Bloomington preps for annexation restart on May 19, will assume remonstrance waivers voided by state legislature are valid

At a work session held on Friday, Bloomington’s city council got a briefing from mayor John Hamilton’s administration on the restart of an annexation process that was launched in 2017.

Image links to high resolution .pdf file.

The process was stopped that year when the state legislature enacted a law that was found by Indiana’s Supreme Court in late 2020 to be unconstitutional. That cleared the way for Bloomington’s renewed annexation effort.

Friday’s work session provided a couple of newsy bits.

First, based on the work session discussion, Bloomington will be proceeding with the process on the assumption that some remonstrance waivers are still valid, even though they were declared void by a state law enacted by the state legislature in 2019.

The new 2019 law says that a few different categories of annexation waivers are not valid, which means that more property owners would be eligible to remonstrate against a proposed annexation.

At the work session, Bloomington’s corporation counsel Philippa Guthrie said about the remonstrance waivers voided by the state legislature: “They were contracts signed by individuals with the city, in exchange for getting the sewer service. That’s why we provided the service. So we’re proceeding as if they are valid.”

Guthrie confirmed to The Square Beacon, “Yes, we believe all of our waivers are valid.” On Friday, Guthrie did not have a figure for the number of waivers that are involved. Continue reading “Bloomington preps for annexation restart on May 19, will assume remonstrance waivers voided by state legislature are valid”

Indiana Supreme Court rules 3–2 for Bloomington in annexation law case

In a 3–2 decision on the five-member panel, Indiana’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the city of Bloomington in a case that was prompted by the state legislature’s passage of a law in 2017 that stopped the annexation process Bloomington was pursuing.

The highest court in the state upheld the lower court’s ruling that the law enacted in 2017 by the General Assembly was unconstitutional, because it was impermissible special legislation, applying uniquely to Bloomington, when general legislation could have been enacted.

Tuesday’s opinion does not appear to take up the other constitutional argument made by Bloomington. That argument was that the 2017 annexation law violated the single-subject rule of the state’s constitution, because it was included as part of the biennial budget bill.

The decision comes almost a year after oral arguments were heard, in early January. City attorney Mike Rouker appeared before the court on behalf of the city.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton told The Square Beacon, “I am frustrated, of course, that we had to wait three and a half years to have the conclusion that the state legislature overreached, and violated the state constitution, but it is good to have that affirmed.”

As far as restarting an annexation process, Hamilton said, “Nothing is imminent.” He added, “We have to figure out, with advice of counsel and our county counterparts, how to proceed.”

The city issued a press release about the decision early Tuesday afternoon. Continue reading “Indiana Supreme Court rules 3–2 for Bloomington in annexation law case”

Benton Township now in Monroe Fire Protection District, Washington Township in queue

At its weekly Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County’s board of commissioners approved the inclusion of Benton Township in the Monroe Fire Protection District (MFPD). Benton Township will become a member on Jan. 1, 2022.

Sooner than that, Benton Township will start getting backup fire protection from the district for its volunteer fire department. A $450,000 contract between the MFPD and Benton Township will bridge the year between the end of Benton’s contract with Northern Monroe Fire Territory—because the two-township NMFT is dissolving—and the start of its membership in the MFPD.

The NMFT is dissolving because one of the two NMFT members, Bloomington Township, is joining the MFPD starting Jan. 1, 2021. The other NMFT member, Washington Township, is in the queue to join MPFD starting in 2022, on the same timeline as Benton Township. Public meetings on the topic for Washington Township start Sept. 30.

Last year, Van Buren Township, like Bloomington Township, was approved for inclusion in the MFPD. Continue reading “Benton Township now in Monroe Fire Protection District, Washington Township in queue”

Monroe Fire Protection District gets OK from county commissioners to add two townships

 

The unincorporated areas of Bloomington and Van Buren townships will be a part of the Monroe Fire Protection District (MFPD) starting Jan. 1, 2021, about 15 months from now. That’s the result of a unanimous vote by Monroe County’s three commissioners at their regular meeting on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s action by the commissioners included establishing a new, five-member composition of the fire district’s board, starting in 2021. County attorney Jeff Cockerill said at Wednesday’s meeting that it will be the commissioners will appoint fire district board members.

The governing body of the district, which will set the rate of the fire levy, will include one member each from Perry, Clear Creek, Indian Creek, Van Buren, and Bloomington townships.

Among the benefits that have been cited for adding the two townships to the district are: protection of the fire tax levy from annexations by the City of Bloomington; an initial lowering the tax rate for residents of Bloomington Township (but it would increase in the second and third years); administration of county fire departments under one umbrella; and the distribution of expenses over a larger tax base. Continue reading “Monroe Fire Protection District gets OK from county commissioners to add two townships”

Consolidation of fire protection now on the horizon for five Monroe County townships, maybe more in future

On Thursday night, Monroe Fire Protection District chief Dustin Dillard addressed a handful of Bloomington Township residents at a meeting held at the fire station on Old State Road 37.

Cropped two fire chiefs 08.09.2019 fire district meeting - 6
Monroe Fire Protection District’s chief Dustin Dillard (left) and Northern Monroe Fire Territory chief Joel Bomgardner at the Aug. 8, 2019 meeting held at the Bloomington Township fire station on Old SR 37. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Bloomington Township is not yet a part of the the fire district Dillard leads, which is made up of three townships in the southwest part of Monroe County—Perry, Clear Creek and Indian Creek. It was just at the start of this year that Indian Creek was added as a member.

A current proposal is to add two more townships to the mix. One is in the southwest corner of the county—Van Buren Township. The other is the unincorporated part of Bloomington Township, which would make it the first area north of the county’s midline to become a member of the Monroe Fire Protection District.

Among the benefits described at the meeting for adding two townships to the district are: protection of the tax levy from annexations by the City of Bloomington; an initial lowering the tax rate for residents of Bloomington Township (but it would increase in the second and third years); administration of county fire departments under one umbrella; and the distribution of expenses over a larger tax base.

Dillard also expects the expansion of the Monroe Fire Protection District (MFPD) to lead to the re-programming of dispatch software to reflect automatic aid between the City of Bloomington and township areas. Continue reading “Consolidation of fire protection now on the horizon for five Monroe County townships, maybe more in future”