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DNR Hosts Ice Safety Talk on Facebook

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Facebook followers of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will have the chance to talk about ice safety with Lieutenant William Browne, of DNR Law Enforcement, this Friday on the DNR Facebook page. Dawn Krause, of the DNR Division of Communications, says these talks have been going on for two years, and serve as a link between the department and the public on topics of which some people are unaware.

“It’s a way to also get information out there to people that are unaware of all the different areas the DNR covers,” Krause says, “I find a lot of people that get on with these talks are impressed because they never knew what we covered.”

Krause says the new talk on ice safety should serve as a learning experience for anyone interested in enjoying themselves this holiday season.

“Every year, people want to get out on the ice, and every year people are killed because the ice isn’t actually thick enough or they aren’t aware of how thick the ice should be,” Krause says, “This is a way to re-educate people every year so that they are aware of what kind of ice they should get out on to have a safe experience.”

This will be the last online DNR talk for the year, and Krause says some very popular topics came up in 2013.

“Deer-hunting was popular online,” Krause says.

The talk on ice safety is scheduled to take place from 2 to 3 pm this Friday, December 20th, on the DNR Facebook page. Anyone with a Facebook account can begin sending questions during that time.

Witmer Approved as Monroe County School Resources Officer

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At the December meeting of the Monroe County Community School Corporation’s Board of School Trustees, Jim Witmer was approved as the inaugural School Resources Officer for the district. John Carter, director of planning for MCCSC, told us more on what he will do as school resources officer.

“He’ll be providing resources to staff on mediation training and foster relationships with parents and students and teachers,” Carter says.”The benefits of this are if you have someone in your building that the kids are comfortable telling things to, that’s what you want. For example, threats of violence to other students, sometimes the students know those. We want the students to have every avenue possible to tell us. They could tell a teacher, a counselor, a principal, or even a bus driver. Now we have a school resources officer who is versed in law enforcement and can help.”

A portion of Witmer’s salary will come from a grant from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, a program added to the Indiana code by the 2013 General Assembly. The code states that a school resource officer may make arrests, conduct search or seizure of property, and carry a firearm on school property. Carter talks about other requirements of the position.

“The state statute has said that the qualifications are important for a school resources officer,” Carter says, “The law enforcement training is the most important. You have to keep up your certifications and go to school resource officer training school. They need to know the difference from being law enforcement and law enforcement in a school setting.”

The matching homeland security grant is on a two-year cycle. Carter says he expects that the school corporation will try to renew it, but that there are no policies in place to measure the effectiveness of the position.

“We hope to keep the school resources officer,” Carter says, “We want to be able to say we feel safer with this extra resource of information to provide to students, parents and staff. That’s probably the biggest benefit.”

Jim Witmer is a 23 year veteran of the Bloomington Police Department and began a campaign for Monroe county sheriff this year.

His campaign website has the following announcement, in relation to his new position: “I am sad to say that in choosing to accept this position, I will need to withdraw from the Monroe County Sheriff’s race. Although I wasn’t able to complete that mission, I feel that nothing is more valuable than our children, and I promise that I will do everything in my power to provide a safe environment for our children to learn and grow.”

Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Announces Opposition to HJR 6

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The Bloomington Chamber of Commerce just announced their opposition to HJR 6, the legislation in the Indiana State House altering the definition of marriage. The Chamber’s Board of Directors approved the official documentation of their opposition, saying instead legislators should work on legislation that will bring business to the state, not give them reason to leave. The Bloomington Chamber of Commerce represents over 1,100 local businesses including IU Health-Bloomington and Indiana University, which have both also released public statements opposing the amendment. The Bloomington City Council also made a motion against HJR 6 last week and Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan has joined mayors statewide in opposition to the bill.

Monroe County Treasurer’s Office Late On Financial Reports.

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Two Monroe County officials gave a presentation Tuesday in hopes of quelling fears about a looming financial dilemma.

The officials spoke before the County Council about the fact that the County Treasurer’s Office has fallen several months behind on required financial reports.

Without filing the monthly documents, the county would be unable to distribute tax money to other units within the County, potentially leaving local governments like the city of Bloomington and the town of Ellettsville unable to meet their obligations.

Although the office hasn’t filed a report since May, County Treasurer Cathy Smith said her staff made up for lost time in recent weeks.

“We’ve been working hand-in-hand with the Auditor’s and Commissionors Office in keeping up to speed with where we are each day,” Smith said, “I think it’s fair to say that we are in the final preparations to approve a settlement.”

The County Auditor’s Office needs to approve the reports by Dec. 20 in order to send money on to other governmental units.

Auditor Steve Saulter said he’s confident the money will be distributed, even if the entire process is not complete in time.

Saulter said that’s partly because the law allows him to distribute 95% of the money before all the approvals are finished.

“I can’t promise we’ll get the whole settlement process done with the timing and holidays,” Saulter said, “We’ll complete the process the first week of January.”

During the presentation, Smith made another request to the County for a fifth employee in her office. She said that would help address future issues like this one, which she said was caused by the loss of a staff member.

“We don’t want to lose someone with all the knowledge again,” Smith said, “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Several members of the County Council thanked the Treasurer’s office for working to complete the reports before the deadline. Council President Geoff McKim said the county avoided what could have been a “pretty serious problem,”

IU Trustees Encouraging Development of Women and Minority Owned Businesses

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Last Thursday, during a board meeting at Indiana University East in Richmond, IU trustees talked about the contracts awarded by the school to businesses owned by minorities, women, and veterans.

Governor Mike Pence set diversity targets for all state purchasing from the Indiana government.

According to trustee Patrick Shoulders, IU considers those aspirational goals. The aim is to encourage the development of women-owned businesses and minority-owned businesses, known as WBE and MBE, in the state of Indiana.

Shoulders says IU is one of the leading institutions in the state making the effort to achieve these goals.

“We have not attained the self-imposed aspirational goals and I think there are a lot of explanations for that,” Shoulders said, “It certainly isn’t through lack of effort but perhaps through lack of available, qualified WBE and MBE providers.”

Shoulders explains that the awards are given out based on the lowest bid, which can make it hard for small businesses to win contracts at IU.

“I think that this effort is difficult and we’re fighting against years and years of discrimination,” Shoulders said, “The Board of Trustees was quite clear that We expect IU to be on the cutting edge of pushing for the success of WBEs and MBEs.”
Though IU fell short of the  state’s diversity directives, Shoulders says the trustees want IU to be a leader in the state for awarding these kinds of contracts.

Monroe County School Diversity Offical Declares Most Minority Employees ‘Satisfied’

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On Tuesday a newly assigned diversity official at the Monroe County Community School Corporation said minority employees there are mostly pleased with their work environment.

Diane Hanks, the corporation’s diversity and talent specialist, said her office held forums last month for employees from underrepresented groups.

“Generally the employees were satisfied and feel comfortable in their respected environment,” Hanks said, “Their work environment is inclusive regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability and age.”

The forums were a response to the same controversy that led to the creation of Hanks’ new position.

Many community members were angry when the corporation promoted a white administrator to be principal at Tri-North Middle School. Hanks had also applied for the job, and some alleged that racial bias affected the decision, especially because Hanks had more experience as an administrator.

During that controversy, some MCCSC employees of color said a lack of diversity at the Corporation was a problem. And in her report this week, Hanks said there are indeed still issues that need addressed.

Hanks went on to say that the corporation should address concerns from employees who want more information about how to advance within the corporation.

Bloomington Telecomm Council Working to Fund Visit from Net Neutrality Scholar Susan Crawford

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The Bloomington Telecommunications Council continued its discussions Dec. 3 about bringing telecommunications scholar Susan Crawford to Bloomington.

The council has encountered issues getting funding for the visit, and last month it requested $5,500 dollars from the city Board of Public Works.

New Council member Jo Throckmorton asked another member, Duane Busick, why the Council would push for the visit from Crawford, who is known mostly for her advocacy of internet access and net neutrality.

“It has nothing to do with what this council deals with,” he said.

Busick said the Council deals with some issues that include internet communication, even though the Council’s statutory responsibility is primarily related to cable television. He said the Council has tried unsuccessfully to redefine its role in city government in recent years and that cable TV is now outdated.

Throckmorton and Busick were the only members who attended the meeting. The council was not able to conduct any official business because there was not a quorum.

 

As Recycling Prices Go Up, City Votes To Fund Materials Recovery Facility

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The Board president of the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District announced plans Nov. 21 to renew discussion about a controversial recycling facility.

At a meeting of the District’s Citizens Advisory Committee, Board President Steve Volan said he would reintroduce a measure that was voted down earlier this year. The measure would allocate $60,000 to study the feasibility of building a materials recovery facility, also known as a MRF, which would process recyclables.

“The study for a clean MRF has been done,” Volan said, “We’re talking about being able to do a dirty MRF which takes the waste stream itself and recycle items out of it. As a public asset it would reduce such a dramatic amount of waste that much less would need to be trucked to another landfill.”

The District’s Executive Director, Larry Barker, said much of the waste the district currently pays to have hauled to a landfill could be used for other purposes.

The district collects trash in the county, and it pays the company Republic Services to haul it to a landfill in Terre Haute.

“The ultimate goal is to get as possible to zero waste,” Barker said, “And that means nothing going to a landfill. Food and yard waste are currently going to the landfills and those can be pulled out to be put into a machine to actually create energy.”

Many of the arguments for building a MRF concern the increasing costs of waste management in the city and the county. Volan said Republic Services is increasing the prices it charges to the city next year.

“Part of the reason I’m supportive of this investment is that the city’s cost of disposal of trash and recyclables will be going up to 46 dollars a ton and the recycling that they’ve been taking for free for the past three years will go up to 46 dollars a ton too,” Volan said, “This results in a six-figure cost to the city that we didn’t anticipate.”

The feasibility study was initially part of the District’s budget for 2014, but the funding was removed in August because of dissent from two District Board members. Those members, Iris Kiesling and Patrick Stoffers, are also County commissioners, and they represent the County on the District Board.

Although those two were the only votes against the MRF on the seven-member board, they were still able to strip the funding, partly because of poor attendance by other members. The board is expected to vote again on the funding at its meeting Dec. 12 at 4 p.m. at the Monroe County Courthouse.

The Strike Mic – December 10, 2013

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This week on The Strike Mic, Indiana University Assembly member Luke O’Donovan speaks about his fundraising efforts to help pay for an ongoing criminal trial, involving an alleged homophobic hate crime.

Local photographers donate portrait sessions

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Blueline Media Productions again partnered with the South Central Community Action Program, to provide a free day of holiday portraits for low-income families in Bloomington on Sunday.

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