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

Jack Hopkins Percent Funded

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”

Bloomington Transit board OKs shift to slightly bigger gear related to COVID-19 reopening

At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night, the five-member Bloomington Transit board approved a two-phase reopening plan for public bus service in the city.

The plan sets June 1 as the date when something closer to a normal summer break schedule will resume.

Public buses in Bloomington have still been running during the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders, but using a modified Saturday schedule every day. That reduces the number of service hours by about half compared to normal levels this time of year.

Schedules are posted on BT’s website. Realtime bus locations, when they are running, are available through the mobile app DoubleMap.

During the first phase of BT’s reopening plan, passengers can continue to ride the bus fare-free and board through the rear door. Through the first phase, drivers will continue to receive time-and-a-half hazard pay. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit board OKs shift to slightly bigger gear related to COVID-19 reopening”

Bloomington Police: Murder suspect arrested

According to a press release issued by Bloomington’s police department, a suspect has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with a stabbing death in the south part of the city.

Low res R Map Locator Map Alpine for CRIME YYYxxxx
The red circle indicates the general neighborhood where the victim’s body was discovered.

The press release notes that criminal charges are just accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Arrested and charged was John F. Bryant, 59, of Bloomington, according to the press release.

The release describes how an investigation began on Saturday, May 16, into a missing person report. The report came from a 20-year-old man who said he had not heard from his mother since the first week of May.
Continue reading “Bloomington Police: Murder suspect arrested”

99-year affordable housing deal to build about 60 new apartments at Bloomington’s Switchyard Park entrance

 

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The April 20, 2020 image was extracted from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s property lookup system.

If all the financing falls into place, a planned five-story building with up to 60 new apartments and 3,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space will start welcoming new residents to the entrance of Bloomington’s Switchyard Park off Walnut Street sometime in the summer of 2022.

Part of the financial puzzle was solved for the developer, RealAmerica Development, LLC, when Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved a $1 purchase agreement for the real estate. The unanimous vote came at the RDC’s regular Monday meeting.

The RDC had bought the property a couple of years ago for $800,000, which was the former location of the Night Moves strip club.

Asked to comment on the disparity between the purchase price and the appraisal the RDC had obtained on the property, city controller Jeff Underwood said it was understood the RDC would not get back the fair market value on the land deal.

The proposal from RealAmerica might not have been the biggest fiscal proposal that the RDC had received through its request for information (RFI), Underwood said. But it had all the other attributes the city was looking for, he said.

What was Bloomington looking for? Affordable housing. For a long time and for a lot of people. Continue reading “99-year affordable housing deal to build about 60 new apartments at Bloomington’s Switchyard Park entrance”

Column: Bloomington’s city council should increase Jack Hopkins social services budget for 2021

The headline to this column could provoke a reflexive response from longtime Bloomington city councilmembers. As a matter of law, they’ll say, it’s not up to them, but rather the mayor to increase the budget for Jack Hopkins social services.
Annotated R Bar Chart History of Jack Hopkins Funding 2020 Apps

From a legal point of view, I think they might be wrong.

But all nine city councilmembers and the mayor are members of the Democratic Party. So even if they’re right on the legal question, partisanship works in their favor.

Without confronting any of the typical partisan barriers that some cities might face, Bloomington’s elected officials could fund more social services.

At least a 10-percent increase in Jack Hopkins social services funding is achievable for the 2021 budget, even assuming no additional revenue.
Continue reading “Column: Bloomington’s city council should increase Jack Hopkins social services budget for 2021”

Monroe County’s new COVID-19 health order on reopening: Will local officials eat their own cooking?

A new COVID-19 health order issued on Thursday by Monroe County’s health officer Thomas Sharp goes into effect starting Saturday, May 16.

In broad strokes, it puts the county in Stage 2 of Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s “Back on Track” plan announced on May 1, with a key difference: Monroe County will stay in Stage 2 an extra week compared to the governor’s plan—that is, through May 31.

One effect of the county’s order is that restaurants can open for dine-in services, at 50 percent capacity. Another effect is that barbers and hairstylists can also open for business. Any business that opens has to follow guidelines in the governor’s order. Continue reading “Monroe County’s new COVID-19 health order on reopening: Will local officials eat their own cooking?”

Bloomington council committee digs into road funding to weigh repaving of College Mall Road against other transportation goals

A Wednesday meeting of the Bloomington city council’s four-member transportation committee has set up the full council for a possible animated discussion next week.

On the council’s May 20 agenda will be an item related to funding for the repaving of College Mall Road between 3rd Street and Moores Pike.

The agenda item is a hearing on an appropriation ordinance that includes the College Mall repaving. The appropriation also includes some fund transfers that are needed for a couple other transportation projects.

The other projects involve intersection improvements at Sare Road and Moores Pike, and a multi-use path to be built on the west side of Sare Road south of that intersection.

The May 20 meeting could also include a final vote on the appropriation ordinance, which got a first reading on May 6.

On Wednesday, the committee gave the appropriation a mixed reaction. Continue reading “Bloomington council committee digs into road funding to weigh repaving of College Mall Road against other transportation goals”