According to Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler, 17,997 absentee ballots had been sent out to voters as of Friday and 6,517 of them received by her office.
When The Square Beacon touched base with Wheeler on Saturday morning, she said about 5,000 more ballots still need to be sent out. That will make about 23,000 total absentee ballots for this year’s primary election. Election day is June 2.
A lot of voters waited until close to the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot. The deadline for turning in ballot applications was Thursday, May 21. The voted ballots themselves have to reach the clerk’s office by noon on primary election day, June 2. Voters who receive their ballots later next week, and are concerned that their mailed ballot might not arrive in time, can turn in their ballots in person at Election Central.
The roughly 1,300 ballots that have been processed every day for the last week is about twice the number Wheeler had previously described as the office’s maximum daily capacity. She said previously she’d be looking to recruit county employees who had been ordered to stay home from work during the COVID-19 health emergency.
On Saturday, she said about 20 people were working inside the Election Central building at 7th and Madison streets. They’ll need to work Sunday, Monday, and probably Tuesday, too, Wheeler figured.
The city’s mayor, John Hamilton, gave a reminder about the limited re-opening at Friday afternoon’s weekly press conference. Local leaders give updates on COVID-19 issues every Friday at 1:15 p.m. through an event live-streamed on the city’s Facebook page.
Hamilton stressed that the city is still encouraging residents who need to do business with the city to take advantage of services by phone or the city’s website, if possible.
At Wednesday’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s commissioners, another $5,000 COVID-19 relief grant was made to a tourism-related business outside Bloomington city limits, using food and beverage tax proceeds.
The breakdown for Pili’s Party Taco’s use of the $5,000 grant is: $1,800 rent; $1,200 insurance (truck and supplies); and $2,000 for employee salaries.
In broad strokes, it puts the county in Stage 2 of Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s “Back on Track” plan announced on May 1, with a key difference: Monroe County will stay in Stage 2 an extra week compared to the governor’s plan—that is, through May 31.
Secretary of state Connie Lawson said on Friday that the state received the personal protection equipment (PPE) that it had ordered for election workers, using $7.5 million of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.
National Guard troops had started delivering masks, sanitizer, gloves and microfiber towels to all 92 counties the previous day, and were continuing deliveries “as I speak,” Lawson said.
Lawson said that her office had tapped Indiana sources of PPE who did not supply PPE to medical providers—to make sure her office was not depriving health care workers of needed equipment. Lawson made her remarks during Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s regular press conference on Friday.
A lawsuit filed by Monroe County officials in federal district court on Wednesday claims that the US Forest Service violated the National Environmental Protection Act and the National Forest Management Act in its adoption of a plan to log, burn and apply herbicide to sections of the Hoosier National Forest just southeast of Monroe County.
The project activities proposed by the forest service include clear cutting about 400 acres, and some kind of tree removal from another roughly 3,000 acres. Also a part of the mix are herbicide spot treatments on about 2,000 acres. About three miles of new roads are supposed to be built along with eight miles worth of temporary roads.
The project area overlaps with part of the Lake Monroe watershed. That’s a substantial part of the objections to the project, because the lake provides drinking water to the city of Bloomington and much of the rest of Monroe County.
The Monroe County council’s nearly four-hour meeting on Tuesday was capped off with a presentation from councilor Geoff McKim, who relayed some good financial news.
Monroe County will receive about $1.4 million in supplemental local income tax (LIT) revenue for its general fund this year. That will be added to the roughly $13.3 million of LIT revenue in this year’s general fund budget.
McKim made a recommendation for use of the $1.4 million, based on the uncertain impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on future county revenues. The county should put the extra LIT revenue in the county’s rainy day fund, McKim said.
No vote was taken on the question. It’ll likely come up at the council’s work session on May 26.
Some of the decisions, like spending money on refurbishment of the Alexander Memorial, were put off again, while others, like the overhaul of telecom infrastructure in the Nat U. Hill meeting room, got approved.
At its meeting held on Monday afternoon, Monroe County’s environmental commission voted unanimously to join the county as a plaintiff in the lawsuit that’s being prepared against the U.S. Forest Service. [Updated May 14, 2020 at 10:24 a.m. The lawsuit has now been filed.]
The use of the word “restoration” in the name of the project was a point of objection for Julie Thomas, president of the county’s board of commissioners, at their March 18 meeting. Thomas said, “I really resent that they call it a ‘restoration project’, because that’s just…doesn’t fit.”