Alea iacta est: Nov. 3, 2020 election results, when served

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Polls closed at 6 p.m. in Monroe County, Indiana.

County clerk Nicole Browne has said during the run-up to Election Day this year that results might not be available Tuesday night.

That’s due in part to the fact that mail-in absentee ballots can’t be removed from their envelopes until Election Day. Around 15,000 ballots were sent to voters who requested them. Of those, as of two days ago, close to 14,000 ballots had been sent in.

By way of comparison, for the June 2, primary elections, about 17,500 people voted by mail. That was a number big enough that it pushed local results to the following day.

For the primary election, just seven polling sites were used. For the general election today, voters cast ballots at 28 different polling sites. That’s four times as many reports from polling sites that need to be processed, compared to the primary.

For today’s general election, two races have registered write-in candidates—for county commissioner and for at-large county council. The scanners can tell which ballots had someone’s name written in and they are segregated into a set for review by human eyeballs. But reviewing them one at a time is a necessary step, to ensure that just those write-in votes are counted for the candidates who registered.

The raw number of total  ballots is also expected to be greater than in the primary. In 2016, about 60,000 people voted in Monroe County, which was about twice the 27,000 people who voted in this year’s primaries.

The Square Beacon will report whatever information is available from the Monroe County clerk’s office, as soon as it’s available. Some results from other counties across the state might be available on the election results webpage that has been set up by Indiana’s secretary of state. Continue reading “Alea iacta est: Nov. 3, 2020 election results, when served”

Monroe County officials apologize: Change to denser zoning went through automatically when 90-day window was missed

A 5.34-acre parcel just south of Bloomington, where just a single house stands, now has the right zoning for the eventual construction of a couple dozen residences.

The developer is Charles Layne LLC with Bynum Fanyo & Associates as the engineering consultant.

In Monroe County’s zoning scheme, the parcel has been rezoned from Estate Residential I (REI) to High Density Residential (HR). The old zoning allowed for just one residence per acre. The new zoning, with some commitments made by the developer, makes for a density of around 4.2 residences per acre.

The news of the rezoning was announced at Wednesday morning’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s board of commissioners. It came with apologies all around.

The Holland Pines rezoning was not the result of a decision made by the three commissioners. It was due to a missed deadline. Continue reading “Monroe County officials apologize: Change to denser zoning went through automatically when 90-day window was missed”

Monroe County sheriff’s deputies to get regular training updates with Lexipol policy management program

Sometime before December, the 44 sworn officers under the Monroe County sheriff will start taking monthly training on policies they’re supposed to follow.

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Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on 7th Street, looking north. Image links to Google Street View from which it is taken.

They’ll also get regular testing on the policies, according to Monroe County sheriff Brad Swain.

On Wednesday morning, county sheriff Brad Swain described the training and policy management program to county commissioners this way: “It will be as much a part of their work week as making sure their car is safe and all their equipment is good.”

The range of policies to be reviewed on a routine basis include those from 21st Century Policing  and #8CANTWAIT, Swain told commissioners.

The #8CANTWAIT policies require that law enforcement agencies: ban chokeholds; require de-escalation; require warning before shooting; require exhaustion of all alternatives before shooting; impose a duty to intervene; ban shooting at moving vehicles; require use of force continuum; require comprehensive reporting.

At their regular Wednesday meeting, the three county commissioners gave their unanimous support for the one-time “implementation fee” of $9,425 for the Lexipol system, that will, according to Swain, put the policies “all at their fingertips, their phone apps, as well as their within their car.” Continue reading “Monroe County sheriff’s deputies to get regular training updates with Lexipol policy management program”

On split vote, public safety income tax committee recommends: No “off-the-top” allocations this year for rural fire departments

A committee of the Monroe County tax council voted Tuesday morning against a recommendation to allocate $353,700 of public safety income tax money to support requests made by four rural fire departments in the county.

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Screenshot of the Aug. 4 meeting of the PS-LIT committee of the local income tax council of Monroe County. It was conducted on the Zoom video conferencing platform.

The potential direct allocation of funds to the fire departments would have made up about 4.5 percent of the $7.8 million that the committee was using as a conservative estimate for the total amount it could allocate for 2021.

The distribution of local income tax revenues for 2021 is based on 2019 income tax filings, which have been delayed because of relaxed deadlines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vote on the seven-member PS-LIT (public safety local income tax) committee was 2–5 for the direct allocation of the funds to the Monroe County Fire Protection District, and fire departments serving Richland, Bean Blossom, and Benton townships.

The tally flipped to 5–2 for the committee’s vote on its recommended allocations for 2021 public safety income tax revenue.

The dispatch center—which is a public safety answering point (PSAP)—is recommended to receive its requested budget of $2,247,490.

The remaining amount is recommended to be divided, through a property-tax-footprint-based formula, among Bloomington, Monroe County, Ellettsville and Stinesville. In round numbers, that works out to about $2.8 million for Bloomington, $2.5 million for Monroe County government, $165,000 for Ellettsville and $1,100 for Stinesville. Continue reading “On split vote, public safety income tax committee recommends: No “off-the-top” allocations this year for rural fire departments”

Not a jail or a hospital: Stride Coalition’s crisis diversion center gets ribbon cut ahead of Aug. 3 opening

On Monday afternoon, leaders of several local organizations gathered on the lower level of Monroe County’s Morton Street Parking garage for a crisis diversion center ribbon cutting.

The space was originally designed as a place for inmates of the county jail—a place they could be housed in case the jail needed to be evacuated. The jail is just across the alley to the west.

Now it’s been remodeled as a place where people who are in trouble can be taken by law enforcement officers, instead of the jail. Or a hospital.

With the ribbon now cut, the Stride Coalition’s crisis diversion center is expected to be fully staffed and ready to open by Aug. 3, according to Linda Grove-Paul, vice president of adult and family services at Centerstone, the lead organization for the Stride facility. Continue reading “Not a jail or a hospital: Stride Coalition’s crisis diversion center gets ribbon cut ahead of Aug. 3 opening”

Monroe County COVID-19 cases continue to surge, hospital numbers up, zero deaths for nearly a month

Sunday’s noon update of the State of Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard showed no additional COVID-19 deaths in Monroe County. That’s two days shy of a month since the county’s last COVID-19 death was recorded, on June 21.

But the dashboard showed that a recent surge in positive cases continues unabated. More than two dozen cases each day were logged on Friday and Saturday.

The previous high had been 18 cases. That brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Monroe County to 472.

Last week, some uncertainty about future testing capacity was raised by state and local officials. Continue reading “Monroe County COVID-19 cases continue to surge, hospital numbers up, zero deaths for nearly a month”

COVID-19 Update: Mask order now in effect for Monroe County; other measures take effect on July 23 in Bloomington, later elsewhere

A new health order issued Friday afternoon requires Monroe County residents to wear face coverings when they’re not at home—with several caveats.

The order took effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, a few hours after it was issued by Monroe County health officer Thomas Sharp. It will stay in effect until it’s rescinded, according to the order.

The order comes as numbers of confirmed positive cases continue to rise in the county, and hospitalizations are starting to edge upward as well. The last death in Monroe County due to COVID-19 came three and a half weeks ago, on June 21. Continue reading “COVID-19 Update: Mask order now in effect for Monroe County; other measures take effect on July 23 in Bloomington, later elsewhere”

Monroe County prosecutor now “actively reviewing” evidence in July 4 Lake Monroe case

Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant has now received the investigative reports from Indiana Department of Natural resources about a case described in a press release late Wednesday afternoon as “an incident that took place in the forest near Lake Monroe on July 4, 2020.”

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Ten days earlier, Bloomington activist Vauhxx Booker had described himself in a Facebook post as “almost the victim of an attempted lynching.”

On Monday this week, David Hennessy, an attorney who represents Sean Purdy and Caroline McCord, two of the people who were involved in the incident, and whom Booker is accusing, gave a press conference denying Booker’s version of events.

There’s no word on when the prosecutor’s office might make a decision on possible charges. Continue reading “Monroe County prosecutor now “actively reviewing” evidence in July 4 Lake Monroe case”

Monroe County prosecutor on assault of Vauhxx Booker: DNR investigation of July 4 case is not yet complete

On Saturday, July 4, at Lake Monroe, Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker was assaulted by a group of white men in a case Booker has described as an “attempted lynching.”

In a press release issued a little before 5 p.m. on Thursday, the Monroe County prosecutor’s office gave a status update: No charges have been filed because the investigation is not yet complete.

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Facebook videos of an incident described by the man being held down in the left frame as an “attempted lynching.” Image links to Facebook post.

The press release, which came from prosector Erika Oliphant, indicates that no charges have yet been filed, because the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division (IDNR Law Enforcement), has not completed its investigation and turned over all its evidence to the prosecutor.

The statement says, “At this time, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office cannot speculate as to charges. IDNR Law Enforcement will forward their investigative report to the Prosecutor’s Office immediately upon completion, at which time it will be expeditiously reviewed.”

About the investigation, the press release says, “Since the initial response, IDNR Law Enforcement has been working diligently to complete the investigation.” Continue reading “Monroe County prosecutor on assault of Vauhxx Booker: DNR investigation of July 4 case is not yet complete”

Monroe County prosecutor to weigh possible charges in case described as “attempted lynching” by target of assault

According to deputy prosecutor Jeff Kehr, the Monroe County prosecutor’s office will be reviewing reports from the Indiana Conservation Officers (ICO) about an “attempted lynching” at Lake Monroe on July 4. The ICO is law enforcement division of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

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Facebook videos of an incident described by the man being held down in the left frame as an “attempted lynching.” Image links to Facebook post.

The ICO will be providing the prosecutor’s office with their investigative reports, witness statements, and digital evidence, according to Kehr. “We will thoroughly review all of the information presented to us and decide what charges are appropriate,” Kehr’s statement said.

On Sunday, Vauhxx Booker, who is an activist and a member of Monroe County’s human rights commission, posted to Facebook a video showing parts of the incident, including footage of him being held down against a tree trunk.

Booker described part of the episode this way: “I tussled with the two and another one joined in, then two more. The five were able to easily overwhelm me and got me to the ground and dragged me pinning my body against a tree as they began pounding on my head and ripped off some of my hair, with several of them still on top of my body holding me down.”

Booker stated in his Facebook post that one of his assailants told his comrades several times to “get a noose.”

Several people, among them elected officials, wrote in Facebook comments that they will be contacting Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant about the incident.

Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, and city clerk, Nicole Bolden issued a joint statement Monday morning about the Lake Monroe incident and a separate one in Bloomington that took place the day before. About the two incidents, their statement said, “They require that we come together as a whole, and recognize that racism damages all of us, not just our residents of color. We deserve better, and we must make it happen.” Continue reading “Monroe County prosecutor to weigh possible charges in case described as “attempted lynching” by target of assault”