New jail finance committee created by Monroe County councilors

Two weeks after the idea was floated at a work session, the Monroe County council has established a new committee to focus on fiscal issues associated with the construction of a new jail.

The unanimous vote to create the justice fiscal advisory committee (JFAC)—consisting of three county councilors and 12 other ex officio members—came at the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday. The ex officio members don’t count towards the number needed for a quorum.

The word “fiscal” in the name of the new committee that has been formed by the county council reflects the fact that the council is the county’s fiscal body.

Any funding for a new jail facility would have to be approved by the seven-member county council, no matter what decisions are made by the three county commissioners about the location and size of a new jail facility.

The county council’s move to create the committee got support from the public mic during the meeting, in-person as well as on the Zoom video conference platform. Continue reading “New jail finance committee created by Monroe County councilors”

Formation of criminal justice fiscal advisory committee mulled by Monroe County council

As soon as two weeks from now, on May 9, the Monroe County council could be taking a vote on the formation of a new criminal justice fiscal advisory committee.

CATS screen grab of the Monroe County council’s April 25 work session.

The committee’s exact name, mission, membership, and scope have not been finalized.

But at a Tuesday work session, county council president Kate Wiltz announced the intent to form the committee, saying that she wants it to be ”transparent and inclusive in its activities.”

The creation of the new county council committee comes after county commissioners last week suspended meetings of the full community justice response committee (CJRC). Continue reading “Formation of criminal justice fiscal advisory committee mulled by Monroe County council”

Monroe County sheriff sends update on efforts to clean, sanitize jail

Late Wednesday afternoon, Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté released an update on efforts to clean up the jail facility.

The emailed update was sent to county councilors, county commissioners, members of the community justice response committee, and several other community members.

The update included a link to several before-after photos of: J Block, which is the jail’s new mental health dormitory; the intake room; and the sally port, which is where prisoners are taken into the jail.

The focus of current cleaning efforts is on D Block, according to Marté’s update. Continue reading “Monroe County sheriff sends update on efforts to clean, sanitize jail”

DLZ gets initial nod from Monroe County for new jail design, vote 2 weeks away

The final decision has not been made, but DLZ is likely to be the firm that Monroe County uses to master plan and design a new jail facility.

At a Wednesday morning work session, Monroe County commissioners received a brief report from a committee that they created to review three responses to a request for qualifications (RFQ), to master plan and design  a new jail.

DLZ was the company recommended by the committee. The other two responses came from Elavatus and RQRAW.

Monroe County director of facilities Richard Crider delivered the committee’s recommendation to the commissioners. About the three companies who responded, Crider said, “They are all very capable and proficient in what they do. And I believe we all felt like any one of them could provide a facility that meets our needs.”

But it was DLZ that got the committee’s nod: “One firm stood out above the rest and that was DLZ.” Crider added, “DLZ was the unanimous decision of the committee.”

Joining Crider on the RFQ review committee were: David Gardner, ASI Facilities Services contractor; Lee Baker, county attorney; Kyle Gibbons, jail commander; Matt Demmings, assistant jail commander; and Angie Purdie, administrator for the commissioners.

The commissioners do not have a regular meeting scheduled for next week, on March 15. The vote on the choice of DLZ is set for two weeks from now, on March 22. Continue reading “DLZ gets initial nod from Monroe County for new jail design, vote 2 weeks away”

Jail committee tries to turn page on infighting: “Talking more is always a good antidote to talking less or talking crosswise.”

This Monday marked the first meeting of Monroe County’s community justice response committee (CJRC) after the membership was revised by county commissioners—to include all three commissioners, reduce the number of judges from four to two, but not add any representatives from Bloomington city government.

The previous couple of meetings had been contentious.

And much of the friction centered on the makeup of the group, which is supposed to be responding to the work of two consultants, released to the county government more than 18 months ago.

The meetings were contentious enough to prompt a rebuke of the committee from various quarters. Friction between the judicial and the executive branch surfaced about how input is treated from different people at the table, and how information is shared.

That friction surfaced at a previous meeting when county commissioner Lee Jones told circuit court judge Catherine Stafford, “I’m sorry, Catherine, would you please stop interrupting me.”

This Monday, it was Stafford who was asked by committee co-chair county commissioner Penny Githens to get the meeting started with some remarks.

The way Githens cued up Stafford’s speaking turn made it plain she wanted to start a new chapter: “I was chatting with my friend judge Stafford recently, and I was going to ask her if she would start the meeting off with just a few brief sentences.”

Stafford responded by alluding to some of the rocky terrain the committee had traversed: “I think that talking more is always a good antidote to talking less, or talking crosswise.” Continue reading “Jail committee tries to turn page on infighting: “Talking more is always a good antidote to talking less or talking crosswise.””

Settlement on Monroe county clerk’s per diem pay OK’d by commissioners: $9,249.50

On a rare split vote, Monroe County commissioners have approved $9,249.50 in per diem pay for Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne, from 2016 to 2021.

Dissenting on the vote at Wednesday’s regular meeting was Penny Githens. Providing the two-vote majority were Lee Jones and Julie Thomas.

The per diem pay in question covers voter registration duties associated with the clerk’s office.

It is based on a state law  [IC 3-7-12-22] that says in a county like Monroe, where the county clerk serves as voter registration officer, the clerk is entitled to per diem compensation.

Browne had not been paid a per diem for voter registration activity since the time she was caucused into the position in 2016, after Linda Robbins resigned. Brown won reelection in 2018 and again this year. Continue reading “Settlement on Monroe county clerk’s per diem pay OK’d by commissioners: $9,249.50”

Meeting set on Nov. 9 for city, county officials to talk more about convention center expansion

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, many elected and appointed officials across Monroe County will be reviewing election results from the day before.

But some of those officials have a meeting set for Nov. 9 to talk about the possible future expansion of the Monroe County convention center.

The idea of a joint effort by Bloomington and Monroe County to expand the existing convention center has been pursued for several years, but had stalled just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, amid wrangling over governance issues.

According to county commissioners administrator Angie Purdie, the 1 p.m. meeting in the Nat U. Hill room of the Monroe County courthouse is supposed to include the mayor’s office in the form of Bloomington’s director of public engagement (Mary Catherine Carmichael), two city councilmembers (Susan Sandberg and Sue Sgambelluri), two county councilors (Geoff McKim and Cheryl Munson), and all three county commissioners.

For advocates of a county convention center expansion that would be undertaken as a collaborative effort by the county and the city, the scheduling of the meeting will likely come as welcome news. Continue reading “Meeting set on Nov. 9 for city, county officials to talk more about convention center expansion”

Transit board wants attorney’s advice on legal requirements for service outside Bloomington

Bloomington Transit’s five-member board wants general manager John Connell to get legal advice on a specific question about the steps, if any, that need to be taken so that public bus service can be offered outside Bloomington’s city limits.

That was the outcome of a half hour’s worth of discussion at the BT board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The board’s discussion came after Bloomington’s city council approved an early-September resolution  expressing its support for extending BT’s service to Daniels Way, which is west of the city limits. Service to Daniels Way could serve Ivy Tech and Cook Medical, among other destinations.

At its September meeting, the BT board had already discussed the legal significance of the city council’s resolution. Their immediate concern was to determine if the resolution was an adequate legal basis for extending service outside the city limits. It wasn’t.

That was confirmed by BT’s outside counsel, which is The Rothberg Law Firm. In a memo to the BT board, Connell quoted the Rothberg attorney who worked on the question: “[T]he city council resolution is nothing more than a statement of support.” Continue reading “Transit board wants attorney’s advice on legal requirements for service outside Bloomington”

Monroe County election prep continues, Hilton rejected as poll worker training space

Poll workers for Monroe County’s May 3 primary elections won’t be trained at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Instead they’ll learn the ins and outs of working the polls at the county government center in the Showers building on Morton Street, or the new election operations center at 3rd and Walnut streets. That’s the former NAPA building.

When county commissioners came to the $4,880 item on their Wednesday agenda, an early indication that they would not be approving it came from Penny Githens. “I don’t understand why we’re asking county taxpayers to pay close to $5,000 when we have space, I thought, in the Showers building for the training,” Githens said.

Deliberations on the item were continued to a work session following the regular meeting. A $1,000 down payment that was paid to Hilton last fall was eventually determined to be refundable, which cleared the way to a 0–3 vote by commissioners on the item.

The rejection of the county clerk’s request to pay for space at the Hilton Garden Inn can be analyzed as part of ongoing friction between the clerk’s office and the election board over space allocations.

Other election-related items on Wednesday’s agenda won easy approval, including a $200,000 contract with B&L IT Services for a year’s worth of election support services. Deputy clerk Tressia Martin told commissioners that the B&L sets up all the poll sites, handles ADA compliance, ensures internet connectivity, organizes equipment storage, and creates polling location maps and an equipment catalog. Continue reading “Monroe County election prep continues, Hilton rejected as poll worker training space”

A look ahead at some Monroe County offices up for election in 2022

In 2021, voters enjoyed their regular respite from local political races, which comes in the year following a presidential election.

In 2022, voters will be choosing several positions in Monroe County government.

The positions include four different seats on the county council, three circuit judges, one county commissioner, as well as assessor, clerk, prosecuting attorney, recorder and sheriff.

Monroe County went decisively for Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race. Biden received about 63 percent of votes compared to 35 percent for Donald Trump.

All county positions except the four county council seats are elected countywide, which means Democrats have a significant advantage in the fall general elections.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be any choices for voters in November. Continue reading “A look ahead at some Monroe County offices up for election in 2022”