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Sophia Travis to be Honored at Women in Government Plaza


The dedication of the Women in Government Plaza at the Monroe County Courthouse is scheduled to take place this Sunday, October 4th, at 1pm. The plaza seeks to honor the life of Sophia Travis, a County Council member, artist, and community activist. It is also designed to honor women who have served in government in general. A non-profit group, the Friends of Sophia Travis Memorial Fund, raised the money to build and install the plaza. After the dedication ceremony there will be live music. According to a press release, the event is rain or shine and by ordinance no dogs are allowed on the courthouse square.

Two Dead in Murder/Suicide


A man and a woman were found dead last night in what investigators believe was a murder/suicide on the east side of Bloomington. The two were discovered in the common area of Stratum at Indiana Apartments around 9:21 p.m. When police arrived, they found a 20 year old man dead from an apparent suicide by hanging. The woman, who was 21, had died from apparent stab wounds. The investigation is still on-going. In a press release, Lieutenant Brad Seifers with Bloomington Police said detectives believe the woman was killed by the man, who then committed suicide. Police have not yet identified the victim or the suspect in the case.

Wheeler Mission Ministries and Backstreet Missions Merger


Wheeler Mission Ministries of Indianapolis officially merged with Bloomington’s Backstreet Missions today. The two organizations offer similar services, including addiction recovery programs and shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Wheeler Mission has been involved with Backstreet Missions from its beginning. The organization paid for the first fundraising efforts to get Backstreet Missions started in Bloomington, according to Wheeler Chief Development Officer Steve Kerr. Kerr led the transition.

“So just today, nothing fancy just transitioning their [Backstreet Mission's] employees to Wheeler Mission employees so we can get on the payroll system, and learning about the day to day operations. That’s the big thing that’s happening today and the next few days,” said Kerr

Wheeler Mission runs an addiction recovery camp just 12 miles north of town. Kerr says Wheeler may look to move some of parts of the Backstreet operation to the Wheeler facility.

“I think one of the first things we may do is, any of the men who are on their long-term addiction recovery programs will most likely transition to our camp facility so we’re not running similar programs 12 miles apart,” said Kerr

The merger is occurring just as the Executive Director of Backstreet Missions, Linda Kelly, prepares to retire.

Asian Carp Found Near Lake Monroe


Fish and Wildlife officials are urging residents to obey fishing laws in hopes of keeping Asian carp out of Monroe Lake. Fisheries biologist Dave Kittaka, at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, says Asian carp have recently been discovered in the tailwater area near the lake. The fish can grow larger than 40 pounds and are known to jump out of the water as motorized boats approach. Kittaka says carp have caused problems in nearby rivers.

It is illegal to bring carp into the lake. But, Kittaka suspects anglers have been cast-netting in the tailwater area recently, looking for small fish to be used as bait. Several dead carp were found on rocks in that area, and Kittaka believes the fish were left there by anglers. The fish are known to have ventured into the tailwater area in the past.

Kittaka says anglers are allowed to use cast nets to collect small fish for bait. But he says they are not allowed to use bait from the tailwater area to fish in Monroe Lake. And he says there are laws against possessing Asian carp.

Asian carp were first introduced in the United States in the 1970s by commercial fishermen. They were used to eat fish pond algae. Since then, they have spread to many large bodies of water, and there is concern they will soon affect the ecosystem in the Great Lakes.

MCCSC Board Approves Collective Bargaining Agreement


The Monroe County Community school board approved a collective agreement with its teachers yesterday. The Board of Trustees of the Monroe County Community School Corporation reviewed the tentative three-year agreement between the Corporation and the local teachers’ union, the Monroe County Education Association. The Attorney for the MCCSC, Charles Rubright [RU-bright], introduced the proposed agreement to the board.

Legislation passed by the state in 2011 limits how teachers’ unions can collectively bargain with local school corporations. They are only allowed to negotiate wages and benefits. They can no longer bargain around issues such as length of the work day, layoffs, teacher evaluations, and wage-setting criteria. In the past, the two parties negotiated salary schedules that were based on such factors as seniority, responsibility, and credentials.

These new regulations eliminate the old salary ladder. The last contract, signed in 2011, was for four years, with a one percent across the board wage increase in the first year and none in subsequent years. There were also no wage automatic increases during the two years prior to the last agreement. Rubright noted that corporation teachers as well as new hires received a total across the board wage increase of one percent over the last six years.

Teachers who start with, or later acquire, advanced degrees are no longer automatically compensated for those credentials. Absenteeism will now also be considered in setting compensation. The contract also includes a special pay incentive for teachers who stay on at Fairview School. At an earlier meeting, the members of the teachers’ union in attendance voted unanimously to approve the tentative collective agreement. The MCCSC Board voted unanimously to approve the agreement with the teacher’s union. The terms of the new agreement will apply retroactively to January 1st of this year.

Imposter Government Officials Scam


Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins is warning local residents of what she says is a scam involving imposter government officials. Robbins says a County resident received a call from someone who claimed to represent the US Marshalls. The scammer demanded to collect fifteen hundred dollars, saying the woman had missed jury duty and was subject to a fine. The woman was asked to buy cash cards at Kroger and then give the card information to the fake government official. When Kroger employees raised concerns, they were put in touch with another person who claimed to be Robbins, the County Clerk. That person insisted the request was valid. Robbins says this is a scam and pointed out that anyone who misses their call for jury duty would be notified in writing by the Monroe County Courts. Fines related to jury service would be paid to the County, not the US Marshalls office.

Funds For Emergency Homeless Shelter


The Bloomington City Council will vote tonight on providing funds for the emergency homeless shelter formerly known as Martha’s House. The shelter lost its 501(c)3 status earlier this year. Since then, Perry Township, which owns the building and the property, has allocated $45,000 to fund the shelter through the end of September. The Monroe County Council also pledged $15,000 to keep doors open through the end of the year. The City Council expressed support earlier this month, proposing an additional $15,000 in funds. A contribution from the city would be just enough for Martha’s House to run through the end of December and provide time to discuss future outcomes for the shelter. About $9,000 more would be required for the final month’s operating costs.

Annual Bloomington Pumpkin Launch


Bloomington’s annual pumpkin launch is coming up. This annual team competition is scheduled for Saturday, November 7th. The Community Events Co-ordinator for the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, Bill Ream, presented the details on the event at the September 22nd meeting of the Bloomington Board of Park Commissioners. Ream says the pumpkin launching competition is judged on both accuracy and distance.

“The record is just under 680 feet and we’ll be breaking that soon,” said Ream.

Gates at the Fairground open at 11 a.m. on November 7th and the launch competition will start at noon. The event is also scheduled to include live bluegrass music, food vendors and pumpkin and science-related activities for children.

Education Committee Endorses Ritz

A State Campaign Committee of Educators has endorsed Glenda Ritz. According to a press release the Indiana Political Action Committee for Education has endorsed Ritz’s re-election bid as Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction. In related news, a state task force is going to work on a plan of action for Indiana state lawmakers surrounding teacher shortages. Ritz co-chairs the task force, which is called the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Recruitment and Retention of Excellent Educators. The group met for the first time last week.

Indiana has had a decline of 18 percent in college enrollment in schools of education and in teachers achieving licenses over the last five years. Many attribute these drops to the lack of economic opportunity for teachers. This is especially prevalent in Indiana. An article in the Times of Northwest Indiana points out that the Indiana starting pay average for teachers is about $34,700, about $250 less than the national average. In Illinois, the starting pay average is $37,166. For experienced teachers, the pay gap is even more pronounced. An experienced teacher in Indiana can expect to make roughly $43,000 and with a master’s degree they can expect to make around $55,400. In Michigan, an experienced teacher can expect to make around $47,300. And with a master’s degree, 64,130 dollars. That’s almost $9,000 more than in Indiana. California fares even better, but they too still have a teacher shortage. Glenda Ritz says she hopes to change this problem for Indiana by starting with the task force.

Panel Discusses Sustainability Tomorrow at IMU


A panel discussion titled “Who’s responsible for Sustainability?” is planned for tomorrow in Bloomington. The event will be held at the University Club in the Indiana Memorial Union on IU’s campus. According to a press release, the panel will discuss economic, social, and environmental factors that contribute to sustainability and how that all affects the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Those present will include the director of Global Environmental Sustainability for Cummins Inc., the director of sustainability for Louisville Metro Government and the University Director of Sustainability at the IU office of Sustainability. Also attending will be Jesse Kharbanda, the executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. Kharbanda says the Hoosier Environmental Council has a bold and hopeful vision of the future of sustainability in Indiana.

There will be a short reception following the panel. The event is hosted by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Integrated Program in the Environment, the Indiana University Office of Sustainability, and the ISOS Center for Social Responsibility. The event will start at 5pm tomorrow in the University Club at the IMU.

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