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?”

Show cause hearing date set in Bloomington eminent domain case: Sept. 12

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Shown is an aerial view of the 4th Street parking structure looking east.  From the Monroe County GIS system’s Pictometry tool, vintage 2017.

Sept. 12 is the date now set for the show cause hearing in Bloomington’s current eminent domain litigation. The case involves the City of Bloomington’s attempt to take the 222 Hats building at the south end of the block, so it can add the land to the footprint of a replacement parking structure.

The re-scheduled hearing will take place in front of Judge Holly Harvey at 10 a.m. on Sept. 12 in the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center at 301 N. College Avenue. The order issued by Harvey sets a half hour as the timeframe. The parties are ordered to appear in court “…allowing 30 minutes, to show cause, if any, they have why the property sought to be acquired in the Complaint should not be acquired.”

Legal skirmishing led to cancellation of a show cause hearing initially scheduled for July 22.

The replacement parking structure site plan that has been developed by the City of Bloomington is for a six-story garage with 510 parking spaces and roughly 11,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.
Continue reading “Show cause hearing date set in Bloomington eminent domain case: Sept. 12”

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”

Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations

Vendors who moved to a different location during the recent two-week suspension of Bloomington’s farmers market had to get a $50 temporary permit from the county health department.

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Susan Welsand, the Chile Woman, was exuberant on Saturday Aug. 3, 2019 at the alternate location for farmers market vendors behind the east-side Bloomingfoods in the former Kmart parking lot.  (Dave Askins/Beacon)

That was the news from Penny Caudill, the county’s health administrator, as delivered to Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

Permits from the health department for vending at a farmers market are issued to individual vendors not the market as a general site, Caudill told The Beacon.

Caudill said her department had reviewed whether it would be possible to waive the fee for the temporary event permits, which her department issued to the displaced vendors. It wasn’t possible, she said. Continue reading “Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations”

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 of Bloomington: Farmers market to reopen at usual time, place this Saturday

After announcing on July 29 that Bloomington’s farmers market would be suspended for the following two Saturdays, Mayor John Hamilton issued a press release on Tuesday Aug. 13 that announced the resumption of the farmers market.

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The view northwest towards the City of Bloomington’s farmers market venue from the Morton Street parking garage. In the foreground is part of the 2013 sculpture “Illuminated Fruit” by  Andrew Huddleston and Amy Brier (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The farmers market will re-open on Saturday, August 17 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Showers Common, the usual time and place.

The general background for the temporary market closure was described this way in the City’s initial press release: “Since the recent public discussion of ties between a vendor at the market and white nationalist causes and groups, the City has identified increasing threats to public safety.”

The press release also hinted at more concrete reasons: “…[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.”

Tuesday’s release describes several measures meant to improve security and make people feel safe:

  • Cameras to monitor the site
  • Two public streets will be closed to traffic during market hours. The idea is  to create a larger “comfort zone” for the market crowd. (Morton Street from 7th Street to just south of the Smallwood garage entrance, and 7th Street between Morton and the B-Line Trail; 8th Street will be closed west of the market to the entrance of the Cook Medical Center).
  • Police presence will be increased.
  • New “market ambassadors” will welcome market visitors.
  • New signage will indicate areas designated for flyering and publicize the market’s rules.

The press release says people who want to become “market ambassadors” should contact the city. Continue reading “City of Bloomington: Farmers market to reopen at usual time, place this Saturday”