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Bloomington Utilities Service Board deals with complications working with private contractors

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The Bloomington Utilities Service Board dealt with some complications of working with private contractors at its meeting on Monday.

The City Utilities Department frequently hires companies to perform engineering or construction work.

Capital Projects Manager Mike Hicks explained a recent issue with two of those companies. The contractors are working on projects to improve water mains and to expand the Monroe Water Treatment Plant.

“In the execution of the work, damage was caused to Monroe County Highway roads,” Hicks said, “It’s caused by two factors, one being hauling and the other excavation from work on a water main. Our position is that there are two contractors responsible for the repairs, F.A. Wilhelm and Howl contractors. “

Hicks said the contractors have refused to deal with the issue, despite the city’s attempts to contact them. So, he said the city needs to find a different contractor to repair the roads.

“Monroe County Highway Department wants this work done this season before the asphalt plants close so it’s come to the City of Bloomington Utilities taking action to find a paving contractor to make the repairs,” Hicks said.

The board approved spending $64,000 to pay Milestone Contractors to do the repairs. Hicks said the city would attempt to recoup that amount from the contractors that caused the damage. Later in the meeting, the board discussed how the Utilities Department chooses its contractors. The issue came up when Utilities Engineer Jane Fleig told the board that a large engineering contract would be awarded to the company Donohue and Associates.

Board member Jason Banach asked Flieg about the agreement and Fleig said they have asked for a proposal from an engineer at Donohue, but no bids.

The contract is for the design of a culvert project that extends from 2nd St. to Kirkwood Ave. in downtown Bloomington.

Banach asked why the Department didn’t solicit bids from other companies to do the work, and Department Director Pat Murphy responded.

“We have a long standing relationship with Donahue and we’ve worked with them extensively. They did the initial project, they did the Jordan River culvert and 2nd and Walnut,” Murphy said, “We feel it’s more of a continuation of the project because they know the history of the project and we wouldn’t be starting anew and we think they price they are proposing is fair and reasonable.”

The contract would be for about $400,000. Banach said he has problems awarding such large contracts without getting competitive bids.

“Cheaper isn’t better,” Murphy said.

Board member Pedro Roman said approving an agreement without seeking bids would not be unusual for the board, especially when for engineering contracts.

“We’re talking about engineering, the design, not the actual construction,” Roman said, “We never bid these things.”

Flieg said that, unlike construction contracts, the city is not legally required to solicit multiple bids for professional services such as engineering.

The board will consider whether to approve the contract with Donohue and Associates at its next meeting, which is scheduled for November 18.

Daily Local News – November 7, 2013

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The Bloomington Utilities Service Board dealt with some complications of working with private contractors at its meeting on Monday; Anyone interested in geology will have the opportunity for a free driving tour of Monroe Lake on December 1st; On October 24th, the Monroe County Commission approved spending state grant money to improve twelve railroad crossings; This weekend in sports at Indiana University.

FEATURE
30 Years of Hoosier Environmental Council
The Hoosier Environmental Council is celebrating its 30th year. Correspondent Stephanie Stewart spoke with the council’s Jesse Kharbanda about the history of the organization, and its involvement in state environmental issues, for today’s WFHB feature exclusive courtesy of Eco Report.

VOICES IN THE STREET
Depending on whom you ask, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is either a hero or a traitor.  And a recent film called the Fifth Estate dramatizes the international non-profit as an organization that is run by a man who increasingly cares about his own ego rather than the anonymity of the whistle blowers.  Its posting of classified U.S. diplomatic cables led the U.S. Army, the FBI, and the Justice Department to call for criminal prosecution.  So what do YOU think about WikiLeaks?  We hit the streets to find out.

Anchors: Scott Weddle, Carolyn VandeWiele
Today’s headlines were written by Yin Yuan and Jalisa Ransom,
Along with Joe Crawford for CATSweek, a partnership with Community Access Television Services.
Our feature was produced by Stephanie Stewart.
Voices in the Street was produced by Kelly Wherley,
Our engineer was Sarah Hettrick.
Editor is Drew Daudelin,
Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh.

EcoReport – November 7, 2013

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In today’s EcoReport feature, Jesse Kharbanda discusses the history of the Hoosier Environmental Council and the organization’s involvement in state environmental issues.

EcoReport is a weekly program providing independent media coverage of environmental and ecological issues with a focus on local, state and regional people, issues, and events in order to foster open discussion of human relationships with nature and the Earth and to encourage you to take personal responsibility for the world in which we live. Each program features timely eco-related headline news, a feature interview or event recording, and a calendar of events of interest to the environmentally conscious.

CREDITS
Anchors: David McFarland and Kristina Wiltsee
This week’s news stories were written by Yvonne Cheng, Joe Crawford, Linda Greene, Norm Holy, and Stephanie Stewart.
This week’s feature was engineered by Stephanie Stewart.
This week’s calendar was compiled by me, Kristina Wiltsee.
Our broadcast engineer is Dan Withered. Producers for EcoReport are Kelly Miller and Dan Young.
Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh.

State grant money approved to improve twelve railroad crossings

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On October 24th, the Monroe County Commission approved spending state grant money to improve 12 railroad crossings. County Highway Department Director Bill Williams said the work will be performed using a grant from the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The improvements will affect railroad crossing warnings at twelve of the county’s fifteen crossings, including three on Curry Pike and others on Vernal Pike and Liberty Drive.

Interchange – Doug Martin: Muckraking Education Politics

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This week on Interchange, host Doug Storm speaks with investigative blogger Doug Martin who posts articles regularly on the website Schools Matter (found at schoolsmatter.info).  Martin is a native Hoosier who has been investigating Indiana’s “for profit” Education Politics for several years and will soon publish a book detailing these investigations called “Hoosier School Heist.”

Martin’s articles at Schools Matter get over 1,000 views on a regular basis. He offers readers facts rather just more opinions from one particular “side of the aisle,” he follows the money, and he names names: from the Indy Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, to politicians like Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett, to the out in the open oligarchs at the Walton and Gates Foundations, to the lower level soldiers these groups plant on school boards and grant funding organizations and who write op-eds in local newspapers under the banner of independent “Policy Reviews.”  That is, Martin relentlessly exposes every evil practice and every evil act whether performed by politician or business person.

Howard Zinn-In

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During his US History class today, Indiana University associate Professor Alex Lichtenstein held what he deemed a “Howard Zinn-in.” The date coincides with the birthday of famous Hoosier Eugene V. Debbs, a prominent Socialist and proponent of union rights during the turn of the twentieth century who Zinn admired. The event was held in conjunction with similar Zinn-ins held throught the state, all in protest of former governor Mitch Daniels attempts to ban the author’s works from Indiana classrooms. We bring you that speech for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

Volunteers will help anyone with questions about the Affordable Care Act tomorrow

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Local volunteers will again help people understand and navigate the enrollment process for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act Volunteers of Monroe County will be providing information and guidance this Wednesday at the Monroe County library, for anyone interested in the Indiana Health Insurance Marketplace. Wednesday’s fair will be the third the group has presented in the last month.

David Meyer, president of the volunteers, says the upcoming session will have a bigger space, additional process guides that help answer specific questions about the ACA and help people get more detailed resources and information covered.

Volunteers have seen a gradual increase in the numbers of people seeking information at their fairs.

This increase is expected to further escalate, as the December 15 deadline approaches to sign up for insurance coverage as the January 1 of next year.

The Indiana Insurance Marketplace is part of the national marketplace website, so it has suffered many of the same problems as the 25 other states that decided not to establish their own version of the program. However, Meyer says he hears the national website is becoming more navigable.

“What we do at these fairs is work to educate and answer questions for anyone that comes out,” Meyer says, “We also want them to know how health insurance works in general. Our focus is on educating people so they can make decisions for themselves and self-enroll.”

There are 19 insurance companies offering health insurance to Monroe County residents on the Indiana ACA exchange. Meyer and these volunteers will also provide advice to fair visitors who may not be eligible for insurance enrollment under the ACA.

The fair will run tomorrow, November 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m, in rooms 1B and 1C on the lower floor of the Monroe County Public Library. Attendance is free of charge, and no documentation is required.

New YMCA in northwest Bloomington opens its doors Sunday for a community tour

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After 18 months of construction, the northwest Bloomington YMCA will have an open tour Sunday afternoon. This is the second YMCA facility in the city. In addition to the usual sports facilities for individuals and families, the new building will also include a licensed child care center.

It will also provide medical services, in collaboration with IU Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. Sara Herold, marketing director for Monroe County YMCA, says the new facilities will not be ready for use during the tour.

“We’re banding together to provide facilities and programs that allow people to become healthier,” Herold says, “I just think this is an extraordinary opportunity for the community to come together and see what the new YMCA has to offer.

YMCA has been in Bloomington since the late 1800’s, when it was a student organization. In the 1970’s it began offering swim lessons and fitness classes throughout the town. It wasn’t until 1981 that the first facility was built, on the southeast side of town. Herold says they appreciate the support the community offers them, especially as a nonprofit organization.

“We’re committed to providing safe places and a positive alternatives for children and families to become healthy,” Herold says, “We want to teach sound nutrition and our goal is to make a stronger community by making a healthier community.”

It is estimated that more than 6,700 individuals will benefit from the northwest YMCA. Approximately 80 part-time and full-time jobs will be created because of the new facility.

Visitors to Lake Monroe will have the chance to observe winter eagles as ‘Citizen Scientists’

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Anyone interested in helping track winter eagle activity at Lake Monroe will have the opportunity to attend Citizen Scientist training next week, on November 17. Jill Vance, Interpretive Naturalist at Monroe Lake, gives details about the training.

“This is our second year and we’re inviting people to come out and learn the different phases of life for the bald eagle and the Golden Eagle,” Vance says, “Then they can come out to the lake this winter and track any eagles they see. This will help us track our eagle population on the lake and let our visitors know where the best place to see these eagles are.”

The training also covers the difference between adult and juvenile eagles, common eagle behavior, and how best to observe the bird.

“The more people we have out there looking for eagles the better our data is on how many eagles we have out there on the lake,” Vance says.

The observation period for this project lasts from December 1 to March 31. Anyone who decides to participate is expected to volunteer at least two hours per month, to help personnel record the information.

The training session for Monroe Lake eagle observers will take place next Sunday, November 17 at 6 p.m, at the Paynetown State Recreation Area.

 

The Strike Mic – November 5, 2013

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This week on The Strike Mic, Ph.D candidate Christopher Miles speaks about the student input that went into the proposal of a merged Media School at Indiana University, and how it compares to the plan adopted by IU trustees last month.

Tune in every Tuesday for a new edition of The Strike Mic, a weekly update from your friends and neighbors working to strengthen the voice of IU students and staff.

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