Monroe County synched up with governor’s order except: Mass gatherings still limited to 50

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Screen grab from May 29, 2020 press conference of local Bloomington and Monroe County officials. 

The latest COVID-19-related order from Monroe County’s health officer, Thomas Sharp, issued on Thursday and effective starting Saturday, matches the requirements for Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s current order, except for one.

The one exception: In Monroe County, mass gatherings are still limited to 50 people Under the governor’s order, mass gatherings can go up to 100.

Monroe County’s order lasts through June 15.

At Friday afternoon’s press conference, Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill, described the local order as “carving out” the one difference on mass gatherings.

When Holcomb issued his first “Back on Track” order, Monroe County’s local order maintained all the precautions up to then for another couple of weeks. Local orders can be stricter, but not more lenient than the governor’s order. Continue reading “Monroe County synched up with governor’s order except: Mass gatherings still limited to 50”

Beacon Benchmark: A more resilient funding model for local journalism—what do you say?

Over the last two months, revenue for the B Square Beacon is up about 20 percent. The number of “paid subscribers” is up by the same amount.

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At last count, 108 patrons have pledged a total of $856 a month to support The Square Beacon.

It’s a solid number. But it won’t sustain one reporter, let alone the full newsroom of journalists that I think this community deserves.

Still, any upward trend is counter to the sharp revenue drop that traditional news outlets have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That makes me believe a full local newsroom could be supported with the voluntary subscription model used by The Square Beacon.

Compared to traditional news outlets, it’s a model that relies on more rank-and-file  community members to provide smaller contributions.

I think that approach will be more resilient in times of economic crisis than one that relies on fewer, but much larger contributions. Continue reading “Beacon Benchmark: A more resilient funding model for local journalism—what do you say?”

If you still have your ballot, please hand-deliver, says Monroe County election official

 

On Wednesday, Monroe County election board member Carolyn VandeWiel passed along a kind of public service announcement to The Square Beacon:

If you still have your absentee ballot, don’t drop it in the mail.

Please hand-deliver it to Election Central.

Election Central is at the corner of 7th and Madison Streets in downtown Bloomington. Continue reading “If you still have your ballot, please hand-deliver, says Monroe County election official”

Bloomington city council votes to offer staff job to current deputy without a search

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City clerk Nicole Bolden, deputy administrator/attorney Stephen Lucas, and administrator/attorney Dan Sherman confer during a procedural debate by the city council in November last year. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Wednesday, Bloomington city councilmembers voted 9-0 to make an offer to Stephen Lucas to assume the role of council attorney/administrator on Aug. 1.

That’s the day after Dan Sherman retires from the job, after around 30 years of service. Lucas is Sherman’s current deputy.

Council president Steve Volan and and vice president Jim Sims were tapped by their council colleagues to sort out the details with Lucas, assuming he accepts the offer. When asked by councilmembers, Lucas had indicated his interest in the upcoming open position. Continue reading “Bloomington city council votes to offer staff job to current deputy without a search”

Food and beverage tax revenues start to show COVID-19 impact

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The impact of Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s initial stay-at-home order, which was effective starting March 25, is starting to show up in food and beverage tax revenue reports for Monroe County.

In the April report delivered to food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) members at their regular meeting on Tuesday, revenues from the 1-percent tax were $204,681.

That’s down about 30 percent from the $291,297 reported for April in 2019.

An April report of food and beverage tax revenues will reflect collections made in March, based on discussion as the meeting. Continue reading “Food and beverage tax revenues start to show COVID-19 impact”

Column | On voting: Wear a mask for civic task

In-person early voting in Monroe County starts at 8 a.m. Tuesday at Election Central in downtown Bloomington.

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“When you do a civic task, like vote in person, wear a mask.”

The week of early in-person voting, leading up to election day on June 2, will take place in the middle of a declared health emergency. It was enacted to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Here’s a word of encouragement to those who want to perform their civic duty of voting in person: Please wear a face covering.

Put on a mask.

As of Sunday, Monroe County has seen 160 confirmed cases and 10 deaths due to COVID-19. Statewide, about 32,000 cases are confirmed and 1,800 people have died from the disease. Continue reading “Column | On voting: Wear a mask for civic task”

Committee set to award $319K to 24 social services nonprofits, formal hearing on May 28

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At its meeting last Thursday, Bloomington’s Jack Hopkins social services funding committee settled on a total of $318,795 in funding for requests from 24 different nonprofits.

The formal hearing and announcement of the grant awards is scheduled for May 28. Continue reading “Committee set to award $319K to 24 social services nonprofits, formal hearing on May 28”

Monroe County June 2 primary election update: 18K absentee ballots sent so far; early in-person voting starts Tuesday

According to Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler, 17,997 absentee ballots had been sent out to voters as of Friday and 6,517 of them received by her office.

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Monroe County’s Election Central at the corner of 7th and Madison streets in downtown Bloomington on May 23, 2020 (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

When The Square Beacon touched base with Wheeler on Saturday morning, she said about 5,000 more ballots still need to be sent out. That will make about 23,000 total absentee ballots for this year’s primary election. Election day is June 2.

A lot of voters waited until close to the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot. The deadline for turning in ballot applications was Thursday, May 21. The voted ballots themselves have to reach the clerk’s office by noon on primary election day, June 2. Voters who receive their ballots later next week, and are concerned that their mailed ballot might not arrive in time, can turn in their ballots in person at Election Central.

The roughly 1,300 ballots that have been processed every day for the last week is about twice the number Wheeler had previously described as the office’s maximum daily capacity. She said previously she’d be looking to recruit county employees who had been ordered to stay home from work during the COVID-19 health emergency.

On Saturday, she said about 20 people were working inside the Election Central building at 7th and  Madison streets. They’ll need to work Sunday, Monday, and probably Tuesday, too, Wheeler figured.

“It’s been intense,” Wheeler said. Continue reading “Monroe County June 2 primary election update: 18K absentee ballots sent so far; early in-person voting starts Tuesday”

Bloomington city hall opens in limited way on Tuesday, mask wearing promoted by #WearItBtown

Bloomington’s city hall, closed to the public since the third week of March, will re-open in a limited way next Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day.

The city’s mayor, John Hamilton, gave a reminder about the limited re-opening at Friday afternoon’s weekly press conference. Local leaders give updates on COVID-19 issues every Friday at 1:15 p.m. through an event live-streamed on the city’s Facebook page.

Hamilton stressed that the city is still encouraging residents who need to do business with the city to take advantage of services by phone or the city’s website, if possible.

Among the new protocols at city hall is a requirement that visitors wear a face covering. For people who don’t have one, a free mask will be provided. Continue reading “Bloomington city hall opens in limited way on Tuesday, mask wearing promoted by #WearItBtown”

Bloomington city council votes to repave College Mall Road on split vote

At its regular meeting Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council voted to approve an appropriation ordinance that includes, among other things, a reclassification of funds to pay for a repaving of College Mall Road.

The project, which extends between 3rd Street and Moores Pike, is planned for later this summer.

The vote, which was split 6–3 on the nine-member council, came as the clock ticked towards 10:30 p.m., about four hours after the meeting started.

Dissenting on the vote were councilmembers Steve Volan, Matt Flaherty, and Kate Rosenbarger.

The meeting was fraught with procedural wrangling that could be traced to lingering discord from the beginning of the year over the establishment of four-member standing committees of the council.

In the end, the council’s action on Wednesday provided funding for two street projects, which are supposed to start this summer. One is a repaving project—College Mall Road, southward from 3rd Street to Moores Pike.

The other project includes improvements to the intersection at Sare Road and Moores Pike and construction of a multi-use path south of there. Continue reading “Bloomington city council votes to repave College Mall Road on split vote”