Monroe County election board prepping for in-person polling numbers based on regular rules for absentee voters

The reduced number of polling sites that Monroe County used for the June 2 primary is not a part of current planning for November voting. That’s the latest word from the county election board’s meeting last Thursday.

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For the general election, the county election board is looking to use all its regular sites and maybe more, not just the seven it selected for the primary from the 34 that it typically uses.

That’s because it was only for the primary election that no-excuse absentee voting was approved by the state’s election commission this spring—during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A larger number of absentee voters means fewer people at the polls on election day.

No-excuse absentee voting is unlikely to be enacted for this year’s general election, based on Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s remarks at his press conference last Wednesday.

Holcomb is not inclined to allow mail-in balloting, except for the limited exceptions that are already listed out in the state’s election law. Continue reading “Monroe County election board prepping for in-person polling numbers based on regular rules for absentee voters”

Parklets add to outside dining options in downtown Bloomington

 

At least through Sept. 30, patrons of some restaurants in downtown Bloomington will be able to feed themselves at tables set up the street, in spaces where drivers normally feed a meter to park their cars.

Called “parklets,” they’re one of a few different approaches the city is taking to help restaurants recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s current 4.5 order leaves in place a restriction on restaurants preventing them from operating at any greater than 75-percent capacity.

The parklets launched this week with a couple of blocked-off areas on the west side of College Avenue on the courthouse square. The concept won approval from the Bloomington board of public works at its Aug. 4 meeting. Continue reading “Parklets add to outside dining options in downtown Bloomington”

Bloomington RDC OKs payment of property taxes connected to real estate deal for convention center expansion

On Monday night, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved the payment of some property taxes, on land it does not (yet) own.

The uncommon circumstance arose from the fact that when the RDC purchased the Bunger & Robertson property on College Avenue last year for $4,995,000, the deal did not include two parcels making up the north part of the parking lot that serves the building.

That portion of the parking lot has different owners. Based on a count using aerial images from the Monroe County GIS database, the two parcels include around 45 parking spaces.

The RDC is still looking to buy the parking lot parcels, so they can be used for the Monroe County convention center expansion project. That’s why the RDC bought the Bunger & Roberston real estate.

The convention center expansion is currently paused due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, the RDC is leasing the two parking lot parcels from the owners. The deal approved by the RDC in May includes a contractual agreement that the RDC pay $3,500 a month, for an annual total of $42,000.

But the contract also includes a requirement that the RDC pay the property taxes on the parcels.

It was payment of the property taxes that the RDC approved at its regular Monday night meeting. Continue reading “Bloomington RDC OKs payment of property taxes connected to real estate deal for convention center expansion”

Bloomington hopes to put $2M of local money into $10M “tech accelerator” if feds will make up the difference

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A view from the west of Bloomington’s Trades District. The April 2020 image is from the Monroe County online GIS system.

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.

The RDC did not approve any expenditures of funds on Monday. They just gave a green light for the grant application to be made. Continue reading “Bloomington hopes to put $2M of local money into $10M “tech accelerator” if feds will make up the difference”

Bloomington public bus driver tests positive for COVID-19, BT still on course for closer-to-normal service on Aug. 24

In a press release issued late Monday afternoon, the city announced that a Bloomington Transit (BT) bus driver has tested positive for COVID-19.

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The caution tape separating drivers from passengers on Bloomington Transit buses will soon be replaced with plexiglass shields.

That’s the second BT employee who has tested positive for the pandemic disease. The first was a maintenance worker. Nine other city employees have also tested positive.

According to Monday’s release, the driver started having symptoms on Wednesday, July 29 and received the positive result on Saturday, Aug. 1. For Saturday, Monroe County’s total COVID-19 confirmed positive case count was 10.

The seven-day average daily case count in Monroe County has started to drop—it’s now around around 13, compared to 20 for the last week of July. The number of cases reported for Sunday was just 2, the lowest number since July 6, almost a month ago.

In July, the BT board approved a plan to resume certain aspects of normal service starting Aug. 24. Continue reading “Bloomington public bus driver tests positive for COVID-19, BT still on course for closer-to-normal service on Aug. 24”

Bloomington’s city council asks for dollar amounts on active tax abatements, accepts report saying all are in “substantial compliance”

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Image links to dynamic version of the map, with clickable dots that reveal links to the resolutions on the tax abatements approved by the Bloomington city council, including vote tallies.

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.

And the city council will likely soon be asked to approve revisions to the  guidelines on tax abatement compliance. The point of the revisions is to ensure that affordable housing projects don’t get analyzed as non-compliant due to a failure to create or retain the jobs they indicated in their applications. Continue reading “Bloomington’s city council asks for dollar amounts on active tax abatements, accepts report saying all are in “substantial compliance””

$130K awarded to community non-profits by Monroe County through annual grant program

SophiaTravisBarChart 2020Community service grants to 33 organizations totaling $130,000 were announced and approved by Monroe County’s council at its work session Tuesday evening.

The awards were made after deliberations at earlier public meetings by the Sophia Travis community service grants committee, which includes two citizen members.

The grant program was renamed six years ago in honor of Sophia Travis, who served on the county council from 2004 to 2008. She worked as a councilor to “assure the applications for the limited funds available for support would be considered in a fair, even-handed and transparent process,” according to the renaming resolution. Continue reading “$130K awarded to community non-profits by Monroe County through annual grant program”

Start for MCSCC students delayed until Aug. 12, online-only at first

On Tuesday night, the board of the Monroe County Community School Corporation voted unanimously  to accept revisions to the district’s re-opening plan proposed by superintendent Judith DeMuth.

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Screenshot of the MCCSC board meeting of July 28, 2020

A resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country, state and local region, has led to concerns about the safety of students, teachers and staff.

Highlights of the revisions include a delay to the start for students until Aug. 12.

At that point, instruction will be online-only—at least to start. A re-evaluation of the situation will be done by Sept. 11. Families will get a week’s notice before a change from online instruction.

Teachers will start Aug. 5 and use the time from then until Aug. 12 to prepare for online-only instruction. Continue reading “Start for MCSCC students delayed until Aug. 12, online-only at first”

MCCSC board expected to finalize school re-opening plan at Tuesday night’s board meeting

On Monday morning, a half dozen people showed up at the Monroe County health department’s temporary location in the Showers building on Morton Street.

They held signs with slogans like, “Shut it down, now! Start over! Do it right!” They were  advocating for a stronger statement from health officials on the question of re-opening schools.

They’re concerned about a start to the school year amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the area, and across the state.

News reporters narrowly outnumbered demonstrators. Organizer Debbie Fish, a former teacher and educational professional, said she expects a stronger continent at a rally planned for Tuesday at the district’s education resource center on Miller Drive.

That’s where the board will be meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, partly in-person and partly by videoconference.

Fish said she is concerned that if schools start up now, and teachers have to go back into the classroom, some will take the semester off. There may be some who will just quit the profession of teaching, Fish fears.

Early in the meeting, the agenda for Tuesday includes a re-entry plan overview by superintendent Judith DeMuth and a board discussion with possible modifications. A resolution on adopting a plan for re-opening schools is the final point of business, after a dozen other business items.

The meeting will be live-streamed at www.mccsc.edu/boardmeeting

The board’s Tuesday decision is expected to be based on potential additional information presented by the teachers union and the county health health department. Continue reading “MCCSC board expected to finalize school re-opening plan at Tuesday night’s board meeting”

IU adjusts with test-on-arrival approach to fit COVID-19 testing landscape, Monroe County positive cases continue to rise

Indiana University still wants all students to be tested for COVID-19 before they start classes in the fall.

The expectation of universal testing was part an update sent to Indiana University faculty and staff on Friday (July 24). It matched the message from the university’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White, at Friday’s weekly press conference of community leaders.

The novel part of Friday’s announcement was the hybrid test-on-arrival approach that the university will take to getting all students tested.

Those students who are not tested within a 10-day window before arrival will now be tested after arrival. The testing program will be organized by the university itself. Continue reading “IU adjusts with test-on-arrival approach to fit COVID-19 testing landscape, Monroe County positive cases continue to rise”