Butterfly traffic up in downtown Bloomington

On College Avenue in downtown Bloomington, Indiana, around 11,000 mechanical beasts drive past the northwest corner of the courthouse square every day.

The total for the intersection climbs by a two or three thousand, if the east-west flow on 6th Street is added in.

At that location, a comprehensive traffic count of all God’s creatures would factor in at least a couple dozen extra—to account for the monarch butterflies that have been darting around the intersection in recent days.

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Monarch butterfly at the intersection of College Avenue and 6th Street, looking west, in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.  August 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Continue reading “Butterfly traffic up in downtown Bloomington”

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”

Consolidation of fire protection now on the horizon for five Monroe County townships, maybe more in future

On Thursday night, Monroe Fire Protection District chief Dustin Dillard addressed a handful of Bloomington Township residents at a meeting held at the fire station on Old State Road 37.

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Monroe Fire Protection District’s chief Dustin Dillard (left) and Northern Monroe Fire Territory chief Joel Bomgardner at the Aug. 8, 2019 meeting held at the Bloomington Township fire station on Old SR 37. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Bloomington Township is not yet a part of the the fire district Dillard leads, which is made up of three townships in the southwest part of Monroe County—Perry, Clear Creek and Indian Creek. It was just at the start of this year that Indian Creek was added as a member.

A current proposal is to add two more townships to the mix. One is in the southwest corner of the county—Van Buren Township. The other is the unincorporated part of Bloomington Township, which would make it the first area north of the county’s midline to become a member of the Monroe Fire Protection District.

Among the benefits described at the meeting for adding two townships to the district are: protection of the tax levy from annexations by the City of Bloomington; an initial lowering the tax rate for residents of Bloomington Township (but it would increase in the second and third years); administration of county fire departments under one umbrella; and the distribution of expenses over a larger tax base.

Dillard also expects the expansion of the Monroe Fire Protection District (MFPD) to lead to the re-programming of dispatch software to reflect automatic aid between the City of Bloomington and township areas. Continue reading “Consolidation of fire protection now on the horizon for five Monroe County townships, maybe more in future”

Fixed-point audio recording, body cameras, to be added to Monroe County’s jail

Monroe County’s sheriff, Brad Swain, appeared in front of the county board of commissioners on Wednesday morning to ask them to approve $6,850 to install four microphones on the first floor of the jail.

With the purchase came the news that body cameras will be worn by a limited number of jail staff.

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Monroe County’s sheriff, Brad Swain, addresses county commissioners on the topic of microphones installed at a few intake areas of the jail. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Commissioners approved the purchase on a 3–0 vote. Board president Julie Thomas asked Swain to pass along thanks from the commissioners to the jail staff. Swain returned the compliment, saying that he knew as sheriff that when he had a legitimate request, he would get support from the commissioners.

Swain told them the cost was a “fantastic bargain,” because it would help limit the number of claims potentially made against jail staff by arriving inmates who are in the first, temporary phases of incarceration. Microphone locations include: the booking door; booking; holding cell; and drunk tank.

The microphones will supplement the video cameras at the jail, which was a roughly $300,000 system approved by the commissioners a few years ago, Swain said. The camera system had eliminated some lawsuits, Swain said, by documenting things that contradicted claims about what had happened.
Continue reading “Fixed-point audio recording, body cameras, to be added to Monroe County’s jail”

Ribbon cut for Monroe County family planning clinic entrance art

Speaking into a PA microphone Friday afternoon, standing just south of the 7th and College intersection in downtown Bloomington, Penny Caudill said, “We walk into work and we smile!”

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On Thursday (Aug. 1, 2019), artist Gypsy Schindler, applies a clear coat to her mural along the entrance ramp to the lower level of the Monroe County Health Building, which stands on the southeast corner of 6th Street and College Avenue. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Caudill, who’s Monroe County’s health administrator, was talking to artist Gypsy Schindler, who just recently completed a mural on the wall that leads along the ramp to the lower-level entrance of the county’s health building. The art depicts kids playing—riding bicycles, kicking a soccer ball and jumping rope.

A ribbon cutting for the mural was the main event for the health department open-house on Friday. It was part of the “Ramp Up Awareness” project for the Futures Family Planning Clinic, which is housed on the lower level of the health building. Continue reading “Ribbon cut for Monroe County family planning clinic entrance art”

County election board makes it official: No general elections in Bloomington except for District 2 and District 3

After two separate votes on Thursday afternoon, the chair of Monroe County’s election board, Carolyn VandeWiele announced, “You have your ballot, Karen!” The remark was directed to election supervisor Karen Wheeler, who can now continue the process of printing Bloomington’s ballots for the city’s Nov. 5 general election.

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Monroe County Election Board, Aug. 1, 2019. From left: deputy clerk Tressia Martin; chair Carolyn VandeWiele; and Larry Barker. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

No ballots will be printed for Bloomington elections in District 1, District 4, District 5 or District 6—because there are no contested races in those districts. Just the names of the candidates in contested races will be printed on the ballots in the other two districts.

In the District 2 city council race, Democrat Sue Sgambelluri, who won the three-way  primary, will appear on the ballot with Republican Andrew Guenther, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.

In the District 3 city council race, Democrat Ron Smith, who won the primary, will appear on the ballot with independents Nick Kappas and Marty Spechler. Continue reading “County election board makes it official: No general elections in Bloomington except for District 2 and District 3”

State’s first brief now filed with Indiana Supreme Court in appeal of lower court decision on special Bloomington annexation law

After a couple of quiet months, late July has brought some activity in the legal proceedings about the state legislature’s enactment of a 2017 law, as a part of the biennial budget bill. The law blocked specifically Bloomington’s attempt in 2017 to annex some land into the city.

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The green area is the total of a few separate annexation areas proposed by the city of Bloomington. The basic outline shape is the boundary of Monroe County.

Indiana’s attorney general has filed the first brief on behalf of Gov. Eric Holcomb, in an appeal to the state’s Supreme Court, which seeks to overturn a lower court ruling made earlier this year in April. The lower court ruling, in favor of Bloomington, found that the law violates two parts of the state’s constitution: the prohibition against special legislation; and the single subject rule.

After the state’s notice of appeal was filed, a four-week extension was granted by the court for filing the state’s first arguments. The deadline was this past Thursday, which is when the state’s first brief  was filed with the Supreme Court. Continue reading “State’s first brief now filed with Indiana Supreme Court in appeal of lower court decision on special Bloomington annexation law”

Monroe County awards $120K in Sophia Travis community service grants

Community service grants to 36 organizations totaling $120,000 were announced and approved by Monroe County Council at its work session Tuesday evening.

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Monroe County Councilor, Marty Hawk. July 23, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

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.

Serving on the committee that made the grant awards this year were councilors Cheryl Munson, Eric Spoonmore and Kate Wiltz with citizen members Frankie Preslaff and Rachel Guglielmo. The awards were read aloud at the meeting by Guglielmo. Committee chair Munson put the number of clients served by the organizations who applied for grants at 91,000 people.

This year the highest 10 awards were granted to Community Kitchen of Monroe County, Inc. ($6,700), Big Brothers Big Sisters ($6,500), South Central Community Action Program ($5,750), Society of St. Vincent de Paul ($5,400), Grace Center, Inc ($5,400), Safe Families for Children ($5,300), Planned Parenthood ($5,300), New Leaf New Life ($5,000), Indiana Recovery Alliance ($5,000) and Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington ($5,000).

The total figure of $120,000 is the same as last year and $25,000 more than in 2008. In the dozen years since 2008 (including this year) a total of $1,258,900 has been granted by the county to organizations for various aspects of community service. Continue reading “Monroe County awards $120K in Sophia Travis community service grants”

Convention center update: County Board of Commissioners pitches better collaboration between city and county, suggests formation of capital improvement board

Monroe County should form a capital improvement board to handle the ownership, control and management of an expanded convention center in downtown Bloomington—that was a key point of a memo distributed Wednesday morning by the Monroe County Board of Commissioners to the County Council, Bloomington City Council and the mayor.

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Monroe County Commissioners (from left) Lee Jones, Julie Thomas, Penny Githens.  July 24, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The memo was read aloud in parts by each of the three commissioners at the conclusion of their Wednesday morning meeting. The memo concludes with a reference to the “Convention & Civic Center project.” Board of commissioners president Julie Thomas stressed the word ‘civic’ when she read it aloud, and added “underline ‘civic’.”

The memo came less than 24 hours after the county council’s Tuesday evening work session discussion about the idea of a kind of convention center summit involving city and county elected officials.

After the introductory material, which stresses “a spirit of consensus-building” among the four entities, the memo addresses two main topics: how the project will funded and how specific facilities will be configured. Continue reading “Convention center update: County Board of Commissioners pitches better collaboration between city and county, suggests formation of capital improvement board”

County might hope to add convention center summit to Bloomington City Council’s agenda of annual budget, electric scooters, student housing, and parking zones

By late last week, the Bloomington City Council was getting ready to return to its normal meeting routine after a summer hiatus. Councilmembers last met in regular session on June 12; their next regular meeting falls on the last day of July.

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City council activity is now at least a smidgen easier to follow, because the city’s website user interface for public meeting listings got an upgrade a couple of weeks ago. Links to materials like agendas, minutes, and packets, now show standardized text, icons, a neatly stacked layout, and mouseover behavior.

Based on some conversation at a work session last Friday, they’re thinking about how to set up the calendar for at least three topics they’ll be handling soon: a proposed 820-bedroom student housing development on North Walnut at the current Motel 6 site; possible tweaks to a still-pending ordinance that would regulate shared-use electric scooters; and some amendments to the new parking ordinance.

And based on conversation at a work session held by the Monroe County Council on Tuesday evening, Bloomington’s city council could in the next couple months be called on to participate in a four-way meeting about the proposed convention center expansion.

The potential summit-type gathering would include the Monroe County Council, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, the Bloomington Common Council and Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton. That would cover the legislative, executive, and fiscal components of the city and county government. Continue reading “County might hope to add convention center summit to Bloomington City Council’s agenda of annual budget, electric scooters, student housing, and parking zones”