$500 “goodwill gesture” goes to Johnson’s Creamery smokestack owner from Bloomington historic group

On Thursday, Peerless Development received a $500 grant award from Bloomington’s historic preservation commission (HPC)—in connection with an engineering study that found the Johnson’s Creamery smokestack to be structurally unsound.

B Square file photo of Johnson’s Creamery smokestack in the first half of 2022.

Peerless owns the historic smokestack, along with the creamery building, which is located off 7th Street on the B Line Trail. Earlier this year, the city council designated the building as a historic district.

Peerless is currently looking at a cost of around $350,000 to partly demolish the smokestack and another $250,000, which mayor John Hamilton’s administration wants the developer to contribute towards commemorative art for the smokestack.

The city of Bloomington has ordered Peerless to reduce the height of the smokestack from 140 feet to 60 feet.

Compared to the half million dollars in smokestack-related costs Peerless might be facing, the size of the HPC’s grant is small.

But as HPC member Sam DeSollar put it, “I think it’s a goodwill gesture.” Peerless has had to spend “a bucket of money” to figure out how to deal with the smokestack and its unsafe lean, DeSollar said. “I won’t feel guilty about defraying their costs by $500.” He added, “And we’re going to have to work with these folks in the future on what happens with this—so I’m going to support this.”

Dissenting on the vote was Matthew Seddon, who said the cost of the Arsee Engineers report was definitely within the guidelines for the grant, which talks about consulting fees. But the guidelines for the HPC grants say the consulting fees are supposed to be associated with the rehabilitation of a historic property. From Seddon’s perspective, the project was not about rehabilitation: “These guys are taking the thing down!” Continue reading “$500 “goodwill gesture” goes to Johnson’s Creamery smokestack owner from Bloomington historic group”

Historic smokestack owner gets $20K from Bloomington enterprise group, none yet from HPC

Bloomington’s urban enterprise association (BUEA) voted unanimously on Wednesday to award Peerless Development a $20,000 grant.

Closeup of Johnson’s Creamery smokestack.

The grant was  awarded in connection with demolition of the Johnson’s Creamery historic smokestack from 140 feet to 60 feet.

The real estate developer has been ordered by the city of Bloomington to reduce the smokestack’s height due to its unsafe lean, as determined by a study done by Arsee Engineers.

In addition to the demolition work, Peerless described the project in its BUEA grant application as including the repair of the remaining exterior to replace missing mortar joints and to fill cracks with new, sound materials.

The amount Peerless requested in the application was $50,000. The estimated cost of the demolition is pegged at around $350,000. The $50,000 was five times the limit for any one application.

The BUEA’s documentation of facade grants says “The grant may be up to $10,000 per application.”

The $20,000 awarded by the BUEA is twice the amount of the application limit, but matches the limit for one organization in any calendar year.

A week earlier, Bloomington’s historic preservation commission (HPC) had been asked to award Peerless $500 under its consulting grant program.

HPC members put off a vote, asking for additional details. Continue reading “Historic smokestack owner gets $20K from Bloomington enterprise group, none yet from HPC”

Pretrial public defender money cut: Indiana awards half the grant amount Monroe County was expecting

At its Tuesday meeting, the Monroe County council dealt with the news that the state grant that has historically funded the pretrial public defender program had been cut in half for the coming year.

Screenshot of the Jan. 11, 2022 Monroe County council meeting, which was conduced by Zoom videoconference.

Instead of the $183,390 that had been requested, the county received $92,038.

That leaves the county $84,507 short for a public defender and $7,000 short for the benefits that go with a pretrial probation officer position.

According to the memo attached to Tuesday’s meeting agenda item, the funding covers a public defender who appears at initial hearings so that a “meaningful first appearance addressing bail may be held.”

A memo from staff who work in the pretrial program states that Monroe County’s pretrial services grant for 2022 was cut to half the 2021 grant level, with no advance notice. The news came on Dec. 30, according to the memo, two days before the grant is scheduled to begin.

The county council’s action on Tuesday night was to appropriate the grant funding that was awarded.

As council president Kate Wiltz put it, “Let’s appropriate what we have and get thinking on how we can keep this program going for the future.”

At the start of the meeting, Wiltz was chosen as the county council’s president for the coming year. Trent Deckard was chosen as vice president. Continue reading “Pretrial public defender money cut: Indiana awards half the grant amount Monroe County was expecting”

Bloomington: $550K in COVID-19 small business relief loans awarded so far using food and beverage tax proceeds, about $250K already distributed

In a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, the city of Bloomington announced that a total of $550,700 has now been approved in loans to 22 businesses that applied for COVID-19 relief funds.

The city currently has a pool of $2.5 million to draw on for loans to local businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That pool was created through a series of actions by Bloomington’s city council, the food and beverage tax advisory commission and the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association over the last couple of weeks. Continue reading “Bloomington: $550K in COVID-19 small business relief loans awarded so far using food and beverage tax proceeds, about $250K already distributed”