Bloomington hosts weekend of family bicycle events, answers question: Where does the car go?

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Makinzie Hoagland describes how a Local Motion grant will be used to design and build a way to organize the wall of wheels at the back of The Bike Project. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Saturday morning, the garage door to Bloomington’s Bike Project was open to a bright, crisp fall morning—a couple hours earlier than the posted hours, which start at noon. It’s a spot where loads of people walk past on any given Saturday, on their way to the Farmers Market, just north of there.

The open house for the bicycle cooperative was synched up with Cargo Bike Show & Tell, one of the events scheduled for Bloomington’s first annual Fall Family Bike Fest—which started Thursday and ran through Sunday.

The upcoming start of the Bike Fest was heralded on Tuesday afternoon, with the hanging of a new billboard on the northeast corner of 6th and Walnut streets, where the Subway recently closed up shop. The bicycle-themed billboard was designed by Pealer Bryniarski for the Your Art Here space. Funding for the billboard came from a Local Motion grant award, made by Bloomington’s bicycle and pedestrian safety commission to The Bike Project. Continue reading “Bloomington hosts weekend of family bicycle events, answers question: Where does the car go?”

Bloomington’s city council OKs 2020 budget, declines to set pay for police, cites ongoing labor talks

On Thursday night, Bloomington’s city council approved just five of the six items on its agenda that make up the legislative package covering the roughly $170 million budget for 2020.Single Bar Barchart of City Budget

The one item that didn’t get approved was the salary ordinance that sets police and fire salaries—they’re part of the same ordinance. It was put off, with a motion to table, which passed 9–0 on the nine-member council.

The decision to table the question appeared to be based on a hope for some kind of breakthrough in collective bargaining negotiations between the city and the police union.

A meeting with the city, the police union and a mediator, is scheduled for Oct. 24. The talks, which started with four meetings in 2018, did not conclude with an agreement by the end of that year, which was the end of the contract. So Bloomington police have been working thorough 2019 under a so-called “evergreen” clause.

Councilmembers also got clarification Thursday night that the proposed salary ordinance for 2020 means police would paid the same next year as they were in 2018. “It doesn’t appear that anyone wants that,” councilmember Steve Volan said.

Two factors seemed to give councilmembers the comfort they needed to entertain the idea of putting off a vote on the police and fire salaries.

They learned Monday night from council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman that they did not need to pass the salary ordinance by Nov. 1—which is the deadline for passing tax rates and appropriations. They also learned from controller Jeff Underwood that he had authority to pay firefighters and police through the end of 2019, based on the current salary ordinance.

The council will need find time to approve a new salary ordinance by the end of the year if police and firefighters are going to get paid in 2020. That will mean fitting it into a schedule packed from now until the end of the year with hearings and deliberations on the updated Unified Development Ordinance. Continue reading “Bloomington’s city council OKs 2020 budget, declines to set pay for police, cites ongoing labor talks”

Photo: Your Art Here gets new, bicycle-themed billboard

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Artist Pealer Bryniarski (left) poses for a photo in front of the bicycle-themed billboard/mural he designed for the Your Art Here project. The installation rotates works through the space on the side of the building on the northeast corner of 6th and Walnut streets. (The previous one was “refugees welcome.”) The bicycle mural was hung by Max Smith (right) on Tuesday afternoon. The new mural installation coincides with the city of Bloomington’s first Fall Family Bike Fest which starts Thursday. It includes events every day, including two free screenings of the film “Motherload.” More details to come from the Beacon about the mural.  (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Monroe County’s council OKs $83.1 million “maintenance budget,” leaves compensation, justice reform for future

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Monroe County Council on budget approval night, Oct. 8, 2019. From left: Cheryl Munson, Trent Deckard, Eric Spoonmore, Shelli Yoder, Kate Wiltz, Geoff McKim, and Marty Hawk. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Monroe County now has what county councilor Geoff McKim on Tuesday night called a “maintenance budget” for 2020, which includes $83.1 million worth of expenditures. That’s about 4.8 percent more than the $79.3 million budgeted last year.

McKim said at Tuesday’s county council meeting that there are two issues not addressed in the 2020 budget, but would need attention in 2021—employee compensation and justice reform issues.

If employee compensation is not competitive in the labor market, the county needs to fund more in compensation, he said. Once the results of an in-progress criminal justice reform study come back, it would be possible to make systematic, prioritized investments for facilities and services alike, McKim said. That could require more investments in everything from mental health to the jail.

The vote on the seven-member council at Tuesday night’s meeting was 6–1, with the lone dissent coming from Marty Hawk. She said she supported almost everything in the budget, but did not support the $3.3 million general obligation (GO) bond.

The GO bond amount had been reduced by a vote of the council the night before, from $5.48 million, to the $3.3 million that appeared on Tuesday night’s proposal. Hawk made a motion Tuesday night to reduce it even more, to $2.6 million, and she had a list of the specific projects she wanted it to fund. The motion died for lack of a second.

The vote on the adoption of the budget is a separate question from the issuance of the bonds. A public hearing on the bond was held Tuesday night, but the vote on issuance was postponed until Oct. 22.

Also put off, until an unspecified time, was the purchase of property northwest of the I-69 and SR-46 interchange. The county is looking to acquire the quarry-hole-dotted land to establish a limestone heritage destination site. Continue reading “Monroe County’s council OKs $83.1 million “maintenance budget,” leaves compensation, justice reform for future”

Monroe County councilor calls on public to give feedback on possible 19-percent Duke Energy rate increase

At Tuesday night’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s council, the seven-member group got a request for an extra $80,500 to pay for utilities at five county buildings. The extra expenditure was needed because of inaccurate estimates of usage, not the planned electric rate increase by Duke Energy.

But the extra appropriation led to a quick discussion of a current proposal by Duke Energy to raise its residential electric rates by around 19 percent.

County councilor Eric Spoonmore told Angie Purdie, administer for the board of commissioners, he was glad she’d mentioned the rate case that’s now going through the regulatory process. He encouraged residents of Monroe County to make their voices heard on the matter.

Based on the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) summary of the Duke Energy proposal, Duke wants to increase annual operating revenues by $395 million, which is an rise of about 15.5 percent—after the proposed two-stage implementation is done, in 2020 and 2021.

How much would more would Duke Energy’s 840,000 customers in 69 Indiana counties pay? According to OUCC, Duke Energy’s request would raise a monthly residential electric bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) from $120.30 to $142.95. That’s 18.8 percent more. Continue reading “Monroe County councilor calls on public to give feedback on possible 19-percent Duke Energy rate increase”

Wisler leads short-handed plan commission in review of Moores Pike PUD, other projects

At Monday’s meeting of the Bloomington plan commission, a planned unit development (PUD) for 2.2 acres of land on Moores Pike, with 80 apartments in one 50-foot, four-story building, was forwarded to the city council with a negative recommendation.

In other business, which did not get final action from the commission, a proposed “mini-warehouse” facility on West 3rd Street across the road from Culver’s Restaurant, was continued to the plan commission’s November meeting.

A mixed use PUD proposed for the northwest corner of E. Longview Avenue and S. Pete Ellis Drive, with 19,000 square feet of commercial space, 264 apartments and a 306-space parking deck, was approved for its second of two required hearings, to be held in front of the plan commission next month.

After the departure of Joe Hoffmann last month, the plan commission’s first order of business at its Monday meeting was to elect a new president. Brad Wisler, as vice president, was an unsurprising choice. But due to the commission’s diminished numbers  it required a unanimous vote—which it got—of the other five commissioners present. Nick Kappas was nominated and approved as vice president by the same 5-0 tally. (Nominees did not participate in those votes.) Continue reading “Wisler leads short-handed plan commission in review of Moores Pike PUD, other projects”

Arguments heard in court on Bloomington’s attempt to take land to replace 4th Street parking garage

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Looking north on Walnut Street at the intersection of 3rd Street on Oct. 6, 2019. The gray building with the purple sign in the left of the frame is the building that Bloomington is trying to acquire through eminent domain action. The partially demolished building to its north is the 4th Street parking garage. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Around two hours worth of arguments and testimony were heard Monday morning at a show cause hearing about Bloomington’s eminent domain action on the property. It’s just south of the now already partially demolished 4th Street parking garage.

Bloomington wants the owner, Juan Carlos Carrasquel, to sell his building so that the footprint of a planned replacement parking garage can extend the full block from 4th Street down to 3rd Street. Drawn out during Monday morning’s testimony was the city’s offer to  Carrasquel of $587,500 for the building. He purchased the building for $500,000 in spring of 2018.

The central legal issue in the case is whether the planned ground-floor retail space in the garage disqualifies it from the public purpose that a taking through eminent domain requires.

No bench ruling was made by judge Holly Harvey when the hearing concluded in Monroe’s circuit court at the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center in downtown Bloomington.

Harvey did set a couple of deadlines. The first one is Oct. 18, for Carrasquel’s attorneys to file a reply to the memo filed last Friday by the city’s legal team. The deadline for the two sides to file a proposed set of findings and an order is Oct. 25.

Those deadlines mean a ruling might not come before Nov. 4, when the city’s plan commission is next scheduled to consider the proposed site plan for the replacement garage. The plan commission’s agenda for Monday, Oct. 7 shows the site plan as continued until Nov. 4. If there’s not a ruling by then, in the city’s favor, consideration of the site plan can be expected to be continued another month.

The site plan, which was initially heard by the city planning commission at its July 8 meeting, includes a six-story structure, with 511 parking spaces and roughly 11,800 square feet of non-garage space on the ground floor. Continue reading “Arguments heard in court on Bloomington’s attempt to take land to replace 4th Street parking garage”

Election board OKs final prep for reduced November elections: “I … recommend that we charge both parties with letting their voters know.”

Carolyn VanddeWiele, a Democrat who chairs Monroe County’s three-member election board, led the group at its meeting last Thursday through its routine final preparations for the Nov. 5 municipal elections.

Part of that prep included some announcements of key dates. Oct. 7 is the last day to register to vote in Bloomington municipal elections. And the first day for early voting is Oct. 21.

Both main items on the agenda reflected the fact that this year’s municipal elections in Bloomington will be held in just two out of the city’s council districts—District 2 and District 3.

One agenda item, approval of the official legal notice, called out District 2 and District 3 as the only districts where elections will be held. That’s because of an election board decision made at its Aug. 1 meeting. The board based its decision on the fact that the city-wide races for mayor, clerk and councilmember at large, are all uncontested—a situation that’s unprecedented in Bloomington—and the races in the other four districts are uncontested. Continue reading “Election board OKs final prep for reduced November elections: “I … recommend that we charge both parties with letting their voters know.””

Bloomington paves way for Little 500 street sprints

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On Saturday afternoon in downtown Bloomington, a blocked-off Kirkwood Avenue offered enough car-free asphalt for the Indiana University Student Foundation to run 54 heats of cyclists down a 200-meter course.

Kaethe Schroeder (SKI) and Robert Strobel (Black Key Bulls)  prevailed in the  finals of the women’s and men’s divisions, respectively. The Street Sprints are part of the fall cycling series tied to the Little 500 bicycle race held in the spring.

The first rounds of the Street Sprints included 24 heats, which winnowed the men and women’s fields from 167 total cyclists down to 32—16 men and 16 women. The remaining rounds were two-up sprints—only the winner advanced.

According to race director Andrea Balzano, this fall marked the ninth year of Street Sprints. For the first two years the event was held on North Jordan Avenue, but since 2013, it’s been held on Kirkwood.

Kirkwood, of course, is an avenue that’s storied not just in song (“Tonight, I’m gonna see my baby again, we’re gonna go walkin’ down Kirkwood, look at us go”) but in Bloomington’s public works budget presentations this year (“Pavement maintenance project for East Kirkwood Avenue…Delayed due to high contracting costs”).

Continue reading “Bloomington paves way for Little 500 street sprints”

Bloomington to buy handheld narcotics analyzer with federal grant money

At its Wednesday regular meeting, Bloomington city council voted to approve an interlocal agreement with Monroe County to spend $33,506 worth of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) money.

The federal funds are awarded to states and localities based on based on violent crime statistics for each state and/or local unit of government.

The agenda item was not controversial, drawing one question from councilmember Allison Chopra, and a comment from councilmember Jim Sims.

Chopra wanted to know if the money was restricted in its use. The answer from Bloomington’s police chief, Mike Diekhoff, was: Yes, the money has to be spent on the items that the department applied for.

This year, the city is spending its 80-percent share of the money ($26,805) to purchase a TruNarc handheld narcotics analyzer. Monroe County is spending its 20-percent share ($6,701) on tire deflation devises for use in vehicle pursuit intervention.
Continue reading “Bloomington to buy handheld narcotics analyzer with federal grant money”