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Brondizio signs letter calling for diversity in conservation debate

IU professor of Anthropology, Eduardo Brondizio, was one of 240 conservationists to sign a letter to the scientific journal Nature, calling for greater diversity in the global debate about conservation.  The letter was published last week.  In the letter the point is made that the debate has become increasingly polarizing between those who argue that nature should be protected for its own sake, and those who argue that we must also save nature to help ourselves.  The letter says that this situation is stifling communication, inhibiting funding and halting progress.   An approach is proposed that accepts a unified and diverse conservation ethic; one that recognizes and accepts all values of nature and welcomes all philosophies justifying nature protection and restoration, from ethical to economic, and from aesthetic to utilitarian.

The signers write that much of the contention is intensified by the fact that the dispute is dominated by only a few voices, nearly all of them men’s.  They call for a diversity of voices representing a wide range of ethnic, cultural and social perspectives, as well as gender balance.

BMV website helps customers verify refund eligibility

The Indiana Bureau of Motor vehicles has created a new website for customers to verify excise tax refund eligibility. In the past some -citizens utilizing some BMV services were overcharged. In early  October, 2014 the BMV began sending out claim forms to customers who were affected by this earlier Excise Tax ‘misclassification.” But it appears that some customers did not receive their claim form letters. Commissioner of the BMV Don Semis then announced on November 10th that the Bureau has created a website that allows customers to determine if they eligible for an Excise Tax Refund. This website allows Hoosiers not only to verify their refund eligibility but also print a form that includes mailing instructions. To avoid potential fraud, the BMV asks Hoosiers to access the refund eligibility page by visiting the website  myBMV.com  and check on the green “Check Your Excise Tax Refund Eligibility” icon on the right-hand side of the home page. Users will need to input either their Social Security number or their driver’s license number to check their eligibility. To date the BMV has received over 131,000 claim forms and processed over 92,700 of them, totaling refunds of $14.9 million dollars plus $1.2 million dollars in interest. Currently the BMV is processing claim forms about a week after they are received, with checks being issued approximately another week later.

MCPL Board appoints new library director

The Monroe County Public Library Board of Trustees recently appointed Marilyn Wood as library director effective February 2nd, 2015. She will succeed Sara Laughlin who will retire at the end of this year after seven years as director. Wood is a native of Brown County, Indiana and holds both  Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Indiana University. She began her career in a variety of capacities in the Indiana University Library system. Prior to joining the Monroe County Public Library in June, 2012 as Associate Director,   Wood worked at Harvard University during the years 2005-2012 as Associate Librarian of the Harvard College for Collection Management. An MCPL press release states she intends to continue the library’s efforts to seek various partnerships and contacts within the Bloomington community as well to offer job-embedded staff development to improve library services and keep up with 21st century versions of library and literacy skills.

IURC accepting public comment on fee increases

Tomorrow, beginning at 6pm the Indiana Utilities Regulation Committee will be accepting public comment regarding fee increases for infrastructure improvements. IURC representatives will be at the Monroe County Convention Center to record sworn written and oral comments from the public. Duke Energy is proposing 1.87 billion dollars in updates, including advanced metering and communications devices, breaker and relay replacements, replacement of aging infrastructure and vegetation management. In order to pay for the improvements Duke would be increasing utility rates by about one percent a year over the next seven years. Various organizations and businesses have also filed testimony on this case, with detractors saying that ratepayers should not assume the costs of Duke’s upgrades, and that the proposed “smart meters” are more beneficial to the corporation than to residents.

New apartment building to be built downtown

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After being turned down once before, a local attorney now has received permission to build a new 4-story apartment building in downtown Bloomington. David Ferguson, through his company Moonburn LLC, got approval from the Bloomington Plan Commission on November 3rd. The building will be on North Morton Street, near the intersection with 10th Street. It will have 33 apartments, each with one bedroom. Jim Roach, from city planning, said the Commission voted against a slightly altered version of the same project in July, which stated that due to height violation of the building, it was not to be built at that time.

The building is still planned to be two feet taller than the 50-foot height normally allowed. But Roach said the city has allowed other buildings in the area to violate that rule.

Ferguson’s building would be just inches away the Morton Mansions. The new structure did require a waiver from the city’s requirement to reserve half of the first floor for businesses. Plans only include 11 percent of the floor to be commercial space. Ferguson said there simply isn’t enough room to fulfill the requirement.

Olympus Properties manages residential buildings throughout Bloomington, including the Mercury on Morton complex nearby. Ferguson founded that company in 2002 along with other partners. The city’s planning staff agreed with Ferguson about the tradeoff between commercial space and parking. Tom Micuda, the city’s director of planning and transportation, said the city might consider doing away with requiring every downtown apartment building to have room for businesses.

Commission members said they were mostly satisfied with the changes to the project. But Commission member Chris Sturbaum said he’s not ready to dramatically change the requirements for commercial space.

Six Commission members voted in favor of the new apartment building. Commission member Chris Smith abstained.

 

County Commissioners approve waste-stream MRF project

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A Monroe County Commissioner has switched sides in a debate over a proposed recycling plant. Commissioner Patrick Stoffers voted October 31st in favor of pushing forward a plan to build a waste-stream materials recovery facility, also known as a waste stream MRF (“murf”). Until that meeting, Stoffers had been a vocal opponent of the project. At the meeting of the County Commissioners, Stoffers said he’s still skeptical.

The Monroe County Solid Waste Management District already has approval to build what is called a clean-stream MRF, which will process pre-sorted recyclables and so they can be sold. But the measure approved October 31st sets the wheels in motion on a waste-stream MRF project, which would process unsorted garbage and remove the recyclable materials. Steve Volan, the president of the District’s Board of Directors, said a lot more needs to happen before a waste-stream facility can be built.  Stoffers joined Commissioner Julie Thomas in voting for the measure. Commissioner Iris Kiesling voted no. The Solid Waste District now plans to apply to the state Department of Environmental Management for a permit to operate a waste stream MRF. Construction on the clean-stream facility is set to begin early next year.

MCCSC budget includes $4 million for technology upgrades

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The Monroe County Community School Corporation is on track to spend up to $4 million on technology upgrades. The Corporation’s School Board approved the spending at a meeting October 28th. Part of the funding will go toward fulfilling the Corporation’s one-to-one technology initiative, which aims to provide every high school student with an iPad or other mobile device. Board member Sue Wanzer asked about the internet bandwidth needed to accommodate more devices.  Tim Thrasher, the business operations director at MCCSC, answered questions. Thrasher said the majority of the funding will come from a general obligation bond, which the Corporation will have to pay back over time.Wanzer asked about how the $3 million in debt could affect taxes in Monroe County.  Board member Judith Butler asked about exactly how the technology money would be spent and who would make the decisions.  The School Board later voted unanimously to approve spending up to $4 million on the technology upgrades. The Board also gave final approval for next year’s budget. That budget amount is roughly $112 million, up from $108 million last year.

Low voter turnout for midterm election

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According to Monroe County’s precinct turnout reports, scarcely more than 25% of registered Monroe County voters cast ballots in yesterday’s midterm elections, making this the lowest voter turnout in a midterm election since 1990. While many factors may have contributed to the low voter turnout, one factor that may have been particularly influential was the lack of big ticket ballot issues, according to one Bloomington citizen.

The ballots that were cast yielded two particularly close races for Monroe County. The race for the school board in District 7 saw Jeannine Butler win her seat by only 2.02%, and the race for County Recorder saw Democrat Eric Schmitz win by just under 3 percent.

Three statewide races were on the ballot yesterday. Incumbent Secretary of State Connie Lawson retained her seat against democratic challenger Beth White. Republican Susanne Crouch won the Auditor seat over Democrat Mike Claytor, and Republican Kelly Mitchell won the treasurer position. Just under eight hundred thousand voters cast their ballots in the statewide races.   On the federal level Todd Young will begin his third term as the District 9 Representative in congress, securing 66 percent of the vote.

You can view a full list of local results online at wfhb.org

Olympic hero Billy Mills visits Bloomington

Olympic hero Billy Mills, the subject of the biographical film, Running Brave, will visit Bloomington on Monday, November 10th.  His visit is one of many events marking Native American Heritage Month.  Mills grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  He attended the University of Kansas on an athletic scholarship.  He went on to win the gold medal in the 10,000 m race in 1964 Olympics in Japan in a surprise victory over several favored runners.

There will be a free showing of the film Running Brave at 3 p.m. Monday at the IU Cinema.  In addition to Mills, Robby Benson, professor in the Media School, will also be on hand for a Q and A after the film. Benson starred as Mills in the 1983 film.

Although the event is free, tickets are required and are available at the IU Auditorium Box Office.

U.S. Forest Service seeks public input on road system

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public input for a study on the road system in Hoosier National Forest.  The Travel Management Rule, adopted by the U.S. Forest Service in 2005, requires every national forest to complete a study of their road system by 2015.  The Forest Service has scheduled two open houses in Bedford at Brownstown/Supervisor’s Office at 811 Constitution Avenue for tomorrow, November 6th, and next week, November 13th from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Staff will be on hand to answer questions and gather input from the public. Forest Supervisor Michael Chaveas said,  ”The aim of this study and the public input is to help us identify a road system that serves the needs of the public and the Forest Service, at a cost we can afford to maintain over time”, according to a press release from the Forest Service.

Public input can also be made online at www.fs.usda.gov/hoosier

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