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Tips To Safely Deal With Winter Weather

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The Indiana Department of Environmental Management, or IDEM, has issued a press release detailing ways to deal with winter weather while staying safe and environmentally friendly.

If you use chemical salts to melt ice off your sidewalk, be sure not to over apply or allow the salts to fall on your lawn or garden, since excess salts can be damaging to flora.

If you spread sand for traction, don’t overuse it either, as that excessive material can cause problems in storm water systems.

You can winterize your vehicle by checking your air filter and fluid levels, checking tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and checking the condition of your windshield wipers.

Ensuring your vehicle is ready for weather changes will reduce damage, which prevents waste from broken parts, and will keep you safe on the road.

Make sure your heating system is operating efficiently. It is a good idea to have a contractor perform a routine check-up and any necessary maintenance on the equipment before freezing weather drives up your energy bill.

Shooting at Purdue University leaves one dead and one suspect in custody

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Purdue University officials confirmed today that one man was fatally shot and one suspect was taken into custody following a shooting that occurred on campus around noon.

The suspect in custody has been identified as 23-year-old Cody Cousins and the shooting victim as 21-year-old Andrew Boldt, Purdue senior and teaching assistant. Police say Cousins had a prior criminal record.

Following initial reports of the incident, a “shelter in place” directive was issued for the West Lafayette campus.

The order was lifted by 1:15 pm. A university spokesperson confirmed that there were no other suspects.

Classes were then suspended for the remainder of the day as well as all day Wednesday.

Counselling services were also set up to be offered to students in the wake of a fatal shooting.

“Today’s shooting at Purdue University is a tragedy, and our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of the victim and to everyone in the Purdue community,” Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement. “I commend the professionalism of the West Lafayette Police Department in apprehending the suspect and bringing the situation to a swift conclusion. The Indiana State Police are on the scene and will continue to assist local law enforcement with the ongoing investigation.”

A candlelight vigil is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, near the Engineering Fountain.

Jury Selection Started for 2009 Little Nashville Opry House Arson

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Jury selection started today in the trial of the former manager of the Little Nashville Opry House, which burned down in 2009.

James Bowyer has been charged with arson in the case. He was the business and personal partner of Esther Hamilton who, with her late husband, opened the facility in 1974.

Brown County Prosecutor James Oliver and Defense Attorney John Boren were in court today in Nashville to choose the jury.

The nationally-known country music venue burned down on September 19 of 2009. The blaze did more than $3 million in damage to the facility. The state fire marshal was quickly brought into the investigation of the fire’s cause.

Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that the Little Opry did not have a state entertainment permit for 2009, which meant that it hadn’t had its annual inspection for this year.

Later it was revealed that there had been three fires with undetermined causes at other properties owned by Edith Hamilton, and two fires at properties owned by Jim Bowyer. Hamilton also owed $68,000 in business and property back taxes.

By this time, agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had also been brought into the investigation.

Investigators concluded that the Little Opry fire had been deliberately set. In late September of 2009, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which includes the State Fire Marshal’s office, offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for this arson.

Later, Indiana Insurance, the Little Opry’s insurer, announced that it was offering a total of $25,000 reward for information.

Finally, in March of 2012, Bowyer was arrested and charged with arson in the fire.

 

New Monroe County Recycling Facility Plans Still Uncertain

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The citizens advisory committee to the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District discussed plans last week for supporting a new recycling facility. The District’s Board of Directors has been split on the issue of whether to build a materials recovery facility, or MRF, to process recyclables.

But the advisory committee has supported the initiative, going so far as to form a separate working group for the project.

Stephen Hale, a member of the committee, will be leading the group.

“I really kind of see this group as getting up to speed and finding the history of past discussions with MRFs in the district,” Hale said, “When you change something in the system, a lot of things get impacted by those changes and finding where the potential impacts and connections are is a pretty good next step.”

Larry Barker, executive director of the District, told the committee that a bill working its way through the Indiana Statehouse could make the MRF project even more significant.

“This lays out some serious guidelines on how we will be recycling in the future,” Barker said, “One of the goals that the administration has is recycling 50% of the waste stream by 2019. Right now there is about 6.7 million tons of municipal solid waste going to landfills. That’s pulling out about 3.3 million tons of recycling. This is dramatic.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Hale asked Barker what he thought the group should do to support the MRF.

“We have to come up with some sort of outreach program that gets the community aware of what’s coming forward,” Barker said, “The last thing you want to do is spring something on the community when they aren’t aware of it.”

At a meeting in December, the District’s Board approved spending $42,000 to further explore the possibility of building a MRF.

But some board members objected to spending the money, and others have questioned the long-term feasibility of the project.

Monroe County Library Suffering From Paying Parking Meters

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Last week the Monroe County Public Library’s Board of Trustees discussed the negative effect parking meters are having on library patrons.

Board member Stephen Moberly referred to the library’s circulation numbers, which have declined since the downtown meters were installed in August.

“Looking at the chart, we had a slight decrease last year of half of one percent. This year, we had a 3.3% decrease,” Moberly said, “I think it’s attributed to one thing, though it may not be politically correct to say. The parking meters, I think, have been devastating to the library. You can come and see around the block that no cars are parked there, and there always were before because they were our patrons. Some retail merchants have closed and suffered because of the meters, but the library is suffering too.”

Board President Valerie Merriam says the library should tell the City Council and Mayor Mark Kruzan about what effect the meters have had. She says circulation hasn’t dropped this much in almost two decades.

“There is a general decline to everything that is related with coming in to the library,” Merriam said.

Moberly suggested that these are people that might not have the money to feed the meters, and that they should let city hall know about these concerns.

Library Director Sara Laughlin says she would convey those concerns to city officials. But Laughlin says she doesn’t have any short term solutions to reverse the effects.

“I think we’ve done what we can do in helping people find places to park,” Laughlin said, “In fact, I know that the parking finder page on our website is still one of the top pages on the site. Longer term, it would be great to have a second branch with lots of parking, otherwise we just can’t increase our parking capacity downtown.”

The library has also considered expanding hours on Sundays, when the city does not require drivers to pay the meters.

Bloomington Transit Contracts Local Artists To Beautify New Downtown Transit Center

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Bloomington Transit announced it has awarded contracts for exterior design and art work for the new Downtown Transit Center, which is currently under construction on Third and Walnut in downtown Bloomington.

Local architect Matt Ellenwood was selected for the facility’s exterior benches and bicycle racks.

His design was selected as the winning entry from among thirteen entrants in a national competition sponsored by the Bloomington Arts Commission.

“We’re planning on having 22 bike racks scattered throughout the facility,” Lew May, general manager of Bloomington Transit, says, “Any kind of transit facility needs places for people to sit and wait for the bus, so we will have those as well.”

Ellenwood’s designs are said to reference the curves found in the Transit Center’s canopy design, as well as the wheels of buses and bicycles. The benches and bike racks will be fabricated locally by Jerico Metal Specialties.

In addition to the bike racks, there is planned to be around a half-dozen secure bicycle lockers at the new facility.

The Arts Commision also chose artist Dale Enochs to create a mural for the west wall of the center. The mural, entitled “Breakaway”, is comprised of overlapping wheel shapes. The mural will be fabricated from powder-coated, hand-painted aluminum shapes that attach directly to the wall. The majority of the aluminum shapes will stand slightly away from the Center’s wall, in order to create shadow lines around the individual pieces. The mural will be approximately 22 feet wide and six feet tall.

May says decisions have not been made on the future of the current, soon-to-be abandoned Transit Center and that it is hoped that the new transit center will open to the public by late Spring of this year.

Last Week To Throw Out Christmas Trees and Wreaths

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This is the last week to set out Christmas trees and wreaths for pickup by the City of Bloomington Sanitation Department. Residents can place the items on the curb, along with their trash and recycling, on their regularly scheduled pick-up day. Lights, ornaments, and other decorations need to be removed from the trees. The last day for tree pick-up is Monday, January 20.

Fairvew Elementary School To Reorganize Classes Due To Parents’ Protests

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The proposed restructuring of classes at Fairview School that brought angry parents to school board offices has been stopped, according to Beverly Smith, Director of School and Community Services at the Monroe County Community School Corporation.

“Our Director of Elementary Education Tammy Miller is serving as the interim principal at Fairview School through the end of this year,” Smith said, “She, in her wisdom as the director and a former principal, projected, suggested, and put in place some changes that would have taken place on Monday. Through some further input from staff and parents, Mrs. Miller made the suggestion to the superintendent that we not go forward with those changes. She is going to work with parents in the future to craft plans that will allow folks to work together and come up with what is best for Fairview.”

Smith confirmed reports that the proposed changes were to create smaller classes of students with below standard literacy skills.

This determination was based on a variety of performance evaluations of students including, in particular, those from the Northwest Literacy Evaluation reports.

Beyond the now suspended restructuring of classes, there was also concern expressed by parents that these changes might impact Fairview’s adoption and development of the Artful Learning program, and associated changes in teaching, curriculum and enrollment.

“At this point what we are most focused on is that, as of today, students will be returning to their original classroom assignments that they enjoyed during the first semester. School will go on as normal and Mrs. Miller will work with teachers and parents to return students to the classrooms and work together for the advancement of Fairview.”

The original and strongest complaint voiced by Fairview parents was the lack of consultation with parents by the school or district administration, or even of direct notice beforehand of the proposals prior to their adoption.

However, the parental protests brought about an immediate meeting with school board officials, including District Superintendent Judith Demuth, yesterday morning.

This was followed up with the announcement of the scheduling of Fairview Family Meetings Monday, January 13, and next Monday, January 21 at 6:30 p.m, at Fairview School.

Smith acknowledged that the parents’ protests, as well as comments from teaching staff, helped prompt the reversal of the class restructuring plans.

“It’s always wise to have as much input from all of your stakeholders as possible,” Smith said, “I believe that this situation just underscored that this practice is something we enjoy and continue.”

Smith says that consultation with Fairview parents and teachers will continue, to decide how best to address the immediate issue of students literacy, the evaluation of students’ performance, and the best means to address any perceived deficiencies.

Parking Meter Vandals Continue, Police Say

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Local police are receiving ongoing reports of parking meter vandalism in Bloomington.

Susie Johnson, director of the city’s Public Works department, says she doesn’t want to go into detail on the vandalism, but that it has been minimal so far.

“I really would rather not go into it, and not draw attention to it because I think it fans the flames,” Johnson said, “The more we talk about it, the more people want to do it.”

Johnson says parking meter vandalism has been declining, and that she doesn’t know if the incidents have been organized or random, but that Bloomington police are investigating.

The Strike Mic – January 14, 2014

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This week on The Strike Mic, members of the Indiana University assembly are holding a day of action tomorrow, in support of the prisoners at Westville Correctional Facility in Westfield, Indiana.

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