Appearing for part of the program at Friday’s Canopy of Lights in downtown Bloomington were three local elected officials—Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, and Monroe County commissioners Penny Githens and Julie Thomas.
So the executives in city and county government were represented on stage.
Off stage, holding up the county’s fiscal end of things, were county councilors Jennifer Crossley, Kate Wiltz, and Trent Deckard.
And at the state level, District 61 house representative Dave Hall held the banner for the General Assembly.
That’s probably not an exhaustive list.
All of the elected officials spotted at the event by the B Square were Democrats, except for Hall, who is a Republican.
On Friday night, downtown Bloomington was lit up brighter than Rudolph’s nose on Christmas Eve, and the square was packed with people, spilling onto Kirkwood Avenue, which was shut down for the occasion.
It was the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving extravaganza to flip the switch on the strands of lights that connect the courthouse building to buildings around the square—The Canopy of Lights.
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).
Giving the pitch was John Bates, who is the business manager for UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 136, which has locations in Evansville, as well as a training facility in Bloomington, on Bloomfield Road.
A seven-member capital improvement board (CIB) has finally been created to provide the governance for a long-planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.
The unanimous vote by the three county commissioners to create the CIB came at their regular Wednesday meeting. Their vote was greeted with a rare round of applause in the Nat U. Hill room at the county courthouse.
Clapping enthusiastically in the audience for the vote were county councilors Geoff McKim, and Peter Iversen, as well as Eric Spoonmore, who is a former county councilor and now CEO of the Great Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.
That appears to end the wrangling between the county commissioners and Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, over the governance of the expansion project, which has stalled the joint city-county effort since early March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Hamilton’s preferred way of handling the tasks that the CIB will oversee would have been through a nonprofit. A CIB is a public body, which the county commissioners can create under state law.
The long-planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center, which has been stalled since March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, could take a small step forward next week.
At their regular meeting next Wednesday (July 5), Monroe County commissioners are likely to consider and approve an ordinance that will establish a seven-member capital improvement board (CIB) to provide the governance structure for the expansion. [2023-06-28 draft ordinance]
Expectations about next week’s action are based on the discussion at a Wednesday work session, which was held by commissioners following their regular meeting.
The previous night, at a county council work session, attended by commissioner Penny Githens, the council passed a motion made by councilor Geoff McKim, which supported the path that the commissioners are now taking.
Monroe County chief deputy sheriff Phil Parker (June 14, 2023)
Moroe County commissioners Lee Jones (left) and Penny Githens. Commissioner Julie Thomas joined the meeting on the Zoom video conferencing platform (June 14, 2023)
After a contentious first three months of the year, relations between county commissioners and new sheriff Ruben Marté’s office have settled into a routine update from the chief deputy sheriff at county commissioner meetings.
At the start of Wednesday’s county commissioner meeting, chief deputy sheriff Phil Parker offered an update on the current status of the county jail facility.
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.
Monroe County chief deputy sheriff Phil Parker (April 26, 2023).
Monroe County commissioners from left: Lee Jones, Penny Githens, and Julie Thomas (April 26, 2023).
The Monroe County sheriff’s office and the county commissioners are hoping that Monroe County’s jail can be included in the expansion of a pilot program that started in five other Indiana counties last year.