Employment notebook: 37 more separations from city of Bloomington in last four months

Earlier this year, when Bloomington’s city council deliberated on increasing the local income tax (LIT) paid by all county residents, part of the pitch from the administration included a need to pay city employees more, to stem the tide of their departures.

The data provided at the time by mayor John Hamilton’s administration included the number of city employees who have left their jobs over the last few years, and the year-to-date numbers for 2022.

The nearly 100 departures in 2021 was a dramatic jump from the roughly 60 departures a year for the previous six years. And the 36 departures up April of this year put Bloomington on a pace to match the big number from 2021. The city of Bloomington has about 850 employees.

Based on a B Square review of online payroll records, the trend for departures has continued over the last four months, as another 37 people have left their jobs at the city of Bloomington. That brings the year-to-date total to 73. Continue reading “Employment notebook: 37 more separations from city of Bloomington in last four months”

Waste-to-energy study could see cost split: Bloomington utilities, Monroe County solid waste

The aerial image of the city of Bloomington Blucher Poole waste water treatment plant northeast of Bloomington, dated April 2020, is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s property lookup system.

Energy Power Partners has responded to a city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) request, with a proposal to conduct a $129,220 waste-to-energy feasibility study.

The study would cover scenarios involving the generation of biogas by using anaerobic digestion of primary sludge from the Blucher Poole wastewater treatment plan, adding FOG (fats, oil and grease) and food waste as feedstock from various large waste generators, and the workability of private-sector partnerships for construction, operations and maintenance—among other possibilities.

Last Thursday, a proposal to share the study’s cost between the Monroe County solid waste district and the city of Bloomington utilities was put off until next month by the governing bodies of both public agencies.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the agencies will likely appear on an April meeting agenda for both of the governance groups. Continue reading “Waste-to-energy study could see cost split: Bloomington utilities, Monroe County solid waste”

Bloomington looks to carry out $800K plan for public tree planting in spring, fall 2022

This Friday, the city of Bloomington is hosting the first of two information sessions about its plans to plant $800,000 worth of trees in the public right-of-way, according to a news release from the mayor’s office on Tuesday.

It was a little more than three years ago when Bloomington’s city council approved the issuance of a series of bonds worth $10.27 million for several different projects. That was in 2018, Bloomington’s bicentennial year, so they were branded by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s administration as “bicentennial bonds.”

Among the projects was an $800,000 plan to improve the city’s tree canopy by planting trees in the public right-of-way. Since 2018, Bloomington has contracted with ​​Davey Resource Group (DRG) for a tree inventory and analysis of Bloomington’s tree canopy. (The layer of leaves, branches and trunks of trees that block the view of the ground from above is called the “canopy.”)

The inventory is available as an online resource through Davey’s Treekeeper website.  The analysis was delivered in fall of 2019. Continue reading “Bloomington looks to carry out $800K plan for public tree planting in spring, fall 2022”

Pandemic notebook: Reporting delay means hiccup in decreasing trend, city sanitation crews get thanks

The decreasing trend in positive COVID-19 numbers, after a plateau, hit a hiccup statewide and in Monroe County, based on numbers updated on Friday by Indiana’s state department of health.

According to the state’s department of health, the number of cases reported for Thursday, Jan. 27, included 4,705 cases statewide that were “delayed in processing and otherwise would have been included over the course of this week.”

Incorporating the new cases for Thursday into the rolling 7-day average for Monroe County meant that 490 replaced the 335 cases from 8 days ago in the calculation. That bumped the rolling daily average for the county from 236 to 258. That leaves the rolling average still 30 cases a day lower than the peak of the rolling average a couple of weeks ago.

The 490 cases were the most reported in Monroe County on any one day of the pandemic so far. It’s not clear if Indiana’s department of health will eventually try to allocate the positive test numbers reported for Jan. 27 to the dates when they should have been reported. Continue reading “Pandemic notebook: Reporting delay means hiccup in decreasing trend, city sanitation crews get thanks”

Bloomington prevails in lawsuit filed by vendor over anti-white-supremacist protests at farmers market

On Wednesday, a U.S. District Court judge delivered a summary judgment in favor of Bloomington, in the lawsuit filed against the city, the mayor and two staff members, by the owners of Schooner Creek Farm (SCF).

Six protestors against Schooner Creek Farm, including one in a purple unicorn costume, were arrested on Nov. 9, 2019. None were charged.

The summary judgment means the case got a ruling without a trial. It also means the court agreed with Bloomington that there were no relevant disputes about the facts of the case, and that it could be decided just based on application of the law.

The court found that Bloomington did not violate the constitutional rights of SCF’s owners, as they had claimed. According to the city of Bloomington’s news release, which came late Friday, SCF’s owners  have 30 days to file an appeal with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Schooner Creek Farm (SCF) was a Bloomington farmers market vendor during the 2019 season. SCF drew protests that year from local activists over its ties to white supremacist groups and views. On two occasions, protesters were arrested by Bloomington police, but charges were not filed.

The lawsuit claimed that the city had not enforced the market rules against the protesters in the same way it had enforced rules against SCF—which is a constitutional equal protections issue. SCF also claimed that its constitutional rights of free speech were infringed by the city’s response to the protests. Continue reading “Bloomington prevails in lawsuit filed by vendor over anti-white-supremacist protests at farmers market”

$10M in new bonds part of Bloomington mayor’s pitch to city council to adopt 2022 budget this week

In a news release issued early Tuesday afternoon, Bloomington mayor John Hamilton has made a pitch to the city council to adopt his proposed 2022 budget.

B Square file photo. City council president Jim Sims (left) and Bloomington mayor John Hamilton chat before the celebration of the fire department’s top ISO rating at Switchyard Park on Oct. 15, 2021.

After expressing discontent with the mayor’s 2022 budget at their Oct. 13 meeting, and before voting on it, councilmembers recessed the meeting until this Wednesday, Oct. 27.

Tuesday’s news release raises two topics that have been sources of discord between the mayor and different groups of councilmembers: police pay and climate action.

Based on Tuesday’s news release, it appears that there might be a little bit of movement on the question of police pay.

But the news release does not describe any inclination to reopen the current collective bargaining agreement with the police union, one year ahead of the normal cycle. That had been the specific request from the council.

On the climate front, there’s a proposal in Tuesday’s release to issue $10 million in bonds next year—half through the general fund and half through parks—to undertake various climate initiatives. The pair of $5-million bond issuances might be repeated in five-year increments, according to Tuesday’s new release.

The news release also describes an additional staff position within the economic and sustainability department. But there’s no announcement of a position at the level of a climate action director, as some councilmembers want. Continue reading “$10M in new bonds part of Bloomington mayor’s pitch to city council to adopt 2022 budget this week”

Bloomington water rates will still go higher, but by less: Details of proposed settlement filed

Customers of city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) will be paying more for their drinking water starting Jan. 1, 2022.

But the increase will not be quite as much as CBU originally proposed.

CBU took the rate case to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), after it was approved by the city council in mid-March. The IURC recognized Indiana University and Washington Township Water as intervenors.

After wrangling back and forth since the initial filing, a settlement among Bloomington and the intervenors was filed, on Oct. 6 this past week.

Under the proposed settlement, which still needs approval by the IURC, residential customers will still see an increase in two phases. But the overall increase for residential customers will go from $3.73 to $4.38 per 1,000 gallons, instead of $4.54 per 1,000 gallons.

The 16-cent smaller increase that residential customers will pay compares to a 32-cent smaller increase for Indiana University. Indiana University is a separate customer class for CBU. Indiana University’s increase will go from $2.37 to $2.99 per 1,000 gallons instead of $3.31 per 1,000 gallons.

That still leaves Indiana University with a higher percentage increase (26.16 percent) than residential customers (17.43 percent). Continue reading “Bloomington water rates will still go higher, but by less: Details of proposed settlement filed”

Bloomington’s proposed shuffling of engineering, parking would reverse, re-work similar move made in 2014

Part of last week’s 2021 budget proposal from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton might make some residents feel like it’s 2014 again.

In early July of 2014, then-mayor Mark Kruzan got the city council’s approval for a re-organization of city departments that moved two divisions out of the public works department.

Parking enforcement was moved from public works to the police department. And the engineering division was moved out of public works, into a newly created department of planning and transportation.

As a part of the 2021 budget proposal, parking enforcement is now proposed to be moved out of the police department and folded back under public works.

The engineering division is proposed to be moved out of planning and transportation, but not to its old home in public works. Instead, a new department of engineering is proposed, headed by the city engineer, which is a mayoral appointment under state law.

The city has found the retention of someone in the city engineer position to be a challenge over the last half dozen years. The position, which is called the transportation and traffic engineer, is currently open.

Taking parking enforcement out of the police department is loosely connected to the two additional non-sworn neighborhood resource officers that are proposed for the 2021 budget.

Continue reading “Bloomington’s proposed shuffling of engineering, parking would reverse, re-work similar move made in 2014”

First confirmed COVID-19 case in almost 3-months for city of Bloomington employees, as firefighter tests positive

border R-OUT COVID DAILY CASES June 24

In a press release issued on Wednesday, the city of Bloomington announced that another city employee has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

It’s the third employee to have tested positive, according to the release, but the first in nearly three months.

The most recent employee to have tested positive is a firefighter, according to the release. Of the two previous positive tests for city employees on March 28 and April 3, one was a firefighter and the other was a parks and recreation department employee.

The total number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Monroe County now stands at 214.  According to information released on June 24 from the state, 26 Monroe County residents have died from the disease. The total number of tests has increased over the last few weeks. The total number tested in Monroe County is now 6,408.

The number of cases by day peaked in mid-April. At that point the rolling 7-day average was around 6 cases a day. Since the end of April, the 7-day average in Monroe County has stayed mostly under 2 cases a day, but a spike on June 16 pushed the 7-day average to over 3. With that spike no longer contributing to the average, it’s dropped again to below 2.