Bloomington offers police station for sale at minimum price of $3.2M

Bloomington’s current police station on 3rd Street is now officially up for sale—for a minimum of $3.2 million.

Bids for the property can be made starting on Oct. 13, through Dec. 12.

Approving the notice for sale at its Tuesday night meeting was Bloomington’s board of public works.

Deputy mayor Larry Allen was on hand at Tuesday’s meeting. He confirmed that any eventual actual sale of the property would require the approval of Bloomington’s city council. Continue reading “Bloomington offers police station for sale at minimum price of $3.2M”

Paula McDevitt retires as head of Bloomington parks and rec: ‘Well done, good and faithful public servant.’

Bloomington’s director of parks and recreation, Paula McDevitt, is retiring after three and a half decades of service to the city.

The announcement of McDevitt’s retirement was made at the start of Tuesday’s board of park commissioners meeting, by board president Kathleen Mills.

McDevitt’s final day of service to the city is set for Oct. 16, which means Tuesday’s board meeting was her final one.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, who appointed McDevitt to the position of parks and recreation department head at the start of his first four-year term as mayor in 2016, attended the board meeting to wish McDevitt well.

After recounting some highlights of her nearly eight years of service, including the opening of Switchyard Park, Hamilton said: “On behalf of the people of Bloomington now, and particularly the generations to come, let us say: Well done, good and faithful public servant. Thank you.” Continue reading “Paula McDevitt retires as head of Bloomington parks and rec: ‘Well done, good and faithful public servant.’”

Private letter from Bloomington city council to mayor influenced proposed 2024 budget

A response on Thursday to a records request made by The B Square a month earlier, shows that Bloomington’s 2024 proposed budget was influenced by a private letter to Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, with apparent wet signatures from all nine city council members.

The letter asked that the mayor increase the pay for the city council’s administrator/attorney from a 2023 salary of $94,089 to $104,089 in 2024. That’s a 10.6-percent increase, or more than twice the 5-percent increase called for in the mayor’s proposed budget for all other non-union employees.

The city council’s argument is based on the idea that the city council’s administrator/attorney should be paid on par with the director of city of Bloomington utilities, the police chief, the fire chief, the head of public works, and the city’s corporation counsel, among other positions described as “department heads” in the city’s employee manual.

The letter also asks that the council’s administrator/attorney position receive another additional significant increase in 2025.

But any increases to the council staff salary budget for 2025 would depend on the decision by the next mayor, which is almost certain to be Democratic Party nominee Kerry Thomson. She’s unopposed on the Nov. 7 ballot. In general terms, under state law, the city council can reduce but not increase the mayor’s proposed budget amounts.

Before the city council’s Aug. 28 departmental budget hearing, there was no discussion by councilmembers at public meetings leading up to that hearing, about their desire that the administrator/attorney receive a substantial pay raise in 2024, beyond the standard cost-of-living increase for all employees. Continue reading “Private letter from Bloomington city council to mayor influenced proposed 2024 budget”

Bloomington city council wants its meeting space ‘hardened’ against safety threats

Thursday night marked the final round of departmental budget hearings for Bloomington’s city council.

Mayor John Hamilton was present in person to hear calls from several councilmembers to add security enhancements to the city council chambers.

That would likely mean adding money to the proposed 2024 budget for the facilities maintenance division of the public works department.

Responding to councilmember questions after his presentation on the facilities budget, public works director Adam Wason indicated that there were no security improvements for the council chambers in the 2024 spending plan.

The topic of hardening the council chambers got some public discussion at a budget advance meeting last year. But based on comments from councilmembers on Thursday, concerns about security for the council’s meeting space have a years-long history.

So it has become a sore point.

Asked about the topic by the B Square after Thursday’s meeting, Hamilton said the administration is always focused on public safety, for everyone, including city councilmembers.

As for what specifically the administration has done to add to the security of council chambers, Hamilton indicated that the administration does not publicize specific security measures, “We’ve been talking about it, and we’ve taken steps, and we don’t talk about those steps.”

As far as adding physical infrastructure in the council chambers, Hamilton said that between now and when the budget is finalized, “there’s room for discussion.” Continue reading “Bloomington city council wants its meeting space ‘hardened’ against safety threats”

Meeting on site selection for new Monroe County jail set for Aug. 29

On Tuesday, a big group of local government officials has been invited by Monroe County commissioners to a discussion about the future site of a new county jail.

The meeting, which will be convened in the Nat U. Hill Room of the county courthouse, is set to start at 5:30 p.m.

The meeting on the jail site location coincides with the second day of departmental budget hearings that are on the calendar for Bloomington’s city council.

Scheduled on Tuesday night for the city council, starting at 5:30 p.m., are Bloomington Transit, followed by the fire department, and the police department.

Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff, who will be presenting his department’s 2024 budget requests to the city council on Tuesday, has also been invited to the meeting about the jail site location.

Other invitees include: Ruben Marté (sheriff); Mary Ellen Diekhoff (circuit court presiding judge); Erika Oliphant (prosecutor); Jill Lees (IU police chief); Jimmie Durnil (Ellettsville town marshal); Paul Bucher (Indiana State Police district commander); John Hamilton (Bloomington mayor); Sue Sgambelluri (city council president); and the members of the Monroe County council. Continue reading “Meeting on site selection for new Monroe County jail set for Aug. 29”

Proposed 2024 Bloomington budget of $131M includes 5% raise for employees, 2 dozen added jobs

At around 9:45 p.m. on Friday, the final proposed city budget of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s service was uploaded to the city’s website.

At about $131 million, it’s about 1.5 percent more than the budget approved by the city council for 2023.

That figure does not include the budgets for city of Bloomington utilities ($50 million) or for Bloomington Transit ($26.6 million). Adding in  those numbers would bring the overall total to about $208 million.

The 2024 budget includes a 5-percent pay increase for non-union employees.

Property tax revenues for 2024 will increase by 1 point less than the planned pay increase. That’s because the maximum levy growth quotient this year is 4 percent.

The revenue from local income taxes is estimated to increase by about 3.75 percent.

The B Square has counted a couple dozen additional positions that are described in the “budget book” that was released late Friday

The 387-page budget book is background to almost 7 hours worth of scheduled presentations from individual departments over the course of four nights this coming week. Continue reading “Proposed 2024 Bloomington budget of $131M includes 5% raise for employees, 2 dozen added jobs”

Survey says: 30-point drop in Bloomington government performance since 2017

Released this week, results of a scientifically sampled survey of Bloomington residents show a marked downward trend for attitudes towards performance of city government.

Asked about their “overall confidence in city government,” just 32 percent  of respondents gave it an excellent or good rating in 2023, compared with 62 percent in 2017—a drop of 30 percentage points.

Results of the survey, which was conducted in March and April this year, were released by the city on Thursday.

Also dropping around 30 points in the 2023 survey, compared to the one done in 2017, were several other measures of local government performance, including: the value of services for the taxes paid to the city; generally acting in the best interest of the community; overall direction that the city is taking; being honest and transparent; treating all residents fairly; and listening to public concern.

That contrasts with the assessment of city staff by survey respondents, which shows an upward trend since 2021, after a drop from 2019 to 2021. That brings most measures of city staff performance back to a bit better than the levels that were measured in 2017.

As an example, the rating of respondents of the staff as “courteous” increased from 71 percent to 86 percent between 2021 and 2023—which is 2 points better than the 84 percent recorded in the 2017 survey.

The survey has been conducted every two years for the city of Bloomington by the same firm—Polco/National Research Center. That’s four surveys worth of data that can be tapped for trends. Continue reading “Survey says: 30-point drop in Bloomington government performance since 2017”

Bloomington mayor calls Hopewell groundbreaking a “once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new neighborhood in the heart of our beloved city”

On Friday afternoon, a day with partly cloudy skies and a temperature around 80 degrees, about 60 local leaders gathered at the now empty grassy lot on the south side of 2nd Street, between Rogers Street and The B-Line Trail.

They were assembled to mark the groundbreaking for the Hopewell neighborhood, which will be constructed at the site of the former IU Health hospital, where the health care provider operated its facility until December 2021.

Delivering remarks on Friday were Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, followed by Cindy Kinnarney, who is president of Bloomington’s redevelopment commission, and by Mick Renneisen, who is president of the board for the nonprofit called City of Bloomington Capital Improvements, Inc.

Hamilton led off his remarks by saying, “We are here to break ground on this once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new neighborhood in the heart of our beloved city.” Continue reading “Bloomington mayor calls Hopewell groundbreaking a “once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new neighborhood in the heart of our beloved city””

Carmichael to step down as Bloomington deputy mayor, Hamilton taps assistant city attorney for job

Mary Catherine Carmichael is stepping down as Bloomington’s deputy mayor effective July 28.

Assistant city attorney Larry Allen has been appointed by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to replace Carmichael starting July 29.

That’s according to a news release from the mayor’s office around noon on Friday.

The news marks the first of what could be additional transitions at city hall, ahead of the anticipated inauguration of a new mayor, Kerry Thomson, to start 2024. Thomson won the Democratic Party primary, and there’s no opponent on the Nov. 7 ballot. Continue reading “Carmichael to step down as Bloomington deputy mayor, Hamilton taps assistant city attorney for job”

$3M from general fund, with industrial dev heritage, OK’d by Bloomington city council for tech center

A 3-story 22,000-square-foot technology center in Bloomington’s Trade’s District got the final piece of its funding approved by the city council at last Wednesday’s meeting.

Approved by the city council on Wednesday, with eight of nine votes of support, was a roughly $3-million appropriation from the city’s general fund. Steve Volan abstained.

In round numbers, the $3 million approved by the city council adds to a $3.5 million grant from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA), and about $2 million in tax increment finance (TIF) money, which was authorized by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC), to cover the roughly $8.5-million cost of the building.

The new technology center is supposed to coordinate with The Mill, a nearby coworking space, to provide support for emerging tech companies that have progressed beyond the incubation phase and have shown some commercial viability. The effort will be led by former Bloomington mayor John Fernandez, who was recently hired as senior vice president for innovation and strategic partnerships at The Mill.

The city council’s approval on Wednesday came after a postponement from its meeting a week earlier.

The postponement was related to a source of friction between some councilmembers and the administration, over the origin of the general fund money that was appropriated by the council on Wednesday.

Even though the appropriation was from the general fund, it had originated from the establishment of two different CREDs (community revitalization enhancement districts) in Bloomington, for the purpose of infrastructure investments to promote economic development with revenue overseen by Bloomington’s industrial development advisory commission (BIDAC). Continue reading “$3M from general fund, with industrial dev heritage, OK’d by Bloomington city council for tech center”