Bloomington’s Lower Cascades Road to reopen after pilot closure, but “not anytime soon”

Late Tuesday afternoon, a Bloomington city staff recommendation to permanently reopen the road through Lower Cascades Park was delivered to the four-member board of park commissioners.

That was followed by an update to the three-member board of public works from public works director Adam Wason, about the parks staff recommendation to re-open the road.

That meant board of public works members did not have to vote on the question of a road closure.

Still, Wason told them the road could not be opened “anytime soon.” For one thing, the road sustained substantial damage as a result of weekend’s heavy rains, which caused flooding in several places.

For another thing, it will take some time to design and construct the kind of traffic calming measures that are being recommended—to try to make the road safer for people bicycling and walking along the park road. Continue reading “Bloomington’s Lower Cascades Road to reopen after pilot closure, but “not anytime soon””

Joint meeting of Monroe County electeds to mull criminal justice report: “The jail facility is failing …”

“The jail facility is failing and cannot ensure consistent and sustainable provision of constitutional rights of incarcerated persons.”

Image links to .pdf of executive summary of RJS Justice Services report.

That’s one of several blunt assessments in a criminal justice and incarceration study dated June 20, 2021, which was released by Monroe County commissioners on Monday night. The study was conducted under contract by RJS Justice Services, with lead consultant Kenneth Ray.

Monroe County’s jail is located on the upper floors of the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center at the northwest corner of 7th Street and College Avenue in downtown Bloomington. The building was constructed in 1985.

The report’s criticism of the jail facility is based on both its design and capacity. About the potential for the jail’s physical configuration to support the kind of programs that are needed, the report states: “The operational efficiency of facility design is non-detectable.”

About the adequacy of the current jail to house the number of inmates who are locked up there, the report says, “The daily inmate population exceeded the jail’s functional capacity on most days since 2004 and all days per year consecutively since 2015.” Continue reading “Joint meeting of Monroe County electeds to mull criminal justice report: “The jail facility is failing …””

Post-flood recovery: Monday signing of local disaster declaration part of Monroe County’s two-pronged approach to aid, officials caution against high hopes

On Monday, Monroe County board of commissioners president Julie Thomas signed a declaration of local disaster, because of weekend flooding that hit downtown Bloomington and other areas of the county.

The disaster declaration will appear for ratification on the three-member board’s regular meeting agenda on Wednesday.

A declaration of local disaster, under Indiana Code 10-14-3-29, will “activate the response and recovery aspects of all applicable local or interjurisdictional disaster emergency plans.”

Such a declaration could also make homeowners and business owners alike eligible for reimbursement of uninsured flood damages by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

But the county’s emergency manager, Allison Moore, told a gathering of about 25 business and nonprofit leaders on Monday morning that nothing is guaranteed to be reimbursed.

Still, a disaster declaration would “help our cause,” Moore said, in connection with another approach the county is taking. The second approach is to ask the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) for low-interest loan assistance. Continue reading “Post-flood recovery: Monday signing of local disaster declaration part of Monroe County’s two-pronged approach to aid, officials caution against high hopes”

Bloomington police: Man dies in flood, was driver of car swept up in rushing waters

In a press release issued early Sunday afternoon, Bloomington’s police department announced a search team discovered the body of a man who was reported missing, after the car he was driving was swept up in floodwaters on Friday night.

Red and blue areas are flood areas defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The purple circles indicate about where the car drove into the water, and where the body was discovered. (Map by The B Square)

The man was identified in the press release as Colten Booe (31) of Bloomington.

According to the release, Booe was last seen in a vehicle that was driven into “rapidly-moving floodwaters” near the intersection of S. College Avenue and W. Dodds Street.

The release says that according to Booe’s 29-year-old passenger, Booe was at the wheel of the 2016 Nissan Versa south on College Avenue and attempted to drive through the floodwaters near the intersection of S. College Avenue and W. Dodds Street.

Continue reading “Bloomington police: Man dies in flood, was driver of car swept up in rushing waters”

Post-flood work starts for Bloomington government, businesses

Looking north up the alley next to Village Deli. These hoses are connected to pumps that are emptying the Village Deli’s basement of six feet of water.

Between 5 and 7 inches of rain fell on Bloomington on Friday night through early Saturday.

That meant thigh- to waist-deep water pooled on Kirkwood Avenue before flowing southward.

In the mid-morning hours on Saturday, business owners along Kirkwood were starting the work of clean up and damage assessment.

The flood outside the Village Deli on Kirkwood last night meant the basement was filled with six feet of water on Saturday morning. Owner Bob Costello told The B Square he hopes to be back open in a week. But it will mean replacing the point-of-sale computer server, which was swamped by the floodwaters.

According to a press release from the city of Bloomington, the flood damage inside the city was centered on the blocks of Kirkwood Avenue just west of the Indiana University Sample Gates.

The release says, “Flooding inside the city appears to be concentrated in the downtown area, specifically Kirkwood Avenue between Indiana Avenue and Washington Street.”

The city’s press release also states that emergency responders for the city performed 17 water rescues on Friday night through Saturday morning. Continue reading “Post-flood work starts for Bloomington government, businesses”

Photos: Kirkwood Flood of 2021

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Around 3 inches of rain fell on the Bloomington area starting around 10:45 through half past midnight.

The thunderstorm knocked out power for around 6,000 Duke Energy customers, including a swatch of 1,500 customers east of the downtown square. The initial estimated time for restoration of power indicated on Duke’s outage map was 5 a.m.

The heavy rains that came with the wind and lightning caused street flooding in several areas, including East Kirkwood from Dunn to Grant. A car could be seen stuck on Grant Street in the block south of Kirkwood, swamped by the water flowing south.

The water was thigh deep in some places.

In the photos that accompany this story, yellow bollards are visible blocking off Kirkwood to vehicle traffic. [Monroe County floodplains from FEMA data] Continue reading “Photos: Kirkwood Flood of 2021”

Column: Meetings better for in-person attendees, if a remote connection is provided

Screen shot of Zoom connection during the June 15, 2021 Bloomington Transit board meeting.

I attended an in-person government meeting on Tuesday, but logged in to the remote Zoom connection anyway. And I’m glad I did.

Why? I was able to hear and see better than I could have, by just sitting there listening and looking, without being logged in to Zoom.

Here’s some background. Continue reading “Column: Meetings better for in-person attendees, if a remote connection is provided”

Required occupancy affidavits for renters OK’d by Bloomington city council, but city’s HAND department won’t maintain records

On a 5–3 vote on Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council approved a new local law that requires landlords to sign and maintain an affidavit that lists the occupants of their rental properties.

The basic law applies just to those buildings with four or fewer rental units.

Tenants also have to sign an affidavit affirming the accuracy of the landlord’s affidavit.

But under the ordinance as adopted by the council, the affidavits signed by the landlord and tenant don’t have to be submitted to the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department.

Instead they have to be maintained by the landlord, and produced for scrutiny during any HAND rental inspection, or in response to a request from the city.

The stewardship of the affidavits was changed from the HAND department to the landlord through a major amendment to the legislation [Am 03], which was adopted by the council on Wednesday night.

Also a part of the amendment was the deletion of the relationship information among tenants that had been required in the version presented to the council at its first reading in May.

Two weeks ago, when councilmembers could have taken final action, they instead decided to postpone consideration of the ordinance until this week.

The ordinance is intended to help the HAND department enforce the city’s zoning code on the definition of a “family.” Family relationships help determine the maximum occupancy for a housing unit, under Bloomington’s unified development ordinance (UDO). Continue reading “Required occupancy affidavits for renters OK’d by Bloomington city council, but city’s HAND department won’t maintain records”

Bloomington mayor to US Army: “I agree that you may conduct urban military training in our community.”

This letter, though undated, was sent on April 14, according to Bloomington’s office of the mayor. Image links to .pdf of complete letter. (Blue highlight by The B Square.)

On Wednesday, an undated letter from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to officers in the US military, was released by the city of Bloomington in response to a records request made under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA).

The APRA requests were made by The B Square in connection with military training exercises that were conducted inside Bloomington city limits on the night of June 7. [Request 1] [Request 2]

The opening paragraph in the letter from Hamilton begins: “On behalf of the City of Bloomington, I agree that you may conduct urban military training in our community. In my capacity as Mayor I am duly authorized to represent, act and sign on behalf of the government of our city.”

In the final sentence of the letter’s second paragraph, Hamilton appears to indicate he believes he has the authority to decide whether the exercises are allowed to take place. He writes: “I also understand that this is not to be considered blanket permission, and that I may change my mind at any time—without cause.”

A few hours after the training exercise was conducted, The B Square submitted several questions to the mayor’s office, including one about who made a decision to give permission for the June 7 military exercises to be conducted in the city.

The mayor’s office answered on June 8 without identifying anyone who made a decision to give permission: “The City cannot prohibit the federal government from conducting a training exercise.”

In its written response to that question, the mayor’s office did not mention that the mayor gave the kind of permission that was revealed in the letter released on Wednesday. Continue reading “Bloomington mayor to US Army: “I agree that you may conduct urban military training in our community.””

Bloomington public bus drivers needed, Route 8 could see “microtransit” pilot

Bloomington Transit (BT) has a critical need for more drivers in the fall, when Indiana University’s normal fall semester starts.

And fixed-route service on Route 8 could see a one-year experimental replacement in September—with a combination of service provided through BT by Uber and Lyft.

Those were two takeaways from the Bloomington Transit board’s Tuesday night meeting.

The topics mean some significant work for the board and staff in the coming months, in addition to items already on their plates.

The board will need to make a decision on replacing 20-year veteran general manager Lew May, whose retirement is anticipated for August of this year. And the current collective bargaining agreement with the bus drivers union goes just through the end of the year, so it needs to be re-negotiated.

The BT board’s in-person Tuesday meeting was held in a way that offered access via the Zoom video conferencing platform.

All five board members attended in person. From a tech perspective, the hybrid setup appeared to work glitch-free. Continue reading “Bloomington public bus drivers needed, Route 8 could see “microtransit” pilot”