3 years at $110,000 a year for jail transition director OK’d by Monroe County, with some grumbles

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, a rough patch was hit on the road to a new jail for Monroe County.

A disagreement emerged between the sheriff and county commissioners over the funding of someone to direct the transition—from the current jail at 7th Street and College Avenue to a new facility. No location has been decided for a new jail.

Even if the rough patch did not get smoothed out, it’s now in the rear-view mirror.

On Wednesday, Monroe County commissioners approved a change to their ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) plan to include $110,000 a year for three years to fund a contract for someone to serve as director of the jail transition. Of the amount, $10,000 is to cover liability insurance.

The day before, the Monroe County council voted unanimously to appropriate the $330,000. For the county council, the decision was not controversial to use APRA money to fund a contract position for someone who is not now working in the sheriff’s office. Continue reading “3 years at $110,000 a year for jail transition director OK’d by Monroe County, with some grumbles”

Hiccup for convention center interlocal agreement: ‘Let’s take a breath’ says Monroe County council

It might be next year before all parties have signed an interlocal agreement between Bloomington and Monroe County—in connection with an expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The effort to get final consensus on a collaboration between city and county leaders about a convention expansion dates back several years, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

But two weeks ago, both branches of Bloomington’s government approved the interlocal agreement, for the operation of the capital improvement board (CIB) and the convention and visitors commission (CVC)—in connection with the convention center expansion.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton inked the interlocal on the afternoon of Nov. 15. The city council followed suit that evening, with an uncontroversial vote to approve the interlocal agreement.

The county council and the county board of commissioners were expected to consider and approve the agreement this week.

But the item appeared on Tuesday night’s county council meeting agenda only as a discussion item. And that’s where it remained for Tuesday. No vote was taken, even though councilors expressed a fair amount of solid support for the agreement.

Part of the delay on the county council’s side relates to a request from Bloomington mayor-elect Kerry Thomson, who wrote a letter to Hamilton two weeks ago, asking him not to make strategic decisions that could have an impact lasting into 2024. Continue reading “Hiccup for convention center interlocal agreement: ‘Let’s take a breath’ says Monroe County council”

Clash over role of future Monroe County jail transition director, possible post-holiday resolution

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved two additional studies of the Thomson PUD property, which is currently being considered as a potential new jail site.

A Phase 2 environmental study, as well as a wetlands delineation, are both to be done by VET Environmental Engineering, for a total of about $20,000.

Even if commissioners have stressed that no decision on a future new jail site has been made, those two studies mark a bit of progress towards the eventual construction of a new jail to replace the facility at 7th Street and College Avenue.  The current jail has been analyzed by a consultant as failing to provide constitutional levels of care.

Not getting any airtime at the commissioners meeting on Wednesday was significant discord that has emerged between the sheriff’s office and the commissioners—about filling a position to direct the transition to a new jail facility.

But that discord looks like it could be on a schedule for some kind of resolution, starting with a joint meeting of the county commissioners and the county council on Monday, Nov. 27.

At the county council’s Tuesday night meeting, council president Kate Wiltz  looked to the end of the month as a timeframe for resolving the sore points.

As a chance to work through some concerns and possibly get a transition director’s contract approved, Wiltz pointed to already scheduled meetings on three successive days—Nov. 27 (joint), Nov. 28 (county council), and Nov. 29 (county commissioners).

The new controversy was aired out at the county council’s regular meeting, which took place on Tuesday night. Continue reading “Clash over role of future Monroe County jail transition director, possible post-holiday resolution”

Monroe County council heads towards goal of 8.5-percent raises for employees in 2024

Based on the deliberations among county councilors on Wednesday night, Monroe County employees will likely receive 8.5-percent raises in 2024 compared to their pay this year.

But no final decisions were made. The council did undertake some adjustments to get closer to the goal of 8.5-percent raises.

There’s still some dust that needs to settle on the provisional adjustments to the 2024 budget that were made by the council on Wednesday. And the final vote on the budget won’t come until Oct. 17, after a first reading on Oct.10.

The formal public hearing on the county budget is about two weeks away, on Oct. 3. Continue reading “Monroe County council heads towards goal of 8.5-percent raises for employees in 2024”

Jail finance committee starts off week of criminal justice talk with diversity, equity, inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion was the focus of Monday afternoon’s meeting of the county council’s justice fiscal advisory committee (JFAC).

The highlight of the committee’s meeting was a presentation on racial disparity at the Monroe County jail. Presenting the information was former attorney Guy Loftman, who serves on the legal redress committee of the Monroe County Branch of the NAACP.

A key fact presented by Loftman, based on Monroe County jail statistics  from earlier this year, was the disparity between the percentage of Black inmates and the percentage of Black residents of Monroe County.

As measured by the U.S. Census in 2020 about 3.9 percent of Monroe County residents are Black. But for the 3-month period between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year, Black people made up on average 26.5% of the inmates in the Monroe County jail.

JFAC’s Monday meeting was the first of three meetings this week when local officials will have criminal justice-related matters on their agenda.

On Friday at noon, Bloomington’s city council has a work session scheduled, to hear from county officials about options for locating a new county jail.

Appearing on Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting for the full county council is a discussion item  about “potential adjustments to the LIT-special purpose fund rate.” That’s a juvenile detention-related tax. Continue reading “Jail finance committee starts off week of criminal justice talk with diversity, equity, inclusion”

Storm knocks out Monroe County justice committee

The storm that blew through the Bloomington area around 4 p.m. on Thursday knocked out power to at least 21,000 Duke Energy customers in the region, according to the power company’s outage map.

Even though the Monroe County courthouse still had power, a 4:30 p.m. meeting of the county council’s justice fiscal advisory committee (JFAC) was canceled.

The chairship of the committee rotates from meeting to meeting among three county councilors, and it was Jennifer Crossley’s call to cancel the meeting. The other two county councilors serving on the committee are Kate Wiltz and Peter Iversen. Several non-voting members are also included on the committee.

Crossley told The B Square that for people traveling from outside the downtown it would have meant driving around crashes and non-working traffic signals, so she didn’t want anyone to take unnecessary risks.

The missed meeting means the committee will have to compress its work a bit. When the county council created the committee in May, the council’s resolution set a deadline for the completion  of its assigned work—by the end of the year.

But the resolution sets a September timeframe as the target for delivering a report to the full council. Continue reading “Storm knocks out Monroe County justice committee”

Bloomington, Monroe County restart convention center talks, threat of lost tax revenue looms

Before Monday, it had been nearly six months since Bloomington and Monroe County officials last appeared in a public setting, to talk about the proposed expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The city council’s first meeting of the year, in early January, was the occasion when the city council voted to override  Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s veto, of a city council resolution related to the convention center expansion. The mid-December 2022  city council resolution expressed support for a capital improvement board (CIB) as the governance structure for a convention center expansion.

On Monday at noon, the Bloomington city council convened a work session on the topic of the planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

Providing a wake-up call to move the project forward was the Indiana General Assembly, which has now concluded this year’s session. Before wrapping up its work for the year, the state legislature passed HB 1454, which uses the local food and beverage tax as a prod, to require Bloomington and Monroe County to show some progress on the convention center project.

The center of Monday’s discussion was a draft of an interlocal agreement that is supposed to iron out some of the persistent wrinkles in discussions between the city and the county about the convention center. Continue reading “Bloomington, Monroe County restart convention center talks, threat of lost tax revenue looms”

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”

Community justice notebook: County council adopts recommendations on new jail

At its work session on Tuesday night, Monroe County’s seven-member council voted 6–1 to adopt a previously distributed memo “as a reflection of the council’s recommendations for the new jail.”

The image links to a .pdf file of the non-binding memo adopted by the Monroe County council on March 28, 2023.

The three non-binding recommendations in the memo are:

(1) The county council recommends a jail with a bed size of no more than 400.
(2) The county council recommends a jail location as close to existing services as possible.
(3) The justice campus size will be determined by several factors in the future.

Councilor Marty Hawk dissented saying, “I think this is a bit too early… to make that kind of decision that this is the reflection of the entire council.”

The council’s action comes in the context of work being done by an 11-member community justice response committee (CJRC), to make recommendations on a new jail facility for Monroe County.

Making the decisions on location and size of a new facility will be the county commissioners. As the fiscal body of the county, the county council has to approve the funding.

Serving on the CJRC are three county councilors: Kate Wiltz, Jennifer Crossley, and Peter Iversen.

The reason the CJRC was established in the summer of 2021 is reflected in the title of the document adopted by the council on Tuesday night: “Justice Campus Land: Toward a Constitutionally Sound Jail.” Continue reading “Community justice notebook: County council adopts recommendations on new jail”