4th Street parking garage may be off plan commission agenda for 3 months

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The JuanSells.com building at 222 S. Walnut next to the empty lot where the 4th Street parking garage stood, as it appeared on Dec. 2, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Every month starting in August, Bloomington’s plan commission followed a pattern. The commission continued to the following month’s meeting one of its agenda items—the city’s proposed site plan for a replacement garage at Fourth and Walnut streets.

Demolition of the old structure, with its 352 parking spaces, started in September and is now complete.

Sometimes the continuances were done administratively. But in November, commissioners took a unanimous vote on the continuance.

On Monday, at December’s regular meeting, the pattern was interrupted. The city withdrew the petition. Continue reading “4th Street parking garage may be off plan commission agenda for 3 months”

Ruff runs for 9th District Congressional seat, wraps up 20 years on Bloomington city council

In a press release sent Monday morning, Bloomington city councilmember Andy Ruff, a Democrat, announced he’s running for the 9th District U.S. Representative seat currently held by Republican Trey Hollingsworth. Continue reading “Ruff runs for 9th District Congressional seat, wraps up 20 years on Bloomington city council”

Convention center expansion deal between Bloomington and Monroe County looks possible by year’s end

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City councilmember Steve Volan (center), is flanked by deputy mayor Mick Renneisen and county commissioner Julie Thomas at Friday’s meeting about the convention center expansion. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Last Friday, city and county officials met for two hours about the convention center expansion. It was the latest in of a flurry of recent efforts to bridge longstanding disagreements on governance of the project. What entity will have control, direction and eventual ownership of the project—a capital improvement board or a 501(c)(3) non-profit? Continue reading “Convention center expansion deal between Bloomington and Monroe County looks possible by year’s end”

Decision on Bloomington farmers market future to be made in January: “The First Amendment has not changed since July.”

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City council chambers were packed on Saturday afternoon for a panel discussion on the future of Bloomington’s farmers market. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

A decision about if and how Bloomington’s farmers market will operate next year won’t come until Jan. 9. That announcement was made by Mary Catherine Carmichael, director of public engagement for the city of Bloomington, to a crowd that packed city council chambers on Saturday afternoon. Continue reading “Decision on Bloomington farmers market future to be made in January: “The First Amendment has not changed since July.””

UDO Update: Last proposed amendments to updated zoning include increased height for R4, timeline for payment-in-lieu procedures

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Illustration of building forms for the new R4 (residential urban) zoning district in the update of Bloomington’s unified development ordinance.

This Tuesday’s special session of Bloomington’s city council could wrap up the last of 69 numbered amendments to be considered to the update of the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO).

The council started considering UDO amendments in mid-November, during special sessions dedicated just to such amendments. Continue reading “UDO Update: Last proposed amendments to updated zoning include increased height for R4, timeline for payment-in-lieu procedures”

Union head on police contract OK’d by city council: “I would be remiss if I told you the members were happy about it.”

Bloomington police officers now have a contract with the city for the next three years, through the end of 2020. The four-year deal, approved by the city council on Wednesday night, stretches back to the beginning of 2019, when the current contract expired.

Officers have been working this year under an “evergreen” clause of the old contract.

The 2-percent raise for this year was not applied retroactively, though it feeds into the schedule of raises each year for the next three years, which range from 2.65 to 2.9 percent.

Instead of applying the raise retroactively, which according to city staff would have been administratively too complex, officers received a $1,000 bonus. The bonus is about $60 less than 2 percent of the base salary for an officer, which was $52,916 in 2018.

Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88, told the city council that the main point of contention—about which the union members were not happy—was a move away from seniority as the sole factor in determining shift assignments.

The council approved the contract and the salary ordinance as separate items. The votes were unanimous. Continue reading “Union head on police contract OK’d by city council: “I would be remiss if I told you the members were happy about it.””

Monroe County commissioners want convention center deal done sooner than end of year, Bloomington city council OKs revised food and beverage tax request

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Monroe County commissioners at their Dec. 4, 2019 meeting. From left: Lee Jones, Julie Thomas, Penny Githens. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Some increased pressure on Monroe County’s board of commissioners and Bloomington’s mayor generated some activity on Wednesday, if not progress, on the question of the stalled convention center expansion project.

In a week, it likely will be easier to tell how much of the activity counts as progress.

Late last week, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, and county elected officials started an extra push for a speedier resolution to the disagreements between the city and the county that have stalled the project since late May.

Part of Hamilton’s push included relenting on the question of equal representation for governance of the expansion project. Hamilton committed in writing to equal appointments by the city and county.

Hamilton’s effort can be analyzed as at least two-pronged.

Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners want convention center deal done sooner than end of year, Bloomington city council OKs revised food and beverage tax request”

Vote postponed on Bloomington request for food and beverage tax money, opens week-long window for possible progress on convention center expansion

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Monroe County attorney Margie Rice (left) reads aloud from some city council meeting minutes as Bloomington’s corporation counsel Philippa Guthrie looks on at the Tuesday afternoon meeting of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FBTAC).

[Note: The timeline at the end of this piece has been updated to include links to documents released at the Wednesday, Dec. 4 meeting of the Monroe County board of commissioners.]

On Tuesday afternoon, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FBTAC) voted to postpone for a week Bloomington’s request for an additional $2.35 million of tax money to go with the $4 million that FBTAC approved in January of this year.

Food and beverage tax money, collected since early 2018, is required to be spent on an expanded convention center and related tourism.

Between now and the next meeting of the FBTAC on Dec. 10, it looks like county and city elected officials will either clear a path forward for the convention center expansion project or likely face at least the possibility that it won’t be built in the foreseeable future. Continue reading “Vote postponed on Bloomington request for food and beverage tax money, opens week-long window for possible progress on convention center expansion”

Opinion: Hey, Bloomington city council, got time for better bus routes?

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On Monday morning, two Bloomington Transit buses head out from the downtown transit center north on Walnut Street. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

In January 2020, the next edition of Bloomington’s common council will take office.

The first law passed by the new nine-member local legislature should be called the “Last Call Public Transit Time Ordinance.”

The new law would require that city council meetings end before the last public bus of the day leaves the general area of downtown and city hall, where city council meetings are held.

It would help ensure that people who rely on public transportation can attend city council meetings and stay until the end. It would also encourage councilmembers maintain some basic knowledge about Bloomington Transit bus schedules.

But here’s the most important consequence of the law: For councilmembers who think longer meetings are essential to doing the People’s business, the law creates an incentive to find the money to run buses later.

That’s important, given a proposed new route configuration from Bloomington Transit that would reduce evening service on half of its routes, even while maintaining the same total number of service hours.

BT has conducted a month’s worth of public sessions to introduce the new proposal. The final meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 3 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Downtown Transit Center. The BT board isn’t expected to make a decision until early next year. [Take the BT survey on the new route proposal here: Survey Link] Continue reading “Opinion: Hey, Bloomington city council, got time for better bus routes?”