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.
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.”
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.”
Benton Township trustee Michelle Bright and township board member Joe Husk.
Monroe Fire Protection District (MFPD) Dustin Dillard at the Aug. 8, 2020 public meeting on a consolidation with Benton Township’s department.
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.
Monroe County auditor Cathy Smith addressed commissioners as a resident of Van Buren Township. Sept. 18, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Left in the frame is Monroe Fire Protection District chief Dustin Dillard. Sept. 18, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
From left: Van Buren Township trutee, Rita Barrow and Blooington Township trustee, Kim Alexander. Sept. 18, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Bloomington Township resident Richard Martin. Sept. 18, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
County commissioners (from left) Lee Jones, Julie Thomas and Penny Githens. Sept. 18, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
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.
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.
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.