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Lotus Music and Arts Festival Parade Street Closures

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The parade for Bloomington’s annual Lotus Music and Arts Festival is expected to be bigger than ever this year. On Tuesday, Lotus asked the Bloomington Board of Public Works to approve additional street closures for the parade route. Miah Michaelson, from the city’s Department of Economic and Sustainable Development, presented the request.

“We’re asking for approval of a parade parade route that will temporary restrict traffic at the intersection of  W Kirkwood and S Madison Street and it will go to the intersection of  E Kirkwood and Washington St from 8:30 – 9:00 PM, on Saturday September 26″

The Executive Director of Lotus, Sunni Fass, elaborated on the Saturday evening parade.

“We will have public participation, people are invited to bring and decorate their bikes, and to march in the parade and wave flags. It’ll be a really good time.”

The Lotus parade will on Saturday evening, September 26th

Monroe County Needle-Exchange Program

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The Monroe County Council has passed a resolution in support of establishing a needle-exchange program in the county. County Health Department Administrator, Penny Caudill, explained that this program is needed to respond to a Hepatitis C epidemic in the county.

” It’s proved very successful in getting people in, getting them into treatment, they found that they needed a whole host of services that they were able to make connections and linkages to.”

“In May the Legislation Senate Enrollment Act 461 was passed that enables local health departments to request needle exchange programs.”

Caudill says that her department has found a significant increase in Hepatitis C cases in the county. She noted that most of the infections are due to sharing of needles by drug users. In response to a question from Council member Shelli Yoder, Caudill explained how she expects to fund the needle exchange program.

“..So primarily it’s about looking for foundation money, local money, and donations that people are willing to do.”

Caudill estimated the program could cost $50,000. The council unanimously approved the resolution in support of the program. There will be a public comment session on the proposal at the September 4th meeting of the County Commissioners. If the Commissioners approve, the County Health Department would then seek approval from the state Health Commissioner.

CVS Property Tax Cut

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A state tax court has ruled in favor of a Bloomington CVS store that was seeking to cut its property taxes. The Indiana Board of Tax Review says the store’s assessed value should be reduced by $1.3 million, which will significantly reduce the amount it pays to the Monroe County government each year. The County will also have to pay back some of the taxes it has collected since 2009 if the decision stands. County Auditor Steve Saulter told the Herald-Times that it’s not yet clear exactly how much that might cost the County. The store’s appeal was based on a new legal claim known as the dark box theory, where stores claim their values should be assessed as if they were vacant and non-operational. County Assessor Judy Sharp has said she expects other big box stores in the area to file similar appeals. Ultimately the decisions could cost the County government millions of dollars.

Park Workers Receive Raises in 2016 Budget

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Seasonal workers at local parks can expect a four percent increase in their hourly wages next year, while permanent staff can expect a two percent raise. These proposals were part of the 2016 budget request presented by the Director of the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, Mick Renneisen. Renneisen spoke to the Bloomington Board of Park Commissioners yesterday.  He first reviewed highlights from the department’s activities this past year.

Renneisen says there were almost a million public participations in parks and recreation programs in 2014. He then went over the Department’s priorities for next year.  The Board approved the Department’s request for a little over eight million dollars in general funding for next year, an increase of 2.3 percent over 2015. That request now goes to the City Council. Renneisen then reviewed the non-reverting fund budget request for his Department. These are on-going funds needed for expenses, such as personnel, which roll over yearly.

The Board has the final say over the approval of the non-reverting fund budget. It unanimously approved the Department’s proposal.

Heroin Use on the Rise in Monroe County

Monroe County Coroner Nicole Meyer says there has been a startling increase in heroin and opiate related deaths in Monroe County. Meyer was quoted in an article in the Herald-Times. Overdose deaths have surpassed even that of car accidents. Between the years of 2012 and 2014 the number of heroin overdoses that made it to the IU hospital increased from nine to forty-eight. In just the first six months of this year they have treated thirty-seven overdose patients.

Mark DeLong, the director at local addiction recovery organization Amethyst House, says the organization has seen a definite increase in users of both heroin and opiates in the past couple years. He says the trend they’ve seen is people starting their addictions with prescription medication, then eventually moving on to heroin which has become inexpensive. There have been reports of public overdoses as recently as July, according to the Herald-Times. A forty-six year old man was found twice in the same day, first by Old National Bank then later at People’s Park. Both times the man was revived with the drug Narcan, which negates the effects of heroin. Another 21-year-old man was found overdosed in a McDonald’s parking lot in July.

MCCSC Board Fields Complaints About Start Times

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A student and a parent raised complaints last night about the start time for middle and high school students at local public schools. The Monroe County Community School Corporation Board of Trustees heard first from the Senior Class President at Bloomington High School North, Adrian Thompson.  The school day at Middle and High Schools in the district begins at 7:40 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; and 8:25 on Wednesday.  It ends at 2:55 each day.

Elementary school starts and ends 55 minutes later. The ostensible rationale for the early and split starts is school bus co-ordination. A member of the Calendar Committee of MCCSC, Jenny Stevens, also spoke to the start time issue, during her presentation on the length of the school day. She noted that she had been a member of the Length of Day Study Committee.  Both presentations occurred during the public comment section of the Board meeting. No Board members commented on either presentation.

Senator Donnelly Has Issued His Tie-Breaking Support For The Iran Nuclear Deal

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Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana has announced he will support the nuclear deal with Iran. Donnelly made the announcement in a press release this afternoon. He is expected to hold a potentially tie-breaking vote when the issue comes before the Senate next month. On August 9th,  several local peace organizations held a rally urging Donnelly to support the deal. David Keppel was one of the lead organizers. Keppeli believes that this is a deal of historical proportions and an opportunity to keep Iran’s nuclear program peaceful. Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal have launched an ad campaign, spending an estimated twenty to forty million dollars urging lawmakers to oppose the agreement. The other senator from Indiana, Republican Dan Coats, has said he opposes the deal.

A Proposal To Eliminate Plastic Bag Use Is Addressed By The Bloomington City Council

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A local group calling itself Bring Your Bag Bloomington is asking the Bloomington City Council to address the issue of plastic bag use at grocery stores and other businesses in Bloomington. BYBB has spent the past year investigating ordinances in as many as 130 cities, two states, and 70 countries that have banned the use of plastic bags in stores. Now they’re aiming to form an ordinance for Bloomington. City Council Vice President Andy Ruff says this matter will be a slow process.  He says that though it is not a simple thing to do there is a lot of interest in this issue.

Bring Your Bag Bloomington has also created a Bag Monster, a figure wearing a costume made out of five hundred plastic bags. The Bag Monster will be featured in a video that the group will present to the City Council before the end of the year. The group is proposing one year for adjustment, one year in which there would be a fifteen cent charge for using paper or plastic bags, then finally another year where plastic bags are actually banned with the fifteen cent charge remaining for paper bags. Certain plastic bags such as bags for bulk items, wet items, and prescription drugs would be exempt from the ban.

John Gregg Is The Last Democrat Standing In The Governor’s Race

In the race for governor, John Gregg is now the only remaining Democratic candidate. On Monday, State Senator Karen Tallian dropped out of the race and said she would support Gregg’s nomination.  Talian quit just days after State Superintendent for Public Instruction Glenda Ritz ended her campaign for governor.  Ritz has also endorsed Gregg, who has led the other candidates in fund raising. Gregg is the former speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives and he ran for governor once before in 2012. He lost the race that year to Governor Mike Pence, who he will likely face again in the general election next year.

Mayor Mark Kruzan Endorses John Gregg

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Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan has joined 35 other Indiana mayors to officially endorse Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg. The Gregg campaign made the announcement in a press release this afternoon. The endorsements come just a week after Superintendent for Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, who was possibly Gregg’s biggest Democratic rival, dropped out of the race. Ritz had struggled with fundraising, raising only $110,000 by the end of June. Gregg has amassed nearly two million dollars. The other official candidate for the Democratic nomination is Senator Karen Tallian, of Portage. Tom Sugar, who worked as an aide to former Senator Evan Bayh has also announced he is also considering a run. The Democratic nominee is expected to face Republican Governor Mike Pence in the general election. Pence currently has a $4.2 million campaign war chest.

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