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Debate Over How to Select Poll Members Ends Unresolved


The Monroe County Election Board is debating how to recruit poll workers for local elections. Currently, recruitment is mostly up to representatives from the Republican and Democratic parties. The County Clerk’s Office takes over shortly before each election. But this system has resulted in Monroe County being consistently short-staffed leading up to elections. At a meeting last week County Clerk Linda Robbins and Republican Representative Bryan Lemonds advocated for the Clerk’s office to take over the responsibility of recruiting poll workers.

Once poll workers are recruited they work for the Election Board, not the individual parties. And Robbins said she hopes to recreate the work environment she first experienced when helping with elections. Robbins stated that the experience changed her life in the way that everyone worked together for a common goal.

Robbins had previously suggested that her office hire recruiters who would work under her supervision to find Democrat and Republican poll workers, but the Election Board at the time voted against that suggestion. Lemons was not on the Board the first time Robbins suggested the paid recruiting positions, and he said he would support that motion if she brought it up again. Democratic representative to the Election Board Lorraine Farrell said that she did not want to vote on the measure before consulting with the new chair of the local Democratic Party. Farrell says Democratic leadership has typically been opposed to in-house recruiting positions.

The Board agreed to table the issue and take it up the issue during their March meeting.

Increase In Water Rates Is Called For In Future Proposal


Bloomington Utilities Director Pat Murphy says it’s time to increase water rates. During a staff report this week, Murphy told the Utilities Service Board it is time to look at the increase, even though a similar conversation stalled out last year. He said that they would be revisiting the research that has been done in the past to come forward with a proposal.

Five years ago water rates were increased more than 50 percent to accommodate a second water line to Bloomington’s water treatment plant.  Murphy says there are still infrastructure improvements needed and the profits from water bills will help fund the updates.

At the meeting the board also approved the 2014 interdepartmental agreement between the utility and the City of Bloomington, for the amount of one million five hundred, fourteen thousand dollars, a budget increase of five point five percent.

Prescription Drug Abuse Leads to a Southern Indiana HIV Outbreak

Today, State Health officials are warning of a rapidly spreading outbreak of HIV in the Southeastern portion of Indiana. Officials believe that prescription drug abuse of the injectable opioid Opana (oh-PAWN-uh) is responsible for the majority of 26 reported cases of HIV since mid-december.   According to State Health officials Opana is more potent per milligram than Oxycontin. Health Department Commissioner Jerome Adams issued a statement about the HIV outbreak and the steps being taken to address the problem. Adams said QUOTE “Because prescription drug abuse is at the heart of this outbreak, we are not only working to identify, contact and test individuals who may have been exposed, but also to connect community members to resources for substance abuse treatment and recovery.” To avoid dissemination of HIV, Health Officials recommend that Hoosiers get tested regularly for HIV and avoid high-risk behaviors such as sharing needles and having multiple sexual partners.


Senate Bill Calling for Restrictions on Abortion


An Indiana senate bill could place further restrictions on abortion in the state. Senate Bill 334 would make it illegal to perform an abortion if the decision is based on a fetus’s sex or disability. Writers of the bill say they are trying to prevent discriminatory abortions.

A healthcare provider could face wrongful death and medical malpractice charges if found knowingly performing an abortion for a woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy because of the fetus’ sex or a potential disability.Disabilities specifically mentioned in the bill include scoliosis, Dwarfism, albinism, amelia, Down syndrome and any type of physical or mental disease or disfigurement. Many abortions rights advocates say the bill is troubling.

Betty Cockrum, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said Senate Bill 334 interferes with the sacred doctor-patient relationship.

“It gets government into an arena where it shouldn’t be at all,” Cockrum said.

Cockrum also said that while abortions based on a fetus’s sex may be an issue overseas, it is not a concern in Indiana. But mental health and disabilities are. Cockrum says parents of children with disabilities need help, but she says government funding for disability services would help more than this proposed law.

“The services to families who have developmentally challenged children are underfunded, and if members of the legislature see it fit to impose government intrusion into this decision making, they sure ought to step up and fully fund services,” said Cockrum.

President of Indiana Right to Life, Mike Fichter, did not return a call for comment today. He supports the bill. Fichter was quoted in the Indianapolis Star, saying Indiana Right to Life doesn’t “believe an unborn child should be discriminated against based on disability or sex.” A Senate committee approved the bill last week and it now awaits a vote before the full Senate.


New teen services and digital creativity center


The new teen services and digital creativity center at the Monroe County Public Library is set to open in a matter of days. Kevin MacDowell, the manager of the center, gave an update on the status of the center at a Library Board meeting yesterday. MacDowell said the space would be virtually ready for a Friends of the Library event on Saturday. He says the space will be all in place by this Saturday, and completely functional within the next week.

The center has been in the works for years and it has been a big part of the renovations happening at the Library in recent months. MacDowell actually started at the Library in May. He said much of his work so far has been establishing partnerships in the community. He said he also started a program called Drop In and Hang Out. He says this will give teens an opportunity to give their feedback on what they would like to see in this space.

The teen services and digital creativity center will be open to youth ages 12 to 19. MacDowell said much of his staff’s focus will be on establishing connections with the teens who use the center. He says mentors that visit with the teens will be able to give better feedback on what to include in the center.
There will be books in the teen center as well. MacDowell said other library patrons will be able to access those books.

40-acre subdivision construction delayed


The Monroe County Plan Commission delayed a vote Tuesday on whether to allow a new 40-acre subdivision west of Bloomington. Jackie Scanlan, senior planner with the county, recommended the commission approve new zoning for the subdivision, despite what she acknowledged were concerns from neighbors about drainage issues on the property. The Monroe County Drainage Board also approved of the plan for the development, known as Stonechase Bend. Drainage engineer Todd Stevenson gave a detailed explanation of the watershed complications on the property, including karst features,numerous sinkholes and ecoli contamination due to the current use of the land as a cow pasture. The company Beazer Homes is looking to develop the subdivision. Beazer Homes has overseen other subdivisions in the area and new board member Bernard Guerrettaz asked about the relationship between the various developments.

“The common threat is its Beazer” says Bernard Gerates “Before StoneChase the Water was clean” says Todd Steveson

Board member Scott Wells brought up the controversial history of Beazer Homes, which was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for accounting fraud beginning in 2007. David Compton, the president of Beazer Homes Indiana, said that no one who was named in the investigation is still with the company.

Scott Wells says “We don’t own a mortgage company anymore” “We saw was a huge problem”

Board Member John Irvine talked about the impact on future development if the area is not rezoned and what it might mean for other subdivisions already approved in the county.

John Irvine says “We have 8- 10 years of supply out there called zombie subdivisions”

Compton said the particular lot in question already has the infrastructure needed to become a successful subdivision, including roadway access for fire safety, large water lines to support a public sewage system, and the benefit of being adjacent to amenities such as the karst farm greenway.

“They have to compete” “If they screwed up in their location, they will fail” says Compton

The petitioner asked for a continuance and a second hearing regarding the rezone proposal. Members of the public who were present to speak about the proposal agreed to return at a future meeting. Due to scheduling conflicts during the week of spring break in March, the hearing for the Stonechase Bend proposal was postposed to the Plan Commission Meeting on April 21st.

Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Financial Request Granted


The Monroe County Storm Water Management Board allocated half of their yearly Stormwater Education budget during a meeting last week. The Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded twenty five thousand dollars last year and requested the same amount this year to put toward educational programing. Todd Stevenson, the drainage engineer for the Monroe County Highway department, submitted his recommended budget to the board, which reduced funds to the Soil and Water Conservation District to nine thousand dollars. Stevenson was not present at the meeting last week and a motion was made to table the discussion until next month when he could explain his concerns. Petitioner Jeff Bailey, chairmen of the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District, expressed disappointment that the discussion has been repeatedly postponed.

Board member Patrick Stoffers stood up for the petitioners, saying the requested funds are available. He pointed out the board has approved other, more expensive projects without much debate. Board Member Julie Thomas said it wasn’t about the money, but that the board needed a clearer explanation of Stevenson’s concerns regarding the allocation of the educational funds.

The Storm Water Management District currently holds a cash balance of more than 2 million dollars and has yet to collect the storm water fee from residents this year. Stoffers made a motion to grant the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District the full twenty five thousand dollars that it was requesting, The motion passed 3-1.

IU Professor David Baker To Be Honored With Black History Month Living Legend Award

A lifetime combining a love of music and public service has won an IU professor the 2015 Black History Month Living Legend award. David Baker has spent decades exploring and excelling in many facets of music. A gifted composer and musician, Baker has penned over 2,000 pieces and been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy, and has performed all over the world. As a conductor, Baker has been at the helm of several musical enterprises, and currently serves as the conductor and artistic director for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks orchestra. As an educator, Baker is the president of the International Association of Jazz Educators, a distinguished professor of Jazz and Chairman of the Jazz Department at IU’s Jacobs School of Music. Baker’s long resume of public service also includes his roles as senior consultant for music programs at the Smithsonian, being a member of the National Council on the Arts and the American Symphony League Board of Directors. Some of Baker’s notable awards include a Lifetime Achievement Award, Jazz Educational Hall of Fame Award, and Downbeat Magazine’s New Star Award. Baker will be honored at the City of Bloomington’s Black History Month gala on February 28th at the Hilton Garden Inn at 245 N. College Ave.

The Second Red Carpet Affair Will Be Held At The Buskirk-Chumley Theatre Sunday

Six short films from local artists will be part of a competition at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre this Sunday. The competition will be part of the second edition of a theatre event known as the Red Carpet Affair. Rebecca Stanze (STAN-zuh), the associate director of the theatre, says the aim is to keep the event open to artists from as many different backgrounds as possible.

The films are all less than 3 minutes long. They cover a variety of topics, from bullying to roller-skating. They are mainly centered around Bloomington, which is reflected in titles such as “the B-line” or “The other Mid-west.” The Red Carpet Affair, which also includes the screening of the 87th Academy Awards ceremony, as well as film related games and prizes, is open to public of all ages. Stanze says the winner of the short film contest will be able to use the theatre to further pursue their interest in film. The winner will be essentially granted rent time for using the theatre for their own creative purposes.

The theatre doors will open at 7 pm on Sunday for the general event and short-film competition, followed by the Academy Award ceremony screening at 8.30. The event is free but there will also be a VIP area, which will provide refreshments and for which tickets can be purchased calling 812-323-3020. All money raised will go to fostering local film artists.

Sunday Alcohol Sales One Step Closer To Being Legal In Indiana

The state is moving toward allowing Sunday alcohol sales but possibly with more restrictions that will apply to all liquor sales every day.

In late January, the Daily Local News reported that bills had been introduced into both branches of the state legislature to allow Sunday alcohol sales in Indiana. We spoke to representatives from the two retail groups that had lined up on opposing sides of the issue.

Grant Monahan, of the Indiana Retail Council, lobbied for treating Sunday like the rest of the week when it comes to selling alcohol. He said the issue was about customer convenience. Patrick Tamm, of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, the private liquor stores, said alcohol should be sold under strict guidelines. Tamm compared alcohol to other restricted products like tobacco and pharmaceuticals.

Last week, the Indiana House Public Policy Committee voted 10-2 to send a bill to the floor of the House that would repeal Indiana’s long-time post-prohibition era ban on Sunday sales. But the measure also comes with new restrictions that would apply all week long.

It would require beer and wine to be kept in a set aside area of grocery and convenience stores. And liquor would have to be kept behind the counter. Self-checkout of alcohol would be banned and clerks selling the product would have to be 21 years of age.

Both the House and Senate will have to finalize their versions of the Sunday alcohol sales legislation next week.

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