Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, gave a speech last week on Thursday, released in a Facebook video, that revealed the basic approach the city will take to spur a local recovery from the economic impact of COVID-19. It’s a program the mayor is calling “Recovering Forward.”
The speech prompted a response from county elected officials in the form of a pointed press release issued late this Friday afternoon.
By way of background, the mayor had sketched out the initial part of his recovery plan at a Bloomington city council work session the Friday before. To jump start the effort, the initial part of the plan includes a request to the Bloomington city council for a $2-million appropriation.
Overshadowing the rest of the speech was the mayor’s renewed pitch for an increase to the local income tax, something he’d announced as a goal on New Year’s Day. The amount of the proposed increase last week was reduced—from a half point to a quarter point—compared to the proposal he’d made earlier.
The way the local income tax works is already a point of friction between Bloomington and Monroe County government.
But escaping mention in the local press was this passage from the mayor’s speech:
I’ll note that the City’s recovery investment can and I believe should be in parallel with a similar county government investment in recovery, with their also-healthy financial reserves. I’ve urged our colleagues in county government to expand their support for eviction protection, for our public health system, for the criminal justice system reforms so sorely needed, and for other recovery needs.
That paragraph from the address, among others, piqued the interest of the mayor’s “colleagues in county government”—who wondered why the mayor felt it was his place to urge them to do anything at all.
At its regular meeting on Wednesday morning, the three-member board of Monroe County commissioners approved the 10th and probably final round of grants as part of its program to give relief to businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That brought the total amount awarded by the county to right around $400,000, distributed to over 30 different entities involved in tourism-related enterprises.
The total amount of tax proceeds recommended by the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) for the purpose COVID-19 relief by the county was $400,000.
One of the awards given by commissioners on Wednesday morning was a $10,000 loan to a previous grant recipient, Trailhead Enterprises. The money, which will pay for an air-conditioning unit, is supposed be paid back by Aug. 1, according to county attorney Margie Rice.
The other two grant awards on Wednesday went to Rising Star Gymnastics for $25,000 and The WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology for $65,000.
On Thursday, at its first regular meeting since the end of January, Bloomington’s parking commission reviewed the protected bicycle lane project that’s going to be built on 7th Street sometime in 2021.
It was in front of the commission because the 7-Line, to be built as a two-way bicycle path on the south side of the roadway, will require the removal of 113 on-street metered parking spaces. It’s the loss of parking spaces that has generated some concern among property owners along the corridor, among them the Monroe County government.
Parking commissioners gave a unanimous recommendation in support of the planning and transportation staff’s finding—that the three-quarter-mile bicycle lane from the B-Line Trail to the Indiana University campus at Woodlawn supports several goals of the city’s comprehensive plan and squares up with the city’s transportation plan.
At its regular meeting on Wednesday morning, the three-member board of Monroe County commissioners approved a couple of grants as part of its program to give relief to businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was the ninth round of grant awards, which brought the total amount awarded by the county to just over $300,000 to 32 different entities. One of Wednesday’s awards, for $6,000, went to Misfit Toy Enterprises, a karaoke service.
The other grant approved on Wednesday, for $23,225, went to the Monroe County History Center.
At Wednesday’s meeting, history center director Susan Dyar thanked commissioners, telling them that a fundraising gala had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, so generating revenue has been a struggle. The center re-opened to the public on Tuesday, she said.
Last Wednesday, Monroe County commissioners awarded about $21,000 more in grants to pandemic-affected tourism-related businesses outside the city limits of Bloomington. That brings the total amount awarded by the county to $266,442.
The food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC), has recommended that the county can use up to $400,000 of such tax tax proceeds to help businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19.
Bloomington has a corresponding loan program for up to $2 million of food and beverage tax proceeds. Through last Wednesday, the city’s loan numbers looked the same as the week before—$939,600 has been awarded to 34 businesses. All of the submitted applications had been processed as of last Wednesday.
The order came in response to anti-police-brutality protests that have taken place nightly starting May 29.
The vote by commissioners to order enforcement came towards the end of their Wednesday meeting.
That meant the meeting was bookended with votes related to the protests. At the start of the meeting, commissioners took turns reading aloud a resolution on criminal justice reform, which they voted to adopt without deliberating further on it.
Among the “resolved” clauses of the ordinance is one that says commissioners “respectfully request the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department to continue to develop written policies which implement Eight Can’t Wait principles …”
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.
At a Tuesday afternoon meeting, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) recommended another $200,000 for Monroe County officials to allocate to tourism-related businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That brings to $400,000 the total recommended by the FABTAC for the county’s COVID-19 relief program.
The county’s grant program for COVID-19 business relief is just for tourism-related businesses outside the Bloomington city limits.
The city of Bloomington has a similar program using its own share of the food and beverage tax proceeds, but the allocations to businesses inside the city limits are being made as loans, not grants. The city’s program taps $2 million from the city’s share of food and beverage tax proceeds.
The county council will have an ordinance on its May 12 agenda next week to appropriate the additional money recommended on Tuesday by the FABTAC. The following day at their regular meeting, the county commissioners expect to be able to make some additional grant allocations to businesses.