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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

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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.

Ellettsville takes steps towards building pedestrian trail

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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.

County trouble collecting storm water fees

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The state and federal governments aren’t paying their share for programs that address local storm water problems. Monroe County attorney Kevin Dogan said the County has had trouble collecting storm water fees for properties owned by other governmental units. Dogan says it’s not surprising that they didn’t get funding from state and federal government.

Dogan referenced a recent court decision the prohibited the County from enforcing its noise ordinance on Interstate 69 construction crews. Dogan said the County should still send bills to state and federal properties. But he said there are still questions about what to do when the bills aren’t paid.

Dogan estimated the County has been billing the federal government about $15,000 a year for storm water fees. He didn’t have an estimate for the state’s bills. Storm water fees pay for infrastructure such as drainage ditches and storm sewers throughout the County. Dogan and the Board members said the County is providing a service to the state and federal properties. But Board members Patrick Stoffers and Iris Kiesling agreed there is not much reason to pursue unpaid bills.

The Board later approved a policy that the County won’t charge late fees to the state and federal governments.

Fast-tracking new recycling facility

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Monroe County may be fast-tracking plans for a new recycling facility. The County Solid Waste Management District wants to start construction before the end of the year. The new materials recovery facility, or MRF, would process the County’s recyclables and prepare them for sale. Money for the project is set aside in the District’s budget for next year. But on October 9th, executive director Larry Barker asked the District’s Board of Directors for permission to start spending the money early.

Barker has been pushing to build a MRF for years. The County finally approved a version of the project in September. The facility will be a clean-stream MRF, meaning it will only process recyclables that have been pre-sorted. Ultimately, Barker wants to build a waste-stream MRF, which would actually separate recyclables from other garbage. A waste-stream MRF would be more expensive, and that proposal has been controversial. Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan, who is also a member of the District Board, said he wanted to be careful not to appear supportive of the waste-stream facility.

Barker and some members of the District’s Board believe the County can make money from selling its recyclables. Currently, the County pays the company, Republic Services, to haul off its recycling. Board President Steve Volan said it’s not clear all those recyclables are even, in fact, recycled. At the meeting, the Board voted 3 to 1 to start construction on the clean-stream MRF this year. That decision has to be approved by the County Council before it’s final.

Monroe County short on poll workers

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In the lead up to the November 4th election, Monroe County is again short on poll workers. As of the October 15th Republicans had only recruited 34 of the 90 workers they need. Democrats had recruited most of their workers, but they were still short five. The two major parties are responsible for recruiting poll workers until three weeks before the election, when they hand the job over to the County Clerk’s Office. In recent elections, there have consistently been problems with recruiting poll workers. Election Board member Lorraine Farrell, who represents the Monroe County Democrats, expressed regret that the pattern was repeating.

The County Clerk’s Office officially took over recruitment on October 14th. Clerk Linda Robbins told the Board she planned to hire someone who would work exclusively on finding poll workers. She explained the process to Farrell as well as Board member Brian Lemonds, who represents the Monroe County Republican Party.

Earlier this year, Robbins asked the Board for permission to pay recruiters from the Democrat and Republican parties. The goal, she said, would be to incentivize the parties to do a better job recruiting. At the time, Farrell and Lemonds both objected to paying political parties with taxpayer money.

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