Bloomington utilities to study pace of water main replacement: Is 2.5 miles of pipe a year enough?

On Tuesday night, Bloomington’s utilities director Vic Kelson presented the city council with a proposed $1.7 million for water main replacement as part of the department’s 2020 budget.  He described how that would pay to replace roughly 2.5 miles of pipe.

During the time for councilmember questions, Isabel Piedmont-Smith responded to the 2.5-mile figure by saying, “That does sound like very little.” Piedmont-Smith’s assessment was based on the roughly 420 miles of pipe in the system, and the frequency of recent high profile water main breaks.

At a press briefing on the Friday before the week of budget hearings, Mayor John Hamilton said the pace of water main replacement was not fast enough, because pipes don’t last as long as it will take to replace them all—if the current pace of replacement is maintained. About the 2.5 miles per year that has been budgeted for the last few years, Hamilton said, “That’s way better than it was five years ago, but is not good enough.”

At Tuesday’s city council session, utilities director Vic Kelson put the possibility of increasing the pace of water main replacement in the context of a possible rate increase. The current residential rate for City of Bloomington Utilities (CBU) is $3.73 per 1,000 gallons with a monthly $5.89 charge for a 5/8-inch meter. Any proposal for an increase in water rates has to be presented to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Bloomington’s rate case to the IURC is planned for 2020.

Kelson said as a part of the rate case, CBU would be evaluating whether the 2.5 miles of pipe a year is aggressive enough. Continue reading “Bloomington utilities to study pace of water main replacement: Is 2.5 miles of pipe a year enough?”

Budget 2020: Bloomington fire chief points to improvements in fire call and response time stats, says situation now too fluid to put timeline on new stations

The 10-year capital plan for Bloomington’s fire department includes two additional fire stations—one in the southwest and one in the southeast part of town. It also includes the replacement of two existing stations, and a relocation of the station that serves the Indiana University campus.

Those five stations together have an estimated cost of $28 million, and the three additional fire engines they’ll house will add another $1.8 million.

But those costs aren’t pegged to any particular year in the 10-year plan. So they’re not a part of the proposed $13.25 million budget for 2020, which Bloomington’s fire chief, Jason Moore, presented to the city council on Tuesday night.

Responding to a councilmember question about the timeframe for building new stations,  Moore said, “To start making decisions when everything is so fluid, I feel would be rushed and ill-advised. So we will be making recommendations when it’s appropriate and when the entire big picture of public safety can be really painted crystal clear for everyone.”

Moore also told the council that additional improvements in response times would likely depend on adding staff and stations. Continue reading “Budget 2020: Bloomington fire chief points to improvements in fire call and response time stats, says situation now too fluid to put timeline on new stations”

City council mulls future local funding for Bloomington Transit investments, as 2020 budget relies on feds for electric buses, shared-ride microtransit

Possible federal grants are a key part of the Bloomington Transit 2020 budget presented to the city council on Tuesday by the public transit agency’s general manager, Lew May. Councilmembers appeared receptive to the planned $4 million in capital expenditures to acquire four more alternative-fuel buses.

BT is also applying for a federal grant to fund a shared-ride microtransit pilot program to take up the slack on certain routes after fixed-route service ends for the day.

Council president Dave Rollo suggested looking beyond traditional federal funding sources. Among the local funding sources he suggested were tax increment finance funds and local income taxes.

A budget increase of $87,000 to cover an outside contract to add a security officer at BT’s downtown transit station drew scrutiny from councilmembers.

As it did on Monday, which was the first day of a week’s worth of departmental budget hearings, climate change drove a lot of the council’s commentary. Councilmembers wanted BT to consider adding solar panels to a new roof for the BT facility on Grimes Lane, which is currently budgeted for $363,250.

Before the unanimous straw vote was taken by councilmembers in support of the proposed budget, Dave Rollo said, “We are running out of time. And we need to direct capital to Bloomington Transit, if we’re going to be serious about climate—it’s got to be part of the strategy.”

The council’s vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Oct. 10 after getting a first reading on Sept. 25.

Continue reading “City council mulls future local funding for Bloomington Transit investments, as 2020 budget relies on feds for electric buses, shared-ride microtransit”

Climate change, looming recession highlight city council response to mayor’s budget speech

Reactions from some Bloomington councilmembers to the administration’s proposed 2020 budget on Monday included two major questions: whether the budget does enough to address climate change; and whether Bloomington is ready for a looming recession. Continue reading “Climate change, looming recession highlight city council response to mayor’s budget speech”

Monday’s budget presentations: Ethernet for ITS, salary increase for city council

Monday night kicks off a four-day week of budget presentations in front of Bloomington’s city council. After Mayor John Hamilton’s address scheduled for 6 p.m., the council will hear from Human Resources, City Clerk, Legal, Information and Technology Services, City Council, Controller, and the Office of the Mayor.

R Out Salary Data Bloomington

A couple of highlights include: $350,000 for the replacement of wired Ethernet network; and a proposed 13.5-percent increase for city councilmember salaries, from $16,127 to $18,307.

The proposed 2020 budget of $98.6 million is 36 percent bigger than the last budget approved for Hamilton’s predecessor, in 2016. Of the four basic categories in the budget—personnel, supplies, other services, and capital outlays—the biggest difference between the proposed 2020 budget and the one adopted in 2016 is in capital outlays. The $8.6 million for 2020 is almost three and a half times the $2.5 million in 2016.

For most departments presenting on Monday night, capital outlays are not a big factor. For ITS, however, the 2020 proposal reflects one of the larger capital outlays in the budget: $350,000 for the replacement of wired ethernet network hardware and wireless Wi-Fi network hardware. It’s the same amount budgeted for a Kirkwood Avenue street project.  (The Planning and Transportation Department presents its proposal on Thursday. Jump to a table with 2020 capital outlays, sorted by cost.)

Three departments worth of elected officials will be presenting on Monday—city clerk, mayor, and city council. Such departments are not typically associated with intensive capital outlays. But because the city council directly oversees a fund for sidewalk and traffic calming projects, there’s $324,000 worth of capital outlays in the city council’s 2020 budget associated with that fund.

The city council’s 2020 budget proposal is different from that of the other two elected officials in another way. Instead of the basic 2 percent increase in compensation for non-union employees that underlies the overall budget, the request from the city council is for a 13.5-percent increase.  Continue reading “Monday’s budget presentations: Ethernet for ITS, salary increase for city council”

$98.6 million proposed for Bloomington’s 2020 budget, includes 12 new positions

Bloomington’s city council isn’t scheduled to take a final vote on the adoption of Mayor John Hamilton’s proposed 2020 budget until Oct. 10. Single Bar Barchart of City Budget

But next Monday, Hamilton will appear at 6 p.m. in front of the council to deliver a speech that presents the $98.6 million proposal.

In their four-day schedule of departmental hearings starting after Hamilton’s speech, the city council is expected to take straw votes on each department’s proposal. That will give Hamilton’s administration a chance to make some final tweaks before the budget is given a first reading in front of the council on Sept. 25.

The $98.6 million covers all of the city’s 15 departments except for three—City of Bloomington Utilities ($44 million), Bloomington Transit ($14 million), and Bloomington Housing Commission ($13 million). The 15-department total adds up to around $170 million.

The proposed core budget of $98.6 million for 2020 is the fourth annual budget that Hamilton has presented since he was elected in November 2015. It continues the trend of his first three proposed budgets—year-to-year increases averaging about 8 percent. This year’s $98.6 million budget is more than one-third (36 percent) bigger than the last one approved for his predecessor, Mark Kruzan, in 2016.

Of the four basic categories in the budget—personnel, supplies, other services, and capital outlays—the biggest difference between the proposed 2020 budget and the one adopted in 2016 is in capital outlays. The $8.6 million for capital outlays in 2020 is almost three and a half times the $2.5 million in 2016.

Last year, on the occasion of the budget presentation, Hamilton spoke for a half hour.

Based on a press briefing last Friday, one topic he’s likely to address this year, beyond the nuts and bolts of the proposed budget, is climate change and how it affects budgeting. Climate change “is going to be part of our planning forever,” Hamilton said.

After the jump, this piece will tick through: some nuts and bolts of the proposed 2020 budget; the budget process up to now; the week’s four-day city council schedule starting with Monday’s mayoral address. Continue reading “$98.6 million proposed for Bloomington’s 2020 budget, includes 12 new positions”

Up to 44 more parking spaces now possible on Dunn Street

Residents won’t see the changes immediately, but Bloomington’s city council voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve an ordinance revision to allow for more parking on Dunn Street.

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Dunn Street at 10th looking south. Aug. 12, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The ordinance change allows the street to be reduced  to one travel lane.

The legislation approved by the council on Wednesday also revised a neighborhood permit parking zone boundary for residents who live on 17th Street.

The south side of 17th Street was added to the newly established neighborhood parking permit Zone 6, in the Garden Hill neighborhood, west of the Indiana University football stadium. Continue reading “Up to 44 more parking spaces now possible on Dunn Street”

City Council preview Aug. 14, 2019: One travel lane for Dunn Street mulled, based on traffic study

After postponing the question at its Aug. 7 meeting, Bloomington’s city council will take up the issue on Wednesday (Aug. 14) of adding parking to Dunn Street, between 6th and 10th Streets. The proposal is to reduce the two-lane, one-way street to a single travel lane.

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Dunn Street at 10th looking south. Aug. 12, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The Dunn Street parking proposal is part of some legislation that also revises a neighborhood permit parking zone boundary for residents who live on 17th Street. What’s proposed is to add the south side of 17th Street to the newly established neighborhood parking permit Zone 6, in the Garden Hill neighborhood, west of the Indiana University football stadium.

The legislation revising the parking ordinance is a second reading, so action by the council would be the final vote.

The council’s Wednesday agenda also features a first-reading item—an appropriation ordinance to supplement Bloomington Transit’s 2019 budget. The local public transit agency recently received federal grant awards that will allow it to purchase $1,128,000 worth of new buses—one battery-electric bus for fixed route service and two buses for para-transit service. The grants cover $902,401 of the cost.

Next week on Tuesday, the council will hear Bloomington Transit’s 2020 budget proposal, as part of a four-day Monday-through-Thursday series of presentations from all city departments about their proposed budgets for the next year.

In 2020, Bloomington Transit will be budgeting for an additional four battery-electric buses at a cost of $1 million apiece—contingent on winning the kind of grants that are funding 80 percent of the cost of the electric bus in Wednesday’s appropriation ordinance.

Continue reading “City Council preview Aug. 14, 2019: One travel lane for Dunn Street mulled, based on traffic study”

City Council’s rules committee makes council personnel a top priority

At the first substantive meeting of the Bloomington city council’s rules committee on Friday, a few priorities were identified for future work.

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The notice that was posted for the meeting of the council’s rules committee on Friday, Aug. 5, 2019. A week earlier, an attempted meeting of the committee was abandoned when questions arose over adequate notice under Indiana’s Open Door law. 

The four top priorities are: the council’s personnel; meeting procedures, including time limits; a council policy manual; and a clean-up of city code on boards and commissions.

Those items were identified by the four-member committee, which now consists of Steve Volan, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Jim Sims and Dorothy Granger. Granger is the council’s vice president. She was added to the committee by the council’s president, Dave Rollo, in the week since the rules committee’s first attempted meeting.

Personnel was elevated to top priority for the committee’s next meeting, because council administrator/attorney Dan Sherman is hiring a deputy administrator/attorney to fill a recent vacancy. And Sherman is planning to retire sometime in the next several months.

Councilmembers at Friday’s committee meeting were keen to have some input on the hire of Sherman’s deputy. They also said they wanted Sherman to be the one who makes the decision. Continue reading “City Council’s rules committee makes council personnel a top priority”

City Council OKs looser parking commission requirements, but still not Dunn with parking

Bloomington’s city council voted Wednesday night to relax some membership requirements of the parking commission, a move meant to make it more likely the commission has a full complement of nine members.

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Looking south on Dunn Street where one of the “no parking signs” would be removed, if a proposed change to the parking ordinance is approved. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

But the council postponed a couple of changes to the city’s parking code until its Aug. 14 meeting. The changes are bundled into the same legislation, so both changes were postponed, even though the council appeared ready to support one of them.

Councilmembers were in agreement on a change that added the south side of 17th Street between Walnut and Dunn to the newly established neighborhood parking permit Zone 6, in the Garden Hill neighborhood, west of the Indiana University football stadium.

But they hesitated to approve a change that would allow for parking on Dunn Street, between 6th Street and 10th Street. Continue reading “City Council OKs looser parking commission requirements, but still not Dunn with parking”