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New Regulations for Rural Areas of Monroe County to be Reviewed by Plan Commission


Monroe County is days away from finishing what one official says is a nearly final draft of some much-debated zoning rules. County Plan Commission member John Irvine said a group of Commission members plan to review new regulations for rural areas on October 28th. Irvine made the statement at a Plan Commission meeting on October 21st.

The rules would only affect rural areas of the County. Bloomington, Ellettsville and other municipalities fall under different zoning rules. So does the two-mile fringe around Bloomington. But the new regulations could mean major changes for rural areas. Previous drafts banned all new subdivisions and put all land into just two categories, one called rural residential and the other called farm and forest. Currently there are 20 different rural zones. Rural landowners and businesses have expressed concern their properties would be classified as nonconforming, which would make it more difficult for them to build new structures or subdivide their land. Commission member Kevin Enright took issue with saying the rules are nearly finalized.

The Commission’s Ordinance Review Committee will consider the new regulations October 28th. The Commission will hold another meeting November 6th, where they will take public comment on the rules. The final vote could happen as soon as November 18th.

Hoosier Swimmers Raise Money in Pursuit of 2016 Olympics


Three Hoosier swimmers are using crowdsourcing to raise money for their Olympic dreams. The online platform Dreamfuel is a website specifically dedicated to competitive athletes. Because of their accomplishments, three former IU swimmers have been picked to be profiled and supported on the Dreamfuel platform. They are Margaux Farrell, Lindsay Vrooman and Cody Miller.  Vrooman and Miller are are part of the 37-person roster that will represent the United States in the short course World Championships in Qatar in December. Vrooman graduated from Indiana University last year and still lives and trains in Bloomington. The suits that Vrooman wears during competitions can cost four hundred dollars, and its not easy to balance out an income with Olympic training.

Vrooman is aiming to participate in the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil, competing in the 400 and 800 freestyle and the open water 10K race. While she calls herself a bit of a long shot, her career as a Hoosier is full of accomplishments.

Dreamfuel Co-Founder Emily White’s Grandfather, Bob White Sr. swam for IU in the 1940’s and also competed at the Olympic Trials. White says the crowdsourcing site goes beyond fundraising and also teaches athletes how to  build and nurture their support networks and engage their fans. Vrooman’s personal networks, family, and high school teachers have all chipped in to get her about half way to her fund raising goal with one week left in the campaign. She says fund raising is especially hard for solo athletes.

According to an article in the magazine Fast Company, 85 percent of Olympic hopefuls earn less than fifteen thousand dollars per year and many do not have corporate sponsorships.

Indiana State Health Department Establishes Call Center for Questions About Ebola Virus

Yesterday the Indiana State Health Department announced the establishment a call center for the public to ask questions regarding the Ebola Virus Disease. Health representatives will be available to answer questions over the phone regarding the disease’s symptoms, screening procedures, and diagnosis of the potential problem. Those symptoms are similar to influenza: diarrhea, fever, headaches and joint/muscle pain, overall weakness, and stomach pain and abnormal bleeding.

The call center telephone number is 877-826-011 and will be available Mondays through Fridays from 8:55 AM through 4:15 PM. The Health Department reminds Hoosiers that Ebola is NOT spread through the air or by casual contact. Currently only individuals who have traveled to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are at risk of having been exposed to Ebola.

Governor Pence Declines Possibility on 80 Million Dollar Grant for Pre-Kindergarten Education

Last week Governor Pence announced that his administration would not seek a federal education grant that could have brought up to 80 million dollars to Indiana to fund pre-kindergarten education.  According to the Indianapolis Star, Pence’s Family and Social Services Administration had worked with the state Department of Education writing this grant and it came as a surprise that the Governor would not submit the grant.  A previous grant submitted last year was rejected. The odds of getting funded this year are thought to be greatly improved because Indiana is one of just two states labeled ‘category one’ states, identified as those states with highest need.

In an opinion piece published Monday on the Indystar website, Pence defended his decision, saying that Indiana has its own, five county, pre-K pilot program that will start next year and, “It is important not to allow the lure of federal grant dollars to define our state’s mission and programs.”

State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, also published an opinion piece on the website.  She stressed that after last year’s application was rejected, the governor reiterated his support to seek federal funds this year.  She expressed disappointment that, after the grant was completed, the Governor changed his mind and would not sign it.  Her opinion piece says, “Published reports indicate the governor was under intense lobbying from out-of-state special interests. Those special interests wanted to reject federal support for early childhood education.”

On Monday Senator Donnelly’s office issued a press release also expressing disappointment with the decision.  In a letter to the Governor, Donnelly asked Pence to provide answers to specific questions about why the Governor decided not to submit the grant.

The deadline for submission is today. The grant cannot be submitted without the Governor’s signature.

Human Remains found in Mobile Home Park

From the City of Bloomington Police Department:

This Morning the Bloomington Police Department responded to a call of possible human remains being found on a vacant lot at Arlington Valley Mobile Home Park located at 1600 North Willis Drive. Property managers made the discovery while cleaning up the lot that had been vacant since a mobile home was moved from it sometime this summer.

It appeared that a plastic storage bin had been placed over the remains which was located at the rear of the vacant lot. Upon arrival, officers and detectives confirmed the remains were human and found them to be in an advanced stage of decomposition. Initial estimates indicate the remains may be two to three months old. No indication of age, race or gender was able to be made.

The Bloomington Police Department is working with the Monroe County Coroner’s Office who also had representatives at the scene. The remains have been transported to the University of Indianapolis where personnel from the Anthropology Department will assist with identification and a possible cause of death. According to the Coroner, results may not be available for four (4) to six (6) weeks.

The death investigation is ongoing and additional details will be released as it becomes available.

President McRobbie Details New Plans For Indiana University

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie unveiled a five year plan last week.

McRobbie’s State of the University address was devoted to what he labelled his Bicentennial Strategic Plan, which is to be implemented during the lead up to IU’s two hundredth year anniversary in 2020. The Bloomington campus should see more construction and renovation as well as the introduction of new schools and strategic changes to older schools. Most of the capital investment is to be focused on renovation of buildings around the Old Crescent, to the immediate east of Sample Gates. The plan also calls for renovating the old Wells Quad buildings to return them to their original residential function.

As for academics, McRobbie wants to put more emphasis on what he calls ‘Building and Making’, which means developing products that can be commercialized to the university and economy’s benefit. He wants to see the campus create engineering programs in art and design, and in information technology. Work on consolidating old programs into the new umbrella media school and fleshing out the new schools of public health, and global and international studies will continue.

A significant decline in enrollment at the school of education, coinciding with on-going changes in the state’s treatment of the teaching profession, and the imminent departure of the school’s long-serving Dean González, prompted the President to announce that he would establish a Blue Ribbon Panel of external experts, charged with not only making recommendations on a new dean, but undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of the school’s entire operation and making recommendations for its future.

The cultural life of people connected with the university as well as the larger community was the focus of the plan’s section on supporting creativity and cultural enrichment which noted the multi-million dollar investment over the last decade on teaching and presentation of music, theater, visual art, film, and other forms of art and entertainment.

Hollywood Producer To Teach At IU’s New Media School

Indiana University alumnus and Hollywood producer Michael Uslan is joining the new Indiana University Media School as a Professor of Practice in film.

Uslan has three decades of experience in motion picture, television, and internet work. His work includes executive producer of 1989’s “Batman” movie, later sequels including the academy award-winning “The Dark Knight,” and “National Treasure.” He is also the author of a fundamental textbook on comics and 25 other books on the history of comics and other topics.

Uslan earned a bachelors degree in history, a masters degree in education, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence, all from Indiana University.

While teaching at IU, Uslan will continue his off-campus work in motion pictures, television, and interactive and international media. In a press release, Uslan praised IU’s new Media School program calling it a premiere location between New York and Hollywood for students to prepare for careers in the film industry.

The newly appointed Uslan will speak about his transition from IU graduate to Hollywood producer at 7 p.m on Wednesday, October 22 at the Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union.

State Board of Education Delays Release Of Indiana School’s A-F Grades

The Indiana State Board of Education delayed the release of the Department of Education’s A-to-F School Accountability grades until November 5.

Representatives of public, private and charter schools feel criteria for the grades are unfair and addressed their concerns to the board at their meeting October 15th. According to the DOE’s website, Indiana’s school grading system provides communities with a clear and concise assessment of how their schools are performing. State law requires the state to intervene in a school that receives an “F” for six consecutive years.

Though the grades are not yet official, the Herald Times reported that Bloomington’s Fairview School will likely receive its third “F” this year. Accountability findings are based on eight data points established to measure each school’s final grade.

In previous board meetings, the SBOE established criteria for an appeals process and amidst protests from “atypically configured” schools, or schools that don’t fall within the language of the accountability rule, the SBOE voted to assess atypical schools on a case-by-case basis rather than force a formulaic approach.

Board member Dr. Brad Oliver, Sixth District representative, noted that it was important to focus on what he referred to as “substantive due process” and to apply a common sense approach to grading schools.

“If these letter grades don’t communicate something reasonable based on the data, what good are they anyway?” Oliver says.

Several schools protested DOE findings, claiming final letter grades were based on only two of the eight possible data points gathered, thus judging the school on only a fourth of their population. SBOE board member Sarah O’Brien, Fourth District Representative, wants the grading system to have integrity.

“When we release all of these grades across the state, I want them to mean something. Looking at the data before us, I’m going to make sure I do whatever I can within statute and rule to make sure that the letter grades match what we’re seeing in those buildings,” O’Brien says.

Ellettsville takes steps toward building pedestrian trail

The Town of Ellettsville took another step October 13th toward building a pedestrian trail without state or federal funding. The Town Council voted unanimously to return $46,000 to the federal government. The money had been allocated for the Heritage Trail. Federal funds come with restrictions on how they can be spent, including requirements to spend money on specific kinds of inspectors. The Council decided to instead do the construction with Town workers and Town money. Darla Brown, the Town attorney, said the town is still working to buy the necessary land for the trail. Council member Dan Swafford asked Brown about the process.

The Town has been trying for several years to build the pedestrian trail, which also requires the construction of a bridge. Swafford asked that the Council discuss the status of the trail project at every Council meeting until they break ground.

Perry-Clear Creek Fire Department dispute


An internal dispute at the Perry-Clear Creek Fire Department flared up October 3rd in a public meeting. Two members of the townships’ Fire Protection Board made statements about the issue. The Board members said they were being pressured to resign. Board chairman John Moore was the first to address the issue before the Monroe County Commissioners. He detailed a recent phone call from Commissioner Patrick Stoffers.

The County Commissioners appoint the members of the Fire Protection Board. Another Board member, Roger Stewart, said Stoffers also asked him to resign. Stewart alluded to a rift within the fire department.

Stewart and Moore didn’t give details of the accusations against them, and Stoffers didn’t respond to their comments. Moore said the Board met with the Commissioners on July 25th.

The department is in the midst of remodeling and adding on to its station. Two firefighters came to the defense of the embattled Board members. Craig Patnode said there have been improvements at the fire department since Stewart and Moore joined the Board.

Only one person spoke against the Board members. Joe McWhorter said he has been in the department for more than 40 years. He accused the Board of ignoring the established chain of command.

Stoffers asked County attorney Jeff Cockerill to set up a hearing for the two Board members.

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