Monroe County jail update: Roof repairs, other building maintenance in the works

At a meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC) 10 days ago, Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté and his executive team presented slides showing conditions at the jail, which confronted them when Marté was sworn into office at the start of the year.

A kind of counterpoint to Marté’s presentation came at the Wednesday morning meeting of the county commissioners.

Their regular meeting was followed by a work session, which also addressed the topic of jail maintenance.

At the work session, the county’s fleet and building manager, Richard Crider, briefed commissioners on various maintenance efforts that are underway, involving: the roof and water leaks; ventilation; plumbing; lighting; and showers.

That came after the regular meeting, when commissioners approved a $129,777 item to cover an agreement with Insulated Roofing Contractors (IRC) to scan, clean, and recoat the justice building roof.

Connected with that item was a $63,750 item to shut down, remove, and stage the roof’s solar panels on another section of the roof, until the new roof coating is applied.

About maintenance efforts, Crider said, “This process is active—it’s ongoing.”

Commissioner Julie Thomas stressed the idea that while the specific maintenance activities that Crider described would address the conditions presented by Marté, the maintenance was already in the works—not a reaction to the slide presentation. Continue reading “Monroe County jail update: Roof repairs, other building maintenance in the works”

Roundup: Reaction from city, county officials to inhumane Monroe County jail conditions

A week has passed since new Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté, chief deputy Phil Parker and jail commander Kyle Gibbons, gave a presentation on the horrific conditions at the jail, which confronted them when Marté was sworn into office at the start of the year.

A slide deck depicting current jail conditions was shown at last Monday’s meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC).

The slides showed prisoners using overturned cups as pillows as they slept on the floor, clogged toilets, overflow from showers and toilets dripping through the ceiling of the floor below, and racist graffiti, among other scenes.

As deplorable as the conditions displayed in the slides were, the images were still missing two crucial elements, Marté said: The smell and the sounds of the jail.

In public statements made by city and county officials in the week since the presentation, the jail conditions have been uniformly denounced.

The county commissioners have also been criticized for recent changes they have made to the composition of the CJRC. Continue reading “Roundup: Reaction from city, county officials to inhumane Monroe County jail conditions”

Monroe County sheriff on racist graffiti in jail cells: “When I see that word…I cannot move slow.”

“It looks like that’s not even the United States of America.”

That was Monroe County’s new jail commander Kyle Gibbons talking about a photograph he had displayed for Monday’s meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC). It was from a slide deck he’d prepared, in order to show committee members conditions inside the jail when he took over at the start of the year.

In the photo, a pitcher of water had been placed on the floor outside a cell door. Jail staff were using it as a stop gap to give inmates water on request—because the water wasn’t working in the cell at the time.

Gibbons told committee members, “The staff was just trying to make sure people had water. …They were trying to ensure that everybody had access to basic human rights.”

But the color of the water inside the pitcher looked sketchy enough that county councilor Peter Iversen asked Gibbons, “That’s drinkable water?!” The glum reply from Gibbons: “That’s drinkable water.”

Monday’s slide deck was a visual followup to oral presentations that Gibbons has given to county commissioners and county councilors in the last couple of weeks.

The visuals he presented on Monday appeared to have a sobering impact on committee members. Continue reading “Monroe County sheriff on racist graffiti in jail cells: “When I see that word…I cannot move slow.””

Committee on jail’s future gets tweaks, commander says: “We have an obligation to people here now.”

In December, Bloomington’s city council unanimously rejected a rezone request for some land in the southwestern tip of the city, where county commissioners had proposed building a new jail.

But planning for the possible construction of a new Monroe County jail continues—as a response to the reports from two consultants delivered to county government 18 months ago. As one of the reports puts it: “The jail facility is failing…”

Still set for Monday (Jan. 23) is the next meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC). That’s the group that was established by county commissioners to address the problems highlighted in the consultants’ reports.

Even as work continues on planning for the future of Monroe County’s jail, sheriff Ruben Marté’s jail commander, Kyle Gibbons, has addressed both the county council and county commissioners at recent meetings of those elected bodies. His basic message: “We have an obligation to people here now.” Continue reading “Committee on jail’s future gets tweaks, commander says: “We have an obligation to people here now.””

Advisory committee on Monroe County jail hits rough road trying to find common ground

Outside on the Monroe County courthouse lawn, before Monday’s meeting of the community justice reform committee (CJRC), members of a group called “Care Not Cages” held what they described as a block party—in opposition to construction of a new jail.

At the CJRC meeting itself, members were frank in airing their disappointment about the way the two representatives from the board of county commissioners have approached the work of making recommendations on addressing problems at the jail.

The facility has been described in a consultant’s report as “failing.”

The 14-member CJRC includes county councilors, judges, the sheriff, representatives from the prosecutor’s office, public defenders office, and the county health administrator, among others.

Drawing specific criticism on Monday was the lack of advance information given by commissioners to CJRC members about a trip they took last week to Arizona, to visit correctional facilities there.

Continue reading “Advisory committee on Monroe County jail hits rough road trying to find common ground”

2023 Elections | Day One notebook: 9 file paperwork, including 3 known mayoral candidates

Wednesday was the first day it was possible to file the forms to declare an official candidacy for municipal elections in Indiana’s 2023 election cycle.

In Monroe County, nine candidates got that paperwork task out of the way on Day One.

Filing their CAN-42 forms on Wednesday, in order of filing, were: Kerry Thomson (Bloomington mayor); Susan Sandberg (Bloomington mayor); Sue Sgambelluri (Bloomington city council District 2); Don Griffin (Bloomington mayor); Ron Smith (Bloomington city council District 3); William Ellis (Ellettsville town council Ward 2); Jonas Schrodt (Bloomington city council at large); Brett Heinisch (Bloomington city council, District 3); and Nicole Bolden (Bloomington city clerk).

Ellis and Heinisch filed to run in the Republican Party’s primary. The others filed to run in the Democratic Party’s primary. Continue reading “2023 Elections | Day One notebook: 9 file paperwork, including 3 known mayoral candidates”

High expectations set for new elected officials in Monroe County at swearing-in ceremony

Voters in Monroe County, Indiana, elected a total of 61 local officials in 2022, who start their terms of office on Jan. 1, 2023.

That includes judges, a county commissioner, the sheriff, the recorder, the clerk, the assessor, the prosecutor, county councilors, town councilors, township trustees, township board members, and school board members.

About one-third of them took their oath of office in a public ceremony starting at noon on Sunday, New Year’s Day in the Nat U. Hill room at the county courthouse.

It was a bipartisan event, featuring remarks from Monroe County Republican Party chair Taylor Bryant, and her counterpart for the Democratic  Party, David Henry. Continue reading “High expectations set for new elected officials in Monroe County at swearing-in ceremony”

Column: Looking ahead to local government news in 2023 like a goose landing on a half frozen pond

A week ago, up at Miller-Showers Park, a flock of Canada geese banked overhead and came in for a landing on the southernmost stormwater detention pond.

The surface was half frozen, because a couple days before the temperature had dropped to –8 F.

As elegant as geese appear in flight formation, on landing they do not make a picture of grace. They sort of wobble along the final approach, webbed feet akimbo, before mostly crashing into the water.

But they were, of course, unscathed. They started cruising around, dabbling for whatever aquatic plants were under the surface.

That’s somewhat like how local government works: It’s elegant and smooth in theory, but when it lands on some particular topic near you, it might look a little clumsy. You might get splashed.

Where will Bloomington’s area local government land in 2023? Here’s a roundup of spots that is surely not exhaustive. Continue reading “Column: Looking ahead to local government news in 2023 like a goose landing on a half frozen pond”

Animal accord for Bloomington, Monroe County, Ellettsville, gets routine OK from city council

Asher, the nattily dressed bully breed mix featured to the right of the bar chart, is a “courtesy listing” on the city of Bloomington’s animal shelter website. As of Dec. 26, 2022, the image links directly to his listing.

Even if  Bloomington and Monroe county government officials have recently been fighting like cats and dogs about topics like the convention center expansion, they have for several years settled into a pattern of uncontroversial cooperation for the sheltering of homeless animals.

At its last meeting of the year, on Dec. 21, Bloomington’s city council approved its side of an interlocal agreement with Monroe County government, and the town of Ellettsville, to help pay for operations at the city’s animal shelter.

The amount specified in the agreement that gets approved by the three governmental entities in any given year is based on the stats from the previous year—for the average cost per animal and the number of animals originating from each jurisdiction.

Last Wednesday, Bloomington’s director of animal care and control, Virgil Sauder, told the city council the average cost per animal for 2021 was $283.

For the 92 animals the shelter took in from Ellettsville in 2021, that works out to $26,036. For the 1,249 animals the shelter took in from non-Bloomington and non-Ellettsville locations in Monroe County, that works out to $353,467. Continue reading “Animal accord for Bloomington, Monroe County, Ellettsville, gets routine OK from city council”

Rezone for new county jail denied by Bloomington city council, with calls to include city in planning

This past Wednesday (Dec. 21), Bloomington’s city council denied a request from the county government to rezone an 87-acre parcel in the southwestern tip of the city, so that it could be used for a new county jail.

That city council’s denial came on a unanimous vote. The outcome matched the recommendation from the city plan commission, which had voted 6–3 in mid-November against the rezone.

The city council’s representative to the plan commission, Ron Smith, voted in favor of the rezone as a plan commissioner, but against it as a city councilmember.

The specific request was to change the zoning of the land on Fullerton Pike from mixed-use employment (ME) to mixed-use institutional (MI). Use of the property as a jail would not be allowed under ME, but could be allowed under MI. A jail is a “conditional use” under MI zoning.

The council’s vote came a few minutes before midnight, after about three hours of deliberation, which included about a dozen public commenters, who spoke against the rezone, and generally against the idea of building a new jail.

A couple of public comments were made in favor of the rezone.

For councilmembers, their main land use concern appeared to be the distance from the center of the city to the site and the lack of transportation access. The road that is to be built is not yet completed, and there is not currently any public bus service to the location.

But at least as big a question as land use was the dissatisfaction that councilmembers expressed about the failure to include city officials in the community justice response committee (CJRC).

That’s the group that is making recommendations on how to respond to the work of two consultants, who delivered two studies of Monroe County’s criminal justice system, which were delivered 18 months ago, in June 2021. Continue reading “Rezone for new county jail denied by Bloomington city council, with calls to include city in planning”