Yoder to leave Monroe County’s council due to residency change, still considering what’s next

In a release posted on Facebook, Democrat Shelli Yoder announced on Thursday that she is resigning from Monroe County’s council and will serve through the end of October. Yoder’s resignation was caused by a pending change in her residency, according to the release.

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In this photo from July 2019, Shelli Yoder chairs a meeting of the Monroe County council as its president. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Yoder currently represents the county council’s District 1, which covers the eastern third of Monroe County and the northeast corner of Bloomington.

The release quotes Yoder as saying “Although this move will take my family into a different Bloomington neighborhood just beyond the border of District 1, my commitment to our community and Monroe County’s continued success is as strong as ever. I look forward to finding new opportunities to serve and to continuing the work of meeting the challenges we face at the local, state, and national levels.”

At-large seats on the council can be held by residents who live anywhere in the county. Asked by The Beacon via text message, if she had contemplated running for one of the three at-large positions on the county council that is up for election in 2020, Yoder replied: “I’m still considering what’s next.”

The three at-large seats on the seven-member council are currently held by Geoff McKim, Cheryl Munson, and Trent Deckard.

Yoder also told The Beacon that she plans to attend the joint meeting of the county council and the Bloomington’s city council, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 29  in the Nat U. Hill room of the county courthouse. That means Yoder will spend part of her antepenultimate day of county council service in the same room where she’s chaired its meetings as president of the council for the last couple of years. Continue reading “Yoder to leave Monroe County’s council due to residency change, still considering what’s next”

Monroe County’s annual tax sale results: $240K in back taxes to be paid on 46 properties

At Thursday’s annual sale of real estate with delinquent taxes, Monroe County’s treasurer, Jessica McClellan, was able to auction off 46 of the 65 properties on this year’s list. The minimum bid for each property was the total amount of back taxes, penalties and sales-related costs that were owed to the county.

The 46 pieces of real estate that found at least one bidder on Thursday had a total of $239,453 in outstanding taxes plus sales costs that needed to be paid. The county will now get that sum—either from the amount paid by the highest bidder on Thursday or from the owner, if the owner redeems the property.

There’s still a year-long window for redemption. So the word “sale” is more apt for the tax certificate a high bidder gets once the price is paid, than for the property itself.

According to McClellan, the high bidder on Thursday does not acquire the right to go on to the property—the owner is still the owner until the redemption period expires.

That left 19 properties unsold on Thursday, with a total of $211,967 in delinquent taxes and other costs that are unpaid. Continue reading “Monroe County’s annual tax sale results: $240K in back taxes to be paid on 46 properties”

Election equipment vendors pitch wares to Monroe County officials

Monroe County is looking to get some new election equipment. The 2020 budget adopted last Tuesday by the county council includes a general obligation bond, out of which around $1 million could be used on the purchase of new voting machines. The council’s decision on the bond issuance isn’t expected until its November meeting.

On Monday afternoon, four different vendors pitched their wares to county officials as part of their response to the RFP (request for proposals) that’s been issued by the county. The RFP says the county is looking either to lease or purchase the equipment.

Vendors on hand to demonstrate their voting machines at the courthouse on Monday were: Hart Intercivic, out of Austin, Texas;  Election Systems & Software (ES&S), out of Omaha, Nebraska; Unisyn Voting Systems  out of Vista, California; and MicroVote General Corporation from Indianapolis.

Proposals from vendors have to be turned in to the board of county commissioners by Oct. 22. The timeline in the RFP is described as a “best estimate.” After possible interviews, the evaluation of the proposals is planned for Nov. 2. A decision by commissioners could be made at their regular meeting on Nov. 6.

Continue reading “Election equipment vendors pitch wares to Monroe County officials”

Jordy the courthouse dog hits half-decade mark, confirms he is a good boy

Switchyard Brewing on Walnut Street, a couple blocks north of the square in downtown Bloomington, markets itself as “dog friendly.”

On Sunday a couple of people with their dogs were soaking up a cool, sunny fall afternoon at the brewery’s outdoor tables—and they’d have been there anyway, even if a Jordy, a local canine celebrity, was not celebrating his fifth birthday inside.

Jordy’s birthday celebration coincided with a regular Sunday Switchyard event—a gathering of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Dog) Walking Club.

The now five-year-old golden retriever works with the nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to help comfort kids when they have to participate in stressful legal proceedings. Continue reading “Jordy the courthouse dog hits half-decade mark, confirms he is a good boy”

Monroe County’s council OKs $83.1 million “maintenance budget,” leaves compensation, justice reform for future

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Monroe County Council on budget approval night, Oct. 8, 2019. From left: Cheryl Munson, Trent Deckard, Eric Spoonmore, Shelli Yoder, Kate Wiltz, Geoff McKim, and Marty Hawk. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Monroe County now has what county councilor Geoff McKim on Tuesday night called a “maintenance budget” for 2020, which includes $83.1 million worth of expenditures. That’s about 4.8 percent more than the $79.3 million budgeted last year.

McKim said at Tuesday’s county council meeting that there are two issues not addressed in the 2020 budget, but would need attention in 2021—employee compensation and justice reform issues.

If employee compensation is not competitive in the labor market, the county needs to fund more in compensation, he said. Once the results of an in-progress criminal justice reform study come back, it would be possible to make systematic, prioritized investments for facilities and services alike, McKim said. That could require more investments in everything from mental health to the jail.

The vote on the seven-member council at Tuesday night’s meeting was 6–1, with the lone dissent coming from Marty Hawk. She said she supported almost everything in the budget, but did not support the $3.3 million general obligation (GO) bond.

The GO bond amount had been reduced by a vote of the council the night before, from $5.48 million, to the $3.3 million that appeared on Tuesday night’s proposal. Hawk made a motion Tuesday night to reduce it even more, to $2.6 million, and she had a list of the specific projects she wanted it to fund. The motion died for lack of a second.

The vote on the adoption of the budget is a separate question from the issuance of the bonds. A public hearing on the bond was held Tuesday night, but the vote on issuance was postponed until Oct. 22.

Also put off, until an unspecified time, was the purchase of property northwest of the I-69 and SR-46 interchange. The county is looking to acquire the quarry-hole-dotted land to establish a limestone heritage destination site. Continue reading “Monroe County’s council OKs $83.1 million “maintenance budget,” leaves compensation, justice reform for future”

Monroe County councilor calls on public to give feedback on possible 19-percent Duke Energy rate increase

At Tuesday night’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s council, the seven-member group got a request for an extra $80,500 to pay for utilities at five county buildings. The extra expenditure was needed because of inaccurate estimates of usage, not the planned electric rate increase by Duke Energy.

But the extra appropriation led to a quick discussion of a current proposal by Duke Energy to raise its residential electric rates by around 19 percent.

County councilor Eric Spoonmore told Angie Purdie, administer for the board of commissioners, he was glad she’d mentioned the rate case that’s now going through the regulatory process. He encouraged residents of Monroe County to make their voices heard on the matter.

Based on the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) summary of the Duke Energy proposal, Duke wants to increase annual operating revenues by $395 million, which is an rise of about 15.5 percent—after the proposed two-stage implementation is done, in 2020 and 2021.

How much would more would Duke Energy’s 840,000 customers in 69 Indiana counties pay? According to OUCC, Duke Energy’s request would raise a monthly residential electric bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) from $120.30 to $142.95. That’s 18.8 percent more. Continue reading “Monroe County councilor calls on public to give feedback on possible 19-percent Duke Energy rate increase”

Bloomington to buy handheld narcotics analyzer with federal grant money

At its Wednesday regular meeting, Bloomington city council voted to approve an interlocal agreement with Monroe County to spend $33,506 worth of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) money.

The federal funds are awarded to states and localities based on based on violent crime statistics for each state and/or local unit of government.

The agenda item was not controversial, drawing one question from councilmember Allison Chopra, and a comment from councilmember Jim Sims.

Chopra wanted to know if the money was restricted in its use. The answer from Bloomington’s police chief, Mike Diekhoff, was: Yes, the money has to be spent on the items that the department applied for.

This year, the city is spending its 80-percent share of the money ($26,805) to purchase a TruNarc handheld narcotics analyzer. Monroe County is spending its 20-percent share ($6,701) on tire deflation devises for use in vehicle pursuit intervention.
Continue reading “Bloomington to buy handheld narcotics analyzer with federal grant money”

Zietlow to election board on its decision against elections: “Voting is the primary duty of citizens in a democracy.”

At Thursday afternoon’s meeting of Monroe County’s election board, a question decided by the board two months ago was again raised in front of the three-member body: Should municipal elections be held on Nov. 5 in Bloomington, even in districts where none of the races are contested?

On Thursday, the question was brought up during public commentary by Charlotte Zietlow, whose impact on the political life of Monroe County dates back at least to 1972, when she took a seat on the Bloomington city council, which was followed eight years later by her election to the county’s board of commissioners.

Zietlow’s answer: Yes, elections should be held even where races are uncontested.  Continue reading “Zietlow to election board on its decision against elections: “Voting is the primary duty of citizens in a democracy.””

County contracts for required appraisals for possible land deal to create limestone heritage site

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Screen shot from the Pictometry module of the Monroe County online GIS system, showing one of the parcels the county might buy for a limestone heritage educational destination site. On Wednesday’s board of commissioners agenda was a contract with an appraiser. Unrelated to the appraisal, on Wednesday the board also approved a six-year contract with Pictometry for $362,320 to provide flyover imagery.

At its regular Wednesday morning meeting, the Monroe County board of commissioners approved a $7,900 contract with Integra Realty Resources for an appraisal of some land northwest of the interchange of I-69 and SR-46. The county is thinking of purchasing the land, which includes several quarry holes, for use as a limestone heritage site.

It’s the second appraisal contract that the commissioners have approved for the same land. At their regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25, the county commissioners approved a $5,520 contract with First Appraisal Group, Inc. for the first set of appraisals.

At Wednesday’s meeting, county attorney Jeff Cockerill reminded commissioners that in order to buy the property, two appraisals are required, and the county can’t pay more than the average of the appraised value. Continue reading “County contracts for required appraisals for possible land deal to create limestone heritage site”

Monroe County councilors find $500K in projects that don’t need GO bond, get heads-up on RFP for election equipment

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A joint work session of Monroe County’s board of commissioners and county council was held Friday in the conference room off the county council’s office suite. At the head of the table is  county attorney Margie Rice. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

At a joint work session held Friday afternoon by Monroe County commissioners and councilors, the elected officials got a rundown of itemized cost estimates for projects to be funded with a $5-million general obligation (GO) bond.

The gathering grew out of some frustration on the part of councilors, expressed on Sept. 10, when the three-member board of commissioners first presented the proposed $5.17 million bond issuance to the council. On that occasion, councilors wanted to see the kind of detail they eventually got, on Friday.

County attorney Margie Rice told the group on Friday that she sensed some dissatisfaction from councilors with the earlier presentation—that’s why the extra session on Friday was convened. Rice told the councilors she’d never before seen this level of detail given to a county council for a bond issuance.

The detailed breakdown allowed the council to identify several items, adding up to $559,080, that they wanted to pull out of the bond proposal, and pay instead out of cash reserves or other funds. To be pulled off the list of bond projects were: renovating the Alexander Monument ($153,000); running fiber to the data center ($100,000); paving of a seating area on the courthouse grounds ($60,000); installing HVAC fans for the justice center ($50,000); and sealing the parking garage deck ($50,000), among other items.

Not a surprise was the idea of paying for the Alexander Monument using a source other than the bonds. Councilor Marty Hawk had advocated for that on Sept. 10, when she said that the county had enough cash to pay for the restoration of the veterans memorial. Hawk also objected at that time to the amount of the bond, which was $5.17 million. It was a change to state law that allows the county to bond for $5 million, plus a growth quotient, instead of just the $2 million worth of GO bonds the county has issued in years past.

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From left: County councilors Kate Wiltz, Trent Deckard, Geoff McKim, Marty Hawk, and county attorney Margie Rice. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Based on the discussion on Friday, the county council will be weighing whether to go ahead and bond for the roughly $5 million, or to ratchet the amount down to $3 million. Bonding for $3 million, according to the board of commissioners administrator Angie Purdie, would not increase tax rates. Bonding for $5 million would mean an extra $27.66 in property taxes paid by the owner of a house with a value of $200,000.

Among the items that’s still proposed to be paid out of the GO bond is election equipment costing around $1 million. County attorney Jeff Cockerill announced to the group on Friday that an RFP (request for proposals) would be made for the election equipment. Prospective vendors will be asked to appear in Monroe County on Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. to demonstrate their wares, Cockerill said. That comes after Monroe County’s election board appeared to have already recommended a choice of vendor, Hart Intercivic.

Continue reading “Monroe County councilors find $500K in projects that don’t need GO bond, get heads-up on RFP for election equipment”