Indiana University says its new campus shuttle service aims to promote sustainability for people commuting between Bloomington and Indianapolis. Indiana University announced this week the creation of Campus Commute, a bus service for IU faculty, students, and the general public. A press release from the university describes the bus system as low-cost and environmentally friendly. Campus Commute will make four daily trips every weekday, with stops at the Indiana Memorial Union, Indiana Memorial Stadium, IUPUI Campus Center, and the Indiana Statehouse. The intercampus shuttle offers Wi-Fi, wheelchair accessibility, reclining seats, electrical outlets, DirecTV and lavatory. The bus service will also offer DoubleMap, an app with real-time tracking of each bus on an interactive map for users. In the press release, IUPUI Vice Chancellor Dawn Rhode states that she hopes this alternative commuting option will encourage the reduction of CO2 emissions for frequent travelers between the two campuses.
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The lowest paid employees at the Monroe County Public Library may soon get a raise. The Library’s executive director, Sara Laughlin, recommended raising the minimum pay rate to $8.25 an hour, up from the current minimum of $7.66. Laughlin told the Library’s Board of Trustees the increase is partly the result of changes in the market. She made the comments at a Board work session last week. Laughlin stated that the first reason for proposed increase was due to Indiana University raising their own minimum wage rate and the subsequent loss of employees seeking higher pay. This has had a negative impact in creating more orientation, and training time due to employee turnovers.
Besides the lowest paid workers, the next two levels up on the pay scale will also be bumped up. Laughlin said the increased wages are also meant to reflect changes the Library is making in the responsibilities of some staff. She stated that the service model will involve increased responsibilities that will merit the higher pay.
The Library is expected to spend about $65,000 more this year to pay for the raises. Kyle Wickemeyer-Hardy, the Library’s human resources manager, said she consulted with other local employers before recommending the new pay rates. After checking with Bloomingfoods and Indiana University Wickemeyer-Hardy believes the wages to be competitive for comparative employment.
The Board does not vote on items at work sessions. They are expected to hold a vote on the new wages at their meeting, which began at 5 o’clock today.
Bloomington residents stood on the corner of Kirkwood and Walnut as the sun set yesterday evening, waving signs that said “no keystone XL” as part of a national day of action against the controversial pipeline.
Jack Brubaker (BRUE-bay-ker), a local activist who helped organize the event, told WFHB he wants to keep the issue in the public eye, especially because of recent misleading reports that President Obama has resolved not to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. In fact, the Obama administration announced that he would veto a current proposal for the development due to a procedural hang up. Obama believes the matter should be decided by the state department, not determined through the current legislation. He has not said whether he would veto the project if the state department approves the construction.
Proponents of the pipeline often refer to job creation in the United States, and reduced dependence on foreign oil. Brubaker points out the United States won’t see most of the economic benefits of the project.
Even if the state department approves of the pipeline and Obama signs off on it, it is not a guarantee that the pipeline would be built. A recent drop in the price of oil worldwide means that currently, Alberta tar sand production is operating at a loss, and may not find investors to participate in refining the tar sands.
Brubaker is most troubled by the environmental risks of the pipeline.
A new business directory is now available to highlight minority and women-owned businesses serving Bloomington and Monroe County.
According to the city of Bloomington, the Minority & Women-Owned Business directory was developed to help provide visibility for diverse businesses, promote equity of economic opportunities, and help eliminate barriers for minority and women-owned businesses.
Bloomington’s minority- and women-owned businesses generate more than $300 million a year, according to census data.
But, according to the city’s press release, minorities and women still remain underrepresented in our county, state and city.
Today was the deadline for lawmakers to file bills in the state legislature, and some local representatives are already preparing for a big debate over education funding.
At a forum on January 10, legislators from the Monroe County area said money for schools would be one the biggest issues this legislative session. The officials spoke at a legislative update sponsored by the local League of Women Voters.
State Rep. Matt Pierce (D) whose district includes most of Bloomington said both major political parties agree there should be changes to the formula the state uses to fund public schools.
“You have rural, suburban and urban schools that often have stable or declining enrollments,” Pierce said. “The question is, how will the formula impact those schools? Some schools have more kids from poverty and usually more money is gevn to those schools to help children that may be struggling with things that get in the way of their learning.”
Under the current funding formula, public schools in Gary and Indianapolis receive larger amounts of funding per pupil than most other districts.
Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R) said he expects some conflict over how the formula is changed.
“I think the one thing as Pierce pointed out that’s going to be critical is the funding formula for schools,” Ubelhor says. “In our caucus one child isn’t worth more than another child, no matter where the go to school.”
The two parties are also expected to disagree on how to fund charter schools and school vouchers. Democrats like Pierce have traditionally opposed the trend toward funding those programs, which draw money away from public schools.
While there is disagreement on education, representatives from both parties seemed to agree more closely about funding for criminal justice programs. Last year the legislature made major changes to the criminal code in hopes of diverting some low-level offenders away from prison. Those offenders are instead supposed to be dealt with on a local level, but Pierce said the state has yet to adequately fund those local programs.
“The issue is will the people crafting the budget put money into those programs so we can get them going,” Pierce says. “I’m a little dismayed because the Governor’s budget hasn’t earmarked money for those programs. And, instead, calls for more money to be spent about $51 million to add new prison beds to the Department of Corrections which doesn’t make any sense because we just passed this bill to get people out of there.”
Ubelhor said he also agreed the state should fund the local programs. Officials in the Monroe County government have voiced public concern in recent months about the issue. The County’s Community Corrections Department expects an influx of offenders to its programs.
Monroe County would also be directly affected by another initiative discussed at the legislative update. State Senator Mark Stoops said he plans to file a bill that would help Bloomington Transit expand its services outside the city.
“We hope to make it more of a regional transit system,” Stoops says. “We want to add an income tax to people in the region that would allow Bloomington and Rural transit to provide routes into the rural communities like Smithville, Elletsville and even hopefully Nashville or Bedford.”
Stoops said the expanded service could be useful to commuters and could reduce traffic on local roads.
The Monroe County Public Library has plans for opening a third branch. Library Director Sara Laughlin explained the long-term project to the Monroe County Council at a Council meeting December 9th. She said it would be at least several years before the new branch would open. The Library currently has two branches, one in downtown Bloomington and the other in Ellettsville.
Laughlin said she believes the Library is not adequately serving all County residents. She showed the Council a map indicating the percentage of residents with Library cards throughout the County.
Laughlin went on to say the next branch would probably be located in the southwestern part of Monroe County. She said that is the fastest growing area and she thinks the development of Interstate 69 will only further that trend.
Laughlin made the statements during a presentation about a $2 million loan the Library plans take out. The loan would include money that could be spent on land for a new branch as well as funds for an addition to the Ellettsville library, new equipment at Community Access Television Services and other expenses. Several members of the Council, including Cheryl Munson and Lee Jones, said they were excited about a third branch.
The Council later voted unanimously in favor of the $2 million Library bond. Later in the meeting the Council heard a request to expand the staff at the County’s Youth Services Bureau. The Bureau runs the Binkley House Emergency Youth Shelter among other responsibilities. For months Bureau Director Kim Meyer has said her staff is overworked. She asked for two more full-time staff members and extra hours for a third position. Council President Geoff McKim said the County could run into trouble with the fund it uses to pay for many of the Bureau’s activities.
The County just raised the rate for the Juvenile County Option Income Tax earlier this year to provide more funding to youth services. The Council later voted to approve the new positions.
Hoosiers who need help paying their energy bills this winter may be able to take advantage of a program sponsored by Duke Energy. The company is contributing seven hundred thousand dollars and Duke Energy customers have contributed an additional eighty-seven thousand dollars.
Duke Energy partners with South Central Community Action Program to qualify eligible customers. Eligibility is based solely on income. Customers can get more information online at or by calling South Central Community Action Program at 812-339-3447. Last year the program helped more than six thousand Hoosiers.