Approaching $600K: Monroe County’s federal grant relief awards to local businesses, nonprofits

At its regular Wednesday meeting, Monroe County’s three-member board of commissioners approved four more federal COVID-19 pandemic relief grants to area businesses or nonprofits. That ratcheted the total amount awarded towards $600,000.

This is a partial list of businesses, nonprofits and taxing units that have received reimbursement pandemic relief grants through Monroe County government, sorted by grant amounts. A complete table is include below.

The money that Monroe County has been distributing to businesses and government entities comes from a total $4.7 million CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act allocation to the county.

On Wednesday, Monroe County’s financial director, Brianne Gregory, gave commissioners a quick briefing on the four grants they were asked to approve that morning, which totaled $62,028.

The grants went to Cave Group, Inc., Boys and Girls Club, Bluebird Live, Inc., and Life Designs, Inc.

That brings the total amount awarded to $593,306.

Board of commissioners president Julie Thomas said the application deadline for the grants has been extended to April 30. The county has set up a web page with a form for applicants to fill out.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Thomas sketched out the basic criteria for award of the funds: They are to reimburse non-payroll pandemic-related expenses that haven’t been covered by some other program. Continue reading “Approaching $600K: Monroe County’s federal grant relief awards to local businesses, nonprofits”

Monroe County passes half million dollar mark in CARES Act distributions

At its regular Wednesday meeting Monroe County’s three-member board of commissioners approved federal pandemic relief for five more area businesses, pushing the total amount awarded to over a half million dollars.

Top awardees by Monroe County of CARES Act relief funding. The full table of entities (taxing units and businesses) is included at the end of this article.

At their Wednesday meeting, county commissioners approved another $48,698 in reimbursements to five different businesses, bringing the grand total so far to $531,278.

Awarded money in Wednesday’s round of approvals were Crumble ($30,000), Litwin Enterprises ($881.19) Michael’s Uptown Cafe ($13,123.62), Gallagher Properties, INC ($650), and C3 Bar ($4,043.64).

The money that Monroe County has been distributing money to businesses and government entities comes from a total $4.7 million CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act allocation to the county. Continue reading “Monroe County passes half million dollar mark in CARES Act distributions”

Monroe County commissioners OK rezone, which could mean 330 more housing units on edge of Bloomington

The property that was rezoned by county commissioners sits just on the boundary of the city of Bloomington. It’s a part of Area 1A that was included in the city of Bloomington annexation proposal in 2017, which was suspended by the state legislature. (Image links to dynamic map)
This aerial image, which is dated April 2020, is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

A rezoning for 38 acres of former farmland on the western boundary of Bloomington was approved at the regular Wednesday meeting of Monroe County commissioners.

That clears the way for the developer to submit to the county planning department a site plan for a development that would include 330 new apartments. The development, by Domo Development Company and Redhawk Multifamily, is also planned to include 11,000 square feet of retail and 22,000 square feet of private office suites.

Even if the final approval for the project is not done, the major hurdle of the zoning has been cleared.

On the housing side, the proposed rental unit mix will be 10 percent studios, 50 percent 1-bedroom, 35 percent 2-bedroom, and 5 percent 3-bedroom units, according to the meeting information packet. The projected rent will range between $875 and $1,500 a month. Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners OK rezone, which could mean 330 more housing units on edge of Bloomington”

Advisory group OKs food and beverage tax money for convention center debt

On Thursday, Monroe County commissioners cleared a key hurdle for using part of the county government’s share of the 1-percent food and beverage tax, to pay for debt on the convention center and the center’s management expenses.

By the end of its hour-long meeting, the seven-member food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) had recommended that up to $300,000 of the county’s food and beverage fund balance could be spent on convention center debt and management.

Historically, it has been innkeeper’s tax revenues that have been used to pay the convention center debt service. The innkeeper’s tax is 5-percent charge on lodging in the county.

But innkeeper’s tax revenues have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food and beverage revenues are also a bit down due to the pandemic, but not by as much. That’s why commissioners wanted the flexibility to use some of the more than $600,000 in the food and beverage fund balance to pay towards the annual debt service on the convention center. The annual debt service is $636,000.

The specific mention of the $300,000 in FABTAC’s approval was different from the original wording of the request made to the FABTAC by county commissioners. Commissioners had voted in the first week of the year to ask for consideration from the FABTAC.

In their request, the three-member board of commissioners had asked to use “any and all funds” in the county’s food and beverage tax fund.

Except for wrangling over the difference in wording, the meeting probably could have been wrapped up in under a half hour. Continue reading “Advisory group OKs food and beverage tax money for convention center debt”

New Bloomington shelter already half full on first night: 26 total guests, not counting 3 pets

Aerial image is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property records system. The red arrow indicates entrance to the new temporary shelter.

On Tuesday, Beacon, Inc. opened a new, 49-bed temporary winter shelter for the houseless, in the warehouse space across the B-Line Trail from Switchyard Park’s pickleball courts.

At Wednesday morning’s regular meeting of Monroe County commissioners, Beacon, Inc.’s executive director Forrest Gilmore updated the three county officials on the tally for the first night of operation.

A total of 26 people slept there, Gilmore told commissioners. That included seven couples. Three dogs were also a part of the mix. Three more people stopped by to get warmed up, but did not stay the night.

The only women who stayed at the shelter that night arrived as part of a couple. That’s something that Gilmore said should be recognized and noted, because a lack of couples beds could pose a barrier to women seeking shelter.

The first night’s occupancy was more than Gilmore expected and he thinks it will increase when word spreads that it’s a safe place.
Continue reading “New Bloomington shelter already half full on first night: 26 total guests, not counting 3 pets”

Enforcement by city, county against encampments in different locations Thursday night: 1 tent remains at Seminary Park

Seminary Park

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During a Thursday night meeting of Bloomington city council’s four-member public safety committee, to hear public comment about the houseless encampment in Seminary Park, Monroe County sheriff’s deputies were patrolling county land further south off Rogers Street.

At Seminary Park, after the committee meeting ended around 9 p.m., word had already spread about two arrests made on the county’s property, which includes 87 acres that front Rogers Street north of Cherokee Drive.

A couple hours later, Seminary Park would see its own, second enforcement action of the day.

[Updated at 12:22 p.m. on Jan. 15. The city of Bloomington issued a statement on the topic. “The City will continue actively collaborating with the entire community and region, including other governmental entities (Monroe County government and township trustees) service providers, those with lived experience, faith communities, and philanthropic agencies, to identify short- and long-term alternatives for our residents experiencing homelessness.”]

The statement includes information about where the people’s belongings had been taken: “Switchyard Park maintenance building at 1601 South Rogers Street where they may be retrieved today from 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. and Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. starting next week.” The statement also says, “Anyone seeking information about available services including emergency shelter may call 211.”

Monroe County land

This aerial image of the county-owned property off Rogers is from the Monroe County online GIS system.

Continue reading “Enforcement by city, county against encampments in different locations Thursday night: 1 tent remains at Seminary Park”

Monroe County adds $90K to CARES pass-through distribution, brings total to $460K

Monroe County has now passed through nearly half a million dollars to local businesses and government entities from its total $4.7 million CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act allocation.

At their Wednesday meeting, county commissioners approved another $90,516 in reimbursements, bringing the grand total to $459,901.

The county’s program started with the county government acting as a clearinghouse of sorts, by passing through to the state the claims submitted by local businesses and governmental units—like the library and townships—for non-payroll expenses related to COVID-19.

The state eventually asked the county to submit the county’s own expenses for public safety, which were enough to get reimbursement to the county of the whole $4.7 million. Continue reading “Monroe County adds $90K to CARES pass-through distribution, brings total to $460K”

Washington Township to join fire protection district in 2022

At Wednesday’s regular weekly meeting, their last of the year, Monroe County commissioners approved the addition of Washington Township to the Monroe Fire Protection District, starting in 2022.

Earlier this year, commissioners approved the addition of Benton Township to the MFPD, also starting in 2022.

During 2021, Benton and Washington townships will contract with MFPD for fire protection.

In 2019, Van Buren and Bloomington townships were approved for inclusion in the MFPD, starting in 2021.

That means outside the city of Bloomington, MFPD will provide fire protection everywhere in the county except Bean Blossom and Richland townships, in the northwest corner of the county.

By 2022, all the townships where the MFPD provides fire protection will also be members of the district, except for the sparsely populated Salt Creek and Polk townships in the southeastern part of the county. Being a part of the MFPD, instead of just contracting for fire protection means that property owners there will pay a fire levy to the MFPD, not to their home townships.

The additional service area is reflected in the adopted budget for MFPD for 2021, which is just shy of $12 million. That’s better than three times the 2020 adopted budget, which totaled around $3.7 million. Continue reading “Washington Township to join fire protection district in 2022”

Monroe County extends COVID-19 contracts for enforcement of health regulations, processing of CARES reimbursement claims

At their regular meeting on Wednesday morning, Monroe County commissioners approved revisions to two existing contracts related to local government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An early-November agreement with Security Pro 24/7, to help enforce the county board of health’s regulations, was bumped by commissioners on Wednesday, from $25,000 to $50,000. That should be enough to cover enforcement through Feb. 1, according to county attorney Jeff Cockerill.

The county’s health regulations, which were updated on Nov. 17, were imposed by the county’s board of health to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The board of health has the same agreement with Security Pro 24/7 on its Thursday 1:30 p.m. meeting agenda.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners added $12,500 to the $70,000 they had approved in an agreement with Dee Owens in mid-July, for processing of claims made by businesses and nonprofits for reimbursements under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The initial amount was approved by the county commissioners in mid-July. Continue reading “Monroe County extends COVID-19 contracts for enforcement of health regulations, processing of CARES reimbursement claims”

Monroe County electeds mull legal fees, COVID-19 relief money, innkeeper’s tax, food and beverage tax

At a work session held on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, Monroe County councilors took care of some year-end appropriations, and talked with county commissioners about next year’s priorities.

A vote on extra appropriation to cover legal fees, amended by councilors from $30,000 to $18,126, was split 6–1

Screenshot of the Monroe county council’s Nov. 24 work session held by Zoom videoconference.

Some positive news was relayed from the commissioners office about the $4.7 million in CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) reimbursement funding that’s been awarded to the county. The state of Indiana has told the county to submit public safety personnel expenses as claims against the $4.7 million award.

That means the county will max out the reimbursement, according to Angie Purdie, administrator for the commissioners office.

Once the money is reimbursed to the county, it goes into the county general fund, according to Purdie, which means county councilors have flexibility to spend the money as they judge to be appropriate.

Less flexible in the way it can be spent is revenue from the countywide food and beverage tax, which is split about 90-10 between Bloomington and Monroe County government. The county’s current fund balance for the food and beverage tax is $554,194, even after distributing nearly $400,000 worth of grants for COVID-19 relief to businesses and nonprofits earlier this year.

Councilors will be weighing whether to put some of that fund balance towards additional business relief, or using it to backstop shortfalls in the revenue from the innkeeper’s tax, due to the COVID-pandemic. The innkeeper’s tax is a key source of revenue for payment of $636,000 in debt service on the land surrounding the convention center and the most recent renovation to the center.

A meeting of the county’s 5-member convention and visitors commission is set for noon on Wednesday, Dec. 9. The meetings have not typically been broadcast on CATS, but based on conversation at Tuesday’s county council work session, the link to the Zoom video conference is expected to be included on the list maintained on Monroe County’s website. Continue reading “Monroe County electeds mull legal fees, COVID-19 relief money, innkeeper’s tax, food and beverage tax”