One of the two parking garages currently under construction in downtown Bloomington is close enough to completion that on Tuesday afternoon a dozen city insiders and media types got a tour.
Just north of city hall, the opening of the Trades District garage, with around 380 parking spaces, is on course for late March. But enough of the main elements are in place that it’s already unmistakable as a parking garage.
That contrasts with the replacement facility for the 4th Street deck, which is not due to come online until August of 2021. So it’s still coming out of the ground.
Of the 540 spaces to be constructed in the 4th Street replacement garage, 352 count as replacements for the spaces that were housed in the previous 4th Street structure. It was closed at the end of 2018 due to structural failure, and demolished last year.
Leading Tuesday’s tour were Bloomington’s director for economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley, and Josh Scism, with Core Planning Strategies, the firm that’s managing both parking garage projects.
Scism focused the group’s attention on the structural elements: concrete, cabling, pumps and the like.
Bloomington is applying to the federal government for an 80-20 matching grant that would pay for a $10 million “tech accelerator” to be constructed in the Trades District area of downtown Bloomington.
According to Jennifer Pearl, president of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation, the tech accelerator would “make programming and services available to tech companies in our region, to help them grow and commercialize.”
The physical location in the Trades District would make it a “technology hub,” Pearl said.
Startups and mature tech companies alike would be candidates for using the tech accelerator’s services, Pearl said.
Bloomington’s 20 percent share of the project would be $2 million, drawn from revenue to the city’s consolidated TIF (tax increment finance) district. That’s why the proposal appeared on the Bloomington redevelopment commission’s Monday night agenda. The RDC administers the city’s TIF funds.
At last Wednesday’s regular meeting, Bloomington’s city council accepted a report about tax abatement activity over the last year, from the city’s five-member economic development commission (EDC).
The oldest tax abatement reviewed by the council dates back to 2013. The most recent one was last year.
By accepting the report, without taking further action, councilmembers were acknowledging that the companies are in “substantial compliance” with the commitments they made—related to jobs and affordable housing—that led the city council to grant them a tax abatement.
Councilmembers have requested that city staff provide some followup information, about the dollar amounts of tax abatements.
Last Wednesday, Monroe County commissioners awarded about $21,000 more in grants to pandemic-affected tourism-related businesses outside the city limits of Bloomington. That brings the total amount awarded by the county to $266,442.
The food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC), has recommended that the county can use up to $400,000 of such tax tax proceeds to help businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19.
Bloomington has a corresponding loan program for up to $2 million of food and beverage tax proceeds. Through last Wednesday, the city’s loan numbers looked the same as the week before—$939,600 has been awarded to 34 businesses. All of the submitted applications had been processed as of last Wednesday.
On Thursday, the city of Bloomington used a seven-day out clause in its contract with Ken’s Westside Service and Towing to terminate its contract with the company for public tows. Those are tows that are requested by city police, not private property owners.
The company could still eventually be licensed by the city to do private tows, under the city’s new program regulating companies who do such work.
Termination of the contract for public tows was the city’s response to a self-recorded video of a racist statement posted online by the owner’s son, commenting on the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in late May. In the video, the son says: “That officer did us a favor… Ya’ll can hate me, do whatever…” In the video he’s wearing the company’s uniform shirt—he was an employee.
The officer to which the remark referred was Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who on May 25 pinned Floyd down with a knee-on-neck hold for about nine-minutes, killing him, a scene that was caught on video. It was the event that prompted nationwide protests against police brutality, including the local Enough is Enough march last week and the BLM-sponsored Black Against the Wall Facebook discussion.
Monroe County’s health administrator Penny Caudill said Wednesday that last week’s local health emergency order on COVID-19 would likely be replaced at week’s end with one that allows barbershops and hair salons to re-open and restaurants to offer dine-in service, starting Saturday, May 16. [Updated: May 14, 2020 at 4:35 p.m. The order has been issued.]
The county’s current order is stricter than Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s “Back on Track” plan announced May 1.
The local order—which was also issued on May 1, and maintained the same kind of business closures and stay-at-home directives as the governor’s “Hunker Down, Hoosiers” order had—is set to expire at the end of the day on Friday.
The new local order is expected to be effective through May 31, Caudill said.
Ten Monroe County business owners outside the city limits of Bloomington will be getting an email sometime Wednesday with an agreement for COVID-19 relief grant funds. Once the agreements are signed, the county auditor’s office will be able to cut checks to the businesses.
A bit after 1 p.m. on Friday, under 24 hours after the form was launched, five completed applications had been received for the loans, which have a limit of $50,000 per business. Another five dozen or so applications were in the works, according the Bloomington’s director of public engagement, Mary Catherine Carmichael.
Sanitation worker uses a mechanical arm to empty a Bloomington solid waste cart. Screengrab from city of Bloomington video.
Screengrab of CATS broadcast of March 3, 2020 board of public works meeting showing Adam Wason, director of public works.
Starting in the April billing cycle, Bloomington residents will pay more every month for trash and recycling service. That’s the result of a unanimous vote on the three-member board of public works at its regular meeting on Tuesday.
In round numbers, customers will pay between $3.50 and $23 more a year, depending on the size of the trash cart they use.
The fee increase is due to costs that are charged to the city by Republic Services for processing recycled materials. Those costs have replaced payments the city previously received (“rebates”) for its recycling commodities, according to Bloomington’s director of public works, Adam Wason.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Wason spitballed a possible new way of paving local streets.