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New teen services and digital creativity center

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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

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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

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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.

Bloomington City Council speaks on giving tax breaks to developers

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Last night the Bloomington City Council questioned the criteria for granting tax breaks to developers. The company, Big O Properties, asked for a tax abatement from the city for a proposed mixed-use development on South Walnut Street downtown.

Danise Alano-Martin, the city’s Director of the Economic and Sustainable Development, recommended the council approve the abatement request. Alano-Martin says the development meets the criteria of enhancing the community character, using sustainable building materials, and reversing the cessation of growth associated with the one-story building that is currently on the property.

Jason Carnes, who also works in the Economic and Sustainable Development department, presented calculations showing a projected increase in property value that would generate tax revenue for the city.

In a preliminary vote the council showed favor for a three year-tax abatement for the development. But multiple members expressed disappointment about offering a tax cut to a residential property that does not include affordable housing.

“I like this project,” said Council member Dorothy Granger. “I appreciate the changes that you came back with…I am very disappointed at the prices of the apartments. I couldn’t afford one. But I know that’s what things go for in this community. I just want to put it out there that I’m very much for more affordable housing for working people.”

Council member Dave Rollo also commented: “I think my biggest disappointment is the rent, the affordability, and in the future I would really emphasize the affordability component. It’s very important, I think, to everyone here on the Council.”

Five Council members voted for the tax break. Councilmember Marty Spechler voted no and Councilmembers Darry Neher, Steve Volan and Andy Ruff abstained.

Local Activist Speaks Out On Relocation of Bloomington Hospital

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A local activist gave a detailed history of what is now IU Health Bloomington hospital last week during a Bloomington City Council meeting. Rita Lichtenburg is a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She set out specific actions she hopes the council will address to encourage the hospital to stay in its location on Second Street.  Lichtenburg raised the issues that a nicer facility was not as import as a sufficient number of nurses and doctors giving high quality care.  She also stated that location needed to  be discussed, a twenty five member task force should be brought back, that there is not enough transparency with the hospital’s board of directors, and that the directors should discuss what the location change will mean.

Council President Dave Rollo told Lichtenburg that a resolution along those lines is being discussed.

The Race is on for Political Positions In Bloomington

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Races have officially begun for political positions at the city of Bloomington. All candidates were required to file by last week.  Monday was the deadline for candidates to reconsider and withdraw their names from the ballot. There are now four candidates for mayor of Bloomington. That’s three Democrats and one Republican. Another Democratic candidate, Adam Mikos (MY-cuss), filed to run last week, but he said the local Democratic party encouraged him to back out.  Mikos determined that at this time it was better not to fight and withdraw from the race.

Mikos said he might still decide to run as an independent. The three remaining Democrats are Darryl Neher, John Hamilton and John Linnemeier (LINN-uh-MEYER). They will compete in the primary election this spring. The winner will face John Turnbull, the lone Republican running for mayor.  In the races for Bloomington City Council, there were a couple other quick withdrawls this week that benefitted established Democrats. Two candidates, Emily Courtney and Bill Phan (fawn) both filed to run on Friday and then backed out on Monday. Neither Courtney or Phan returned calls from WFHB. They both filed to run as Democrats for the three at-large seats on the Council. After Courtney and Phan withdrew, that left only three Democrats in the race for the three at-large seats, effectively eliminating competition for those positions on the Council. Those remaining three are all incumbents: Andy Ruff, Susan Sandberg and Tim Mayer. There are six other seats on the Council up for election this year. Five of those six races are contested. Visit WFHB dot ORG for a complete listing of candidates in Bloomington’s municipal elections.

Indiana’s Economic Recovery Has Been Slower Than Most

A new report finds that the current national economic recovery is leaving Indiana households behind, ranking us 34th in the nation. According to new data released by the Corporation for Enterprise Development think-tank, Indiana has among the lowest rates of small business ownership in the nation, ranking 48th for microenterprise ownership. Microenterprise ownership is defined as a business with fewer than five employees. Indiana was also ranked nationally 35th for small business ownership and 43rd for overall rate of business creation. The Corporation for Enterprise Development produces annual scorecards that highlight programs and pro-business policies they say help low-and-moderate citizens create more secured financial futures through small business ownership.

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