Change to Bloomington tax abatement policy swaps in capital investment for job creation, making it easier to justify affordable housing projects

A change to the city of Bloomington’s tax abatement policy, approved by the city council on Wednesday last week, will make it easier for affordable housing projects to satisfy abatement criteria

The change replaces the basic criterion for tax abatement. In the previous policy, the basic requirement was that the project create full-time, permanent living-wage jobs.

In the revised policy, which won unanimous approval on Wednesday night, the basic requirement is creation of capital investment as an enhancement to the tax base.

Job creation is still a part of the mix for tax abatements. But it has the same status as two other criteria, listed under the basic requirement about creation of capital investment: significant increases to existing wages; and creation of affordable housing units. Continue reading “Change to Bloomington tax abatement policy swaps in capital investment for job creation, making it easier to justify affordable housing projects”

COVID-19 Update | IU’s Assembly Hall could offer 2K shots a day, but officials urge continued caution: “There are still a lot of people suffering.”

Good news tempered with caution about the persistent presence of the pandemic virus was again the theme of this Friday’s weekly press conference on COVID-19 response, held by Bloomington area leaders.

Probably the most significant news out of Friday’s news conference was the fact that Monroe County’s public vaccination site will transition in April from its current location at the county’s convention center to Indiana University’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, the school’s basketball venue.

That news came jointly from Indiana University’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White, and Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill.

People who get their first shot at the convention center in March will still be able to get the second dose scheduled for the convention center location, Caudill said. IU Health’s vaccination site at its Medical Arts building will continue to offer vaccinations.

To dispense the COVID-19 vaccine, White said IU would use a logistical setup at Assembly Hall similar to the one it deployed for its mass flu vaccination clinic. The initial COVID-19 vaccine supply will not support the full capacity of that setup, White said. “We feel confident that if we had the supply, we could probably run upwards of 2,000 people through in a day.”

Another bit of good news: Brian Shockney, president of IU Health’s south central region, reported that starting March 8, all IU Health hospitals will begin allowing visitors for COVID-19 patients. Shockney said COVID-19 patients will be able to designate two close contacts as visitors, and one of the two designated visitors will be able to visit per day.

Mixed in with the good news on vaccination capacity and continued downward infection trends were doses of caution. Continue reading “COVID-19 Update | IU’s Assembly Hall could offer 2K shots a day, but officials urge continued caution: “There are still a lot of people suffering.””

$1 million in federal community development grants brings Bloomington’s 30-year total to $28.9 million

At its regular Wednesday meeting this week, Bloomington’s city council approved annual allocations for a bit more than $1 million worth of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.

The exact amount was $1,017,968

That makes $28,921,325 of total CDBG funding that has been allocated to Bloomington since 1991.

Under federal guidelines, up to 15 percent of the funds can be used to fund social service programs.

This year Bloomington maxed out the 15 percent with the following social services funding allocations: Hoosier Hills Food Bank ($25,000), Broadview Learning Center ($2,700), Community Kitchen ($25,000), Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington ($25,000), New Leaf – New Life ($25,000), Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard ($25,000), Monroe County United Ministries ($25,000).

Physical improvement projects account for 65 percent of the funding allocations, and administration costs take up the remaining 20 percent. Continue reading “$1 million in federal community development grants brings Bloomington’s 30-year total to $28.9 million”

9-hour city council meeting likely a record for Bloomington

On Wednesday, the Bloomington city council’s regular meeting started at 6:30 p.m. as it usually does.

Council vice president Sue Sgambelluri, who chaired the proceedings, wrapped up just before adjournment: “OK. Heartfelt thanks, particularly to the public who stayed with us this long.”

How long was it? The CATS recording has a duration of 9 hours 4 minutes and 28 seconds, which put the hour of adjournment around 3:35 a.m.

As the clock ticked towards 3 a.m., former city clerk Regina Moore tweeted at current city clerk Nicole Bolden that the meeting rivaled one in the 1990s that lasted until 3 a.m. It involved human rights.

On Thursday, Bolden checked the records for the meeting that Moore was talking about. It took place on July 7, 1993 when the council considered Ordinance 93-28, which amended the city’s 1983 human right’s ordinance.

Wednesday’s meeting was extended by debate and public commentary on an ordinance that was also written with an eye towards protecting human rights—of those who are experiencing homelessness. The council voted 4–4 this week, which meant the ordinance failed.

The 1993 ordinance, which revised the existing human rights ordinance to add  protections against discrimination due to sexual orientation, was approved on a 9–0 vote. Continue reading “9-hour city council meeting likely a record for Bloomington”

Bloomington city council votes down proposed law on protections for houseless on 4–4 tie at 3:21 a.m.

In reverse chronological order, votes taken by Bloomington’s city council related to Ord 21-06, which would have provided certain protections to those experiencing homelessness.  The one motion that passed was to read the ordinance by title and synopsis only. The meeting started on March 3, and ended on March 4.

On Thursday morning, a proposed local law that would have provided certain protections to people experiencing homelessness failed to get the five votes it needed on the nine-member Bloomington city council.

The vote was a 4–4 tie. City council president Jim Sims was not able to attend the meeting. Chairing the meeting in his absence was vice president Sue Sgambelluri.

The meeting started on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The vote was taken nearly nine hours later, at 3:21 a.m.

The split on the council was along fault lines that have become familiar.

Voting for the ordinance were: Matt Flaherty, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Kate Rosenbarger, and Steve Volan.

Voting against it were: Dave Rollo, Ron Smith, Sue Sgambelluri, and Susan Sandberg.

Ordinance sponsors were Flaherty, Rosenbarger, and Piedmont-Smith. Continue reading “Bloomington city council votes down proposed law on protections for houseless on 4–4 tie at 3:21 a.m.”

Tickets for failure to clear snow from Bloomington’s sidewalks so far this year: 24 minus 1

In the city of Bloomington, property owners are responsible under local law for clearing the sidewalks next to their land.

The red triangles denoted locations for complaints logged by citizens in the uReport system about uncleared sidewalks or unplowed streets.

The fine is graduated: $50 (first offense), $100 (second offense), and $150 (third offense).

The city’s housing and neighborhood and development (HAND) department enforces the ordinance.

How many tickets and fines has Bloomington’s foot of snow in February, caused HAND to issue?

According to HAND’s interim director, Brent Pierce, for the 2021 snow removal ticket cycle, the city of Bloomington has so far issued 24 tickets with fines.

Of the total 252 citations, 228 were warnings, Pierce said. It is HAND policy to issue a warning, and if the snow has not been removed after a second visit, then a ticket is issued with a fine.

The snow removal warning/ticket cycle starts on Aug. 1 of each year.

The time frame spelled out in the ordinance for required clearing or snow and ice is “within twenty-four hours after snow or ice has ceased to fall or in any way accumulate.” Continue reading “Tickets for failure to clear snow from Bloomington’s sidewalks so far this year: 24 minus 1”

Bloomington police respond to records request, release footage of Seminary Park welfare check on man found dead hours later on Christmas Eve

In Seminary Park, on the bench at the corner of 2nd and Walnut Streets in downtown Bloomington, a memorial plaque for James “JT” Vanderburg is now set to be installed.

It’s the place where Vanderburg died last year on Christmas Eve, three days after his 51st birthday. At the time, he was without another place to stay.

The plaque was paid for by the public defender’s office and other community members. The epitaph will read: “The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is the duty of the living to do so for them.”

The Bloomington police department’s press release about Vanderburg’s death stated that officers responded to the park around 11:40 a.m. A passerby had been asked to call 911, according to the release, “because a man was lying on the ground in the park and was believed to be deceased.”

According to the press release, “[S]everal people had tried to get the man services the previous evening and had offered for him to stay with them overnight, but the man refused and slept in the park.”

The press release also stated, “Officers from BPD had checked his welfare once during the evening hours of December 23rd and twice on the morning of December 24th, but the man was sleeping and refused any assistance.”

What did those three welfare checks look like? What kind of assistance was offered?

On Thursday, Feb. 25, the city of Bloomington responded to a records request made last year by The Square Beacon, under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA). Continue reading “Bloomington police respond to records request, release footage of Seminary Park welfare check on man found dead hours later on Christmas Eve”

Bloomington’s $13M Hidden River Project delayed a week by snow, but now underway

A $13-million dollar renovation of a culvert that runs under downtown Bloomington was supposed to start on Feb. 15, but it was delayed by the heavy snowfall.

Work began last week and continues this week on the underground culvert that leads the Campus River from Dunn Meadow at Indiana Avenue to 1st Street and College Avenue, where the waterway re-emerges above ground.

The work on about 1,829 feet worth of culvert by Milestone Contractors and city of Bloomington utilities will take around two years.

The funding is coming from sewer revenue bonds approved by the Bloomington city council in November 2020, financed through the 2019 stormwater fee increase for all CBU customers. Continue reading “Bloomington’s $13M Hidden River Project delayed a week by snow, but now underway”

Column: Behold the Redhead ducks at Bloomington’s Miller-Showers Park!

Miller-Showers Park is wedged between two of Bloomington’s heaviest-travelled roads—Walnut Street on the east and College Avenue on the west. On the south, the park is bounded by 17th Street. A bit to the north is State Road 46.

Those roadways combined carry something like 50,000 vehicles a day.

About 10 days ago at Miller-Showers park, the bird count included: 9 Snow geese, 4 Canada geese, 9 Mallard ducks, 1 Red-tailed hawk, 20 European starlings, 8 Redhead ducks.

It’s INDOT that counts the cars on the roads.

But who counts the ducks on the park’s stormwater ponds? Not me. Those counts came from someone else. I have only looked at them. The first time was last Sunday.

Among the Canada geese that I saw—and the “regular” ducks that everyone has probably seen before—were some ducks with red heads. I am not an outdoorsman. So they struck me as somewhat exotic.

I was intrigued enough that I returned to Miller-Showers Park a couple days later to see if I could get some better photos.

Did these glamorous crimson-headed birds have a commensurately glamorous name? No, that’s apparently not how ornithologists approach their naming task. Ducks with red heads are called Redhead ducks.

Photos: Miller-Showers Park (Feb. 24, 2021)

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Continue reading “Column: Behold the Redhead ducks at Bloomington’s Miller-Showers Park!”

Allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to IU Health bumped by nearly 30 percent

The local and regional pace of COVID-19 vaccination should be increasing, based on the additional 1,170 doses of Pfizer vaccine that Indiana’s department of health will be adding to the weekly shipment of 4,000 doses.

That was a highlight from remarks by Brian Shockney, president of IU Health’s south central region, speaking at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders.

Shockney said that IU Health’s Bloomington vaccine site has used 29,275 of the 31,825 doses it has received so far, which makes for a 92-percent rate. The additional 1,170 doses of vaccine will mean an extra 70 appointments per day, starting Monday, March 1.

About the state health department’s decision, Shockney said, “They’ve seen how quickly we’re able to put shots in arms.”

Indiana’s vaccine dashboard shows 11,676 people vaccinated In Monroe County so far. The 70 percent of the total population that has been used as the standard for herd immunity would work out to 103,902 of Monroe County’s 148,431 residents.

By that standard, Monroe County is about 11 percent of the way to herd immunity. Continue reading “Allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to IU Health bumped by nearly 30 percent”