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Highway Noise

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Last week the Monroe County Council amended its local noise ordinance to deal with some recent complaints, including loud, night-time and weekend construction work on section 4 of the new I-69 interstate that has been underway in the southeast corner of the county for the last few months. Correspondent David Murphy reports.

Bloomington Transit to Implement New Code Of Conduct

Users of local buses will be expected to adhere to a recently adopted behavioral code. Bloomington Transit will post its new Code of Conduct on its website, on buses and at the soon-to-be-opened new central transit depot on 3rd Street.

Lew May, General Manager of Bloomington Transit, says that in the past there simply was no formal code of conduct.

“In the past years the problems weren’t as significant in the past 10 years,” May says. “With rider growth, it’s become apparent we need to set a basic code of conduct to set expectations for our riders.”

Bloomington Transit posted this draft code on its website and then held two public meetings, on June 3 and June 17, where they presented the code.

The draft code included prohibitions on what would generally be considered anti-social and destructive behavior, anything that might soil the buses, be offensive to or impose on the privacy of other passengers, or be unsafe.

However, some attendees suggested that many of the rules, such as prohibitions on sleeping on the bus or at the depot and against emitting strong odors, seemed to be targeting the homeless. May said the Bloomington Transit has responded to these concerns by removing them from the code of conduct.

The new Bloomington Transit downtown depot on 3rd Street is expected to be open next month.

Monroe County Public Library To Change And Expand Hours

The Monroe County Public Library will be change hours starting on Labor Day.

The Library’s Board of Trustees voted June 18 to add two extra hours on Sundays, meaning the Library will soon be open from noon until 6 p.m. instead of 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Library Director Sara Laughlin said the administration has been wanted to expand Sunday hours for years.

“In 2012 when we did a community survey, what would you choose to change our services,” Laughlin says. “Number one, of course, was fix parking. But number three was expand weekend hours.”

Laughlin said the city’s parking meters also motivated the change. Parking is free on Sundays. To help offset the cost of the change, the Library cut an hour from its Friday schedule. It will open at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. on Fridays.

The Board also voted to push back its schedule on Saturdays. The building will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays instead of 9  to 5.

The changes take effect September 1.

Rural Monroe County Residents May See Major Rezoning Shifts

Some Monroe County residents raised questions June 17 about proposed rules that would affect the most rural parts of the county.

The rules would apply to areas more than two miles from Bloomington. They would not affect smaller communities like Ellettsville or Stinesville.

The County Plan Commission is seeking to simplify its rural zoning rules by establishing just two zones instead of the current 20. But resident Steven Cordell said that approach might have been counterproductive.

“You’re taking something that was too complicated and making it overly simplified,” Cordell says. “I think that might be a big over-correction.”

Cordell’s complaints with the proposed rules focused largely on restrictions that would keep residents from subdividing their land into lots of relatively small parcels. Commission members have said the County can’t support the infrastructure required by those kinds of typically residential developments.

Other residents, like Steve Smith, asked why the rules restrict rural businesses from developing.

“The existing businesses have been there a long time with the zoning code changing around them,” Smith says. “This would blanket change everything, and when they become pre-existing, non-conforming, that’s like saying ‘we don’t want you.’”

Commission members said they are waiting to develop some rules for businesses. Commission member Julie Thomas said consultant is still working on rules governing the Bloomington Urbanizing Area, which is the two miles of County land surrounding the city. Thomas said those regulations would affect the rural zoning rules.

 

IDEM Asks For Public Comment On Water Quality and Supply

The state wants public input into its decision making process on designating which watersheds in Indiana may be unfit for use. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management  has issued a notice that is it seeking public comment on a draft list of what it refers to as impaired waters.

This process happens every two years. This biennial review, in turn, forms the basis for further studies and watershed planning efforts in communities across the state by IDEM that is then uses to help ensure that Indiana waters are healthy enough to support activities such as swimming and fishing, and, where needed, to provide public water supplies.

The public comment period is open through July 29th.

Here is the link to the states watershed resource.

I-69 Construction Erosion Problems In Bloomington Go Unanswered From INDOT

Bloomington and Monroe County officials pushed for answers June 13 about erosion problems that have persisted for more than a year along the planned route of Interstate 69.

The policy committee of the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization submitted questions months ago to the Indiana Department of Transportation. They asked about contaminated waterways along section 4 of the interstate, which has been under construction since last year. INDOT sent a written response earlier this month, but committee member Cheryl Munson said it was incomplete.

“I had a number of questions about that response and was disappointed we couldn’t have a discussion with a representative,” Munson says. “The points that bothered me most were the statements INDOT sent rather than answers to questions.”

An INDOT official, Janelle Lemon, was scheduled to respond to the committee’s questions during a presentation May 9. But that presentation never happened.

Committee member Scott Wells said he was disappointed with INDOT’s treatment of the issue. Wells has contended for months the state is not using the right erosion control methods to prevent contamination.

“It’s unfortunate and disconcerting that the people we want to be here aren’t here,” Wells says.

Residents along the path of the interstate have reported erosion problems throughout the state. As construction is set to begin in Bloomington later this summer, mayor Mark Kruzan said he wants to see more details from the state about how they are addressing the problem.

“Is there anything being brought up in writing, verbally, in presentations, emails or meetings, where INDOT looks at this and says, here are things that have been alleged and we think yes this is valid and we’re working on it or no this isn’t us,” Kruzan explains.

Kruzan went on to suggest how the MPO could force the state to listen to the local concerns.

“I don’t think that just because someone doesn’t attend a meeting that they’re guilty of anything,” Kruzan says. “But obviously with this much notice, there’s no reason for them not to be here at the other meeting. If that happens, I certainly will be moving to table all the requests INDOT makes from MPO until we get answers to all of those bullet points that we have.”

Construction on Section 5 of the interstate is expected to begin by September. That section will run from Bloomington to Martinsville.

IU, After Local Pressure, Alters Plan To Demolish 6 Historic Houses

Indiana University will be deciding this week on the fate of six historic Bloomington houses.

Last year, IU announced plans to build a new law school facility on land currently occupied by Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, commonly known as FeeGee. IU agreed to build a new facility for the fraternity on the 800 block of E 8th St which is part of the University Courts historic district. The area has been placed on the state historic register since 1992 and on the national historic register since 2007.

Alarm over IU’s demolition plan of the homes prompted the City of Bloomington to place the district on its list of local historic districts this spring. This designation requires city approval for any development plan in the area, but there is dispute as to whether state owned property would be exempt from the city purview. A legal opinion solicited by Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana found credible argument for the designation to apply to the demolition of the eight street homes even though they are owned by IU.

Beyond the legal rights, IU has come under considerable pressure from the local residents, the Historic Preservation Commission of the City, members of City Council and the Mayor, to preserve the houses slated for demolition, and according to an agenda released today, IU seems to have listened.

The IU Trustees Facilities Committee will be looking at a new proposal that would move four of the houses a block to the west, while still demolishing two properties. Philip Eskew, an IU trustee and chair of Facilities Committee, explains what prompted the alteration of the plan.

“We’ve worked with the mayor, the council and the historical group in Bloomington to listen to their concerns,” Eskew says. “We are recommending to the trustees that we change what we had initially said tearing down the houses and instead move the four worthy of being saved.”

Eskew affirmed that the university believes that it has the legal right to dispose of the houses any way it sees fit.

A bill introduced into the Indiana legislature earlier this year by local state representative Matt Pierce would have required public institutions seeking to demolish, move or change the exterior of a university building within a historic preservation district to obtain a certificate of appropriateness before commencing work.

In Bloomington, it would be the City’s Historic Preservation Commission that would control the certification process. However, the bill failed to make it to the floor of the House in time for passage during this year’s session.

Nevertheless, the local pressure seems to have had some impact on IU.

“There were several groups, even neighbors, that spoke about the tearing down of the houses,” Eskew says. “I think this is a reaction to that and we’re trying to be good neighbors with the community, as we always have been.”

The meeting of the trustees that will be addressing this item will be on the South Bend Campus of IU.

Eskew says the committee will make a recommendation and act on the action items.

The Facilities Committee of the Trustees meeting on Thursday will be from 3:15 to 5 p.m. The full Trustees meeting on Friday will be from 12:45 to 2 p.m. Both will be in combined rooms 221, 223 and 225 of the Student Activity Center of IU South Bend. Both meetings are open to the public.

‘Race Across America’ Bike Tour Coming Through Bloomington

Next week, bicyclists on a country-spanning race will be trickling through Bloomington.

Participants in the annual Race Across America road race will set off from Oceanside, California June 10 on their way to Annapolis, Maryland. They are expected to start coming through Time Station 39, in Bloomington, starting around Monday, June 16 through to the weekend. There are different categories of racers, male and female, single, double and team.

Jim Schroeder, a local resident and bicycling enthusiast, is the captain of Station 39, which will be on College Mall Road, in front of Casa Brava restaurant. He says this race is unique in it’s length and time.

Race Across America is not like the notable Tour races, Schroeder says its harder with a longer distance in shorter time.

The race draws competitors from across the globe, especially Europe where ultra-marathon bike racing is popular. The European teams are professional bike racers, sponsored by corporations. Schroeder says that it costs at least $30,000 to finance a team, which includes riders, crew, equipment and supplies. Many of the racers raise funds from pledge donations which they donate to their favorite charity.

It is expected that the leading competitors in the Race Across America ultra bicycling marathon race will be coming through Bloomington starting Monday, June 16 and continuing into the weekend.

They will be riding south-west along the 45/46 bypass, loop around the mall along 3rd St, Hillcrest, and College Mall Road, and checking in with their time in front of Casa Brava Mexican restaurant.

Hoosier Hills Food Bank Provides Monthly Food Boxes To Low-Income Seniors

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Starting in June, Hoosier Hills Food Bank (HHFB) will begin providing monthly boxes of food for up to 100 low-income senior citizens in Monroe County. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program is already operational in Brown, Crawford, Orange, and Martin counties.

Potentially eligible seniors must complete a program application and will be scheduled for an interview to document their eligibility. Casey Steury, the Director of Programs for HHFB, says to be eligible, they must be 60 and over, live in Monroe County and be 130% of the poverty level or less.

Funding for the program is  provided by the US Department of Agriculture and Indiana State Department of Health, but Steury says that volunteer power is really what runs the program, and that without volunteers getting the word out about the program, many eligible seniors who don’t have access to internet or newspapers wouldn’t know that help was available.

The HHFB provides food for soup kitchens and shelters but the monthly food delivery program is the one time they get to interact directly with the people who benefit from their work.

“This senior program is the one program where we actually get to hand boxes directly to these seniors,” Steury says. “Because they get this food they don’t have to decide between buying food or medicine this month.”

The seniors then provide feedback on how this program has helped to improved their lives.

About 7% of Monroe County’s senior population are living below the poverty level.

Indiana Board of Pharmacy Bans Synthetic Drug Compounds

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The Indiana Board of Pharmacy has banned four compounds that are used to make the synthetic drugs K2 and spice. The board is working closely with Indiana State Police to pass emergency rules to battle the ever-changing chemical formulas.

These synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous because the majority of users are youth that may think these are natural substances. K2 and spice are synthetic forms of with highly unpredictable effects. Communications Director for the Indiana Board of Pharmacy Nick Goodwin reflects on the dangers of these synthetic drugs.

“The dangers are widely documented,” Goodwin says, “Recently, 4 kids from Columbus, IN were hospitalized and were on synthetic drugs.”

Goodwin says there are misconceptions to the legality and safety of these kinds of synthetic drugs.

Reported effects of synthetic cannabinoids include increased heart rate, anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, seizures, and chest pain. No official studies have been conducted, but data show that 11,000 people ended up in the emergency room in 2012 from smoking these substances.

Goodwin says this emergency rule will go into effect next Friday.

Once this rule is in effect, Indiana State Police will begin to prosecute providers of these synthetic drugs if the banned compounds show up in the lab tests of their products.

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