buy some battery-powered riding lawn mowers and to test them out by giving them heavy use.

The parks bonds are half of a general obligation bond package that Bloomington mayor John Hamilton unveiled two weeks ago, along with $17 million worth of projects that could be funded with a local income tax increase.

The resolution adopted by the park commissioners includes the projects in Exhibit A. About those projects, the resolution states: “The Board preliminarily finds that it is necessary for the public health and welfare and will be of public utility and benefit to proceed with the Projects.”

Final approval by the board of park commissioners is expected on April 26. That’s when Wednesday’s resolution says a public hearing will take place.

Between now and April 26, the parks bonds are supposed to be introduced at the city council’s April 6 meeting, discussed at the city council’s April 13 committee meeting and voted up or down on April 20. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners give initial OK to issue $5.8M in bonds for transportation projects”

$279K for private security patrols in public parks OK’d by Bloomington

In 2022, unarmed officers employed by Marshall Security will continue to patrol Switchyard Park overnight, as well as through the day in a half dozen more parks in Bloomington.

The $278,821 contract with Marshall, which runs through the end of 2022, was approved by the four-member board of park commissioners at its regular meeting on Tuesday night.

In June last year, the board had approved overnight patrols for Switchyard, as a response to increased incidents of vandalism.  In July, daytime patrols for the other parks  were approved. A contract to bridge from the end of 2021 through the end of January was approved by the board in mid-December.

Based on the number of reports filed by Marshall officers, the number of incidents in the areas patrolled decreased significantly, starting in July: July (126); August (99); September (38); October (28); and November (5).

Other parks covered in the contract besides Switchyard include: RCA Park, Seminary Park, B-Line Trail, Building Trades Park, Rev. Ernest D. Butler Park, Crestmont Park, Miller-Showers Park, and Waldron Hill Buskirk Park.

At Tuesday’s meeting, board members had questions about the source of funds and expressed concerns about the amount. Continue reading “$279K for private security patrols in public parks OK’d by Bloomington”

Bloomington expands private security to 7 more parks across city, including B-Line Trail

Private unarmed security patrols will now be checking a total of eight parks in Bloomington, a collection that extends a bit farther, north-to-south, than the extent of the B-Line Trail.

The $52,500 contract addendum with Marshall Security, to cover the additional parks, was approved by Bloomington’s board of park commissioners at its Tuesday afternoon meeting.

That brings the total amount of the contract with Marshall to $113,000. The money is being drawn from CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds.

At their June meeting, park commissioners approved the initial $60,588 contract, which included just Switchyard Park, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day of the week. The reason given for the Switchyard Park security was an increase in after-hours vandalism and substance use, and overnight camping.

For the additional parks and the trail, the additional private security is needed because of “a number of incidents that have occurred lately on both the B-Line trail and in several other…core corridor parks around the downtown area,” according to Tim Street, who’s operations and development division director for Bloomington parks and recreation.

The list of parks to be patrolled by Marshall is now: Switchyard Park, RCA Park, Seminary Park, B-Line Trail, Building Trades Park, Rev Ernest D. Butler Park, Crestmont Park, Miller-Showers Park, and Waldron Hill Buskirk Park. Continue reading “Bloomington expands private security to 7 more parks across city, including B-Line Trail”

$50K for “Public Health in Parks” gets OK from Bloomington board, after sharp scrutiny

A new program called “Public Health in Parks” got unanimous approval from Bloomington’s four-member board of park commissioners at a special meeting called for Tuesday night.

The program is a partnership between the parks department, Centerstone, Inc., IU Health Bloomington, and Monroe County’s health department. Centerstone is a nonprofit that provides mental health and substance use disorder services.

It builds on an existing arrangement between the parks department and Centerstone. The existing agreement is a jobs program—Centerstone clients work with park operations staff at landscaping and maintenance tasks. Also approved on Tuesday was an addendum to the agreement that expands the existing program.

The $50,000 in funding for Tuesday’s two agenda items was approved by Bloomington’s city council on Aug. 12  as part of a $2 million COVID-19 recovery package.

The board’s vote on the new Public Health in Parks initiative was unanimous, but came with some sharp criticism from board member Les Coyne. He sees the possibility of “mission creep” and wants the program considered in the context of the parks department’s mission. If it’s going to include social services, Coyne wants that to be implemented in the context of the parks comprehensive plan.

Coyne’s motion to approve the program included a requirement that the board of park commissioners be included in the initial evolution of the program, scheduled for December. Also a part of Coyne’s motion was a requirement that it be called an “experiment” not a “pilot”—so that “we don’t have any notion of committing to it in the future.”

Continue reading “$50K for “Public Health in Parks” gets OK from Bloomington board, after sharp scrutiny”

Fallout from Facebook statement: Bloomington city staff apologize, farmers market committee disbanded

A statement posted a week and a half ago on Bloomington’s farmers market Facebook page—the same day as the “Enough is Enough” anti-police-brutality demonstration—has resulted in the disbanding of the group that posted the statement.

FMAC Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 6.52.34 PM
Zoom participant list for FMAC meeting on June 15, 2020. Names with a blue hand have “raised their hand” to speak during public comment. Attendance at the meeting peaked at around 160 people.

At its Monday night meeting, the farmers market advisory council (FMAC) voted to disband the broadening inclusion group (BIG), after seven of BIG’s nine members had already resigned.

Their resignations came after a post on Facebook made by the group, which included the statement, “Our hearts break for every lost, angry, and aimless young black man and woman who commit violent crimes and claim the lives of other black men, black women, and black children—their lives matter.” The statement was denounced as racist by several hundred commenters.

Monday nights FMAC vote to disband the BIG was 6–1, with two absences, which were caused in part by audio difficulties that made parts of the meeting, conducted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform, difficult to follow.

What are the next steps after the vote to disband the BIG?

Responding to an emailed question from The Square Beacon, Paula McDevitt, Bloomington’s director of parks and recreation, said staff will be reviewing the FMAC chat and transcript of the recorded comments. “We will share them with the board of park commissioners,” McDevitt said.

Continue reading “Fallout from Facebook statement: Bloomington city staff apologize, farmers market committee disbanded”

Bloomington park commissioners OK lower sales percentage as food and beverage artisan fee, but COVID-19 makes much of it moot

cropped parks meeting Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 8.59.58 PM
Kathleen Mills, chair of the board of park commissioners, was the only person present at city hall for the March 24, 2020 meeting of the board. That’s possible under a governor’s order given last week. Based on a new order issued on March 23, no onsite anchor is necessary for a public meeting. The whole meeting can be conducted by videoconference or teleconference. This is a screen grab of the Facebook live stream the city used to supplement the usual CATS coverage.

In a 3–0 vote at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Bloomington park commissioners approved a reduction in the fee that food and artisan vendors are supposed to pay for their space at the Bloomington farmers market.

The new official fee for the 2020 market season will be 7.5 percent of gross sales, which is 2.5 points lower than the fee that was charged in previous years. It’s not as much of a reduction as the farmers market advisory council had recommended, which was 5 percent this year, with an eye towards converting it to a flat fee.

It’s not a fee that’s going to be charged, though, according to Becky Higgins, recreation services division director. The market won’t be able to operate as it usually does, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Higgins told park commissioners the city  won’t be charging its food and artisan vendors, or its farm vendors, any fees for the first couple of months of the market this season. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners OK lower sales percentage as food and beverage artisan fee, but COVID-19 makes much of it moot”

Protest at Bloomington park board meeting yields 2–1 vote on farmers market rules of behavior

Bloomington’s board of park commissioners voted 2–1 on Tuesday night to adopt new rules of behavior at the city’s farmers market. Dissenting was the newest board member, Israel Herrera.

The rules specify how and where protests are allowed at the farmers market.

Herrera told The Square Beacon after the meeting that his vote was based on the concerns that meeting protestors had conveyed—from the public podium and their seats in the audience—about the possibility of increased police violence in the coming season, due to the new rules. People who speak up should not be forced to shut up, he said.

The 2–1 tally was enough to pass the measure on the four-member board. One seat is currently vacant. The city’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, told The Square Beacon the board needs a majority of those present to approve a motion. Continue reading “Protest at Bloomington park board meeting yields 2–1 vote on farmers market rules of behavior”