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Ellettsville takes steps toward building pedestrian trail

The Town of Ellettsville took another step October 13th toward building a pedestrian trail without state or federal funding. The Town Council voted unanimously to return $46,000 to the federal government. The money had been allocated for the Heritage Trail. Federal funds come with restrictions on how they can be spent, including requirements to spend money on specific kinds of inspectors. The Council decided to instead do the construction with Town workers and Town money. Darla Brown, the Town attorney, said the town is still working to buy the necessary land for the trail. Council member Dan Swafford asked Brown about the process.

The Town has been trying for several years to build the pedestrian trail, which also requires the construction of a bridge. Swafford asked that the Council discuss the status of the trail project at every Council meeting until they break ground.

Perry-Clear Creek Fire Department dispute

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An internal dispute at the Perry-Clear Creek Fire Department flared up October 3rd in a public meeting. Two members of the townships’ Fire Protection Board made statements about the issue. The Board members said they were being pressured to resign. Board chairman John Moore was the first to address the issue before the Monroe County Commissioners. He detailed a recent phone call from Commissioner Patrick Stoffers.

The County Commissioners appoint the members of the Fire Protection Board. Another Board member, Roger Stewart, said Stoffers also asked him to resign. Stewart alluded to a rift within the fire department.

Stewart and Moore didn’t give details of the accusations against them, and Stoffers didn’t respond to their comments. Moore said the Board met with the Commissioners on July 25th.

The department is in the midst of remodeling and adding on to its station. Two firefighters came to the defense of the embattled Board members. Craig Patnode said there have been improvements at the fire department since Stewart and Moore joined the Board.

Only one person spoke against the Board members. Joe McWhorter said he has been in the department for more than 40 years. He accused the Board of ignoring the established chain of command.

Stoffers asked County attorney Jeff Cockerill to set up a hearing for the two Board members.

Ellettsville takes steps towards building pedestrian trail

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The Town of Ellettsville took another step October 13th toward building a pedestrian trail without state or federal funding. The Town Council voted unanimously to return $46,000 to the federal government. The money had been allocated for the Heritage Trail. Federal funds come with restrictions on how they can be spent, including requirements to spend money on specific kinds of inspectors. The Council decided to instead do the construction with Town workers and Town money. Darla Brown, the Town attorney, said the town is still working to buy the necessary land for the trail. Council member Dan Swafford asked Brown about the process.

The Town has been trying for several years to build the pedestrian trail, which also requires the construction of a bridge. Swafford asked that the Council discuss the status of the trail project at every Council meeting until they break ground.

County trouble collecting storm water fees

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The state and federal governments aren’t paying their share for programs that address local storm water problems. Monroe County attorney Kevin Dogan said the County has had trouble collecting storm water fees for properties owned by other governmental units. Dogan says it’s not surprising that they didn’t get funding from state and federal government.

Dogan referenced a recent court decision the prohibited the County from enforcing its noise ordinance on Interstate 69 construction crews. Dogan said the County should still send bills to state and federal properties. But he said there are still questions about what to do when the bills aren’t paid.

Dogan estimated the County has been billing the federal government about $15,000 a year for storm water fees. He didn’t have an estimate for the state’s bills. Storm water fees pay for infrastructure such as drainage ditches and storm sewers throughout the County. Dogan and the Board members said the County is providing a service to the state and federal properties. But Board members Patrick Stoffers and Iris Kiesling agreed there is not much reason to pursue unpaid bills.

The Board later approved a policy that the County won’t charge late fees to the state and federal governments.

Fast-tracking new recycling facility

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Monroe County may be fast-tracking plans for a new recycling facility. The County Solid Waste Management District wants to start construction before the end of the year. The new materials recovery facility, or MRF, would process the County’s recyclables and prepare them for sale. Money for the project is set aside in the District’s budget for next year. But on October 9th, executive director Larry Barker asked the District’s Board of Directors for permission to start spending the money early.

Barker has been pushing to build a MRF for years. The County finally approved a version of the project in September. The facility will be a clean-stream MRF, meaning it will only process recyclables that have been pre-sorted. Ultimately, Barker wants to build a waste-stream MRF, which would actually separate recyclables from other garbage. A waste-stream MRF would be more expensive, and that proposal has been controversial. Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan, who is also a member of the District Board, said he wanted to be careful not to appear supportive of the waste-stream facility.

Barker and some members of the District’s Board believe the County can make money from selling its recyclables. Currently, the County pays the company, Republic Services, to haul off its recycling. Board President Steve Volan said it’s not clear all those recyclables are even, in fact, recycled. At the meeting, the Board voted 3 to 1 to start construction on the clean-stream MRF this year. That decision has to be approved by the County Council before it’s final.

Monroe County short on poll workers

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In the lead up to the November 4th election, Monroe County is again short on poll workers. As of the October 15th Republicans had only recruited 34 of the 90 workers they need. Democrats had recruited most of their workers, but they were still short five. The two major parties are responsible for recruiting poll workers until three weeks before the election, when they hand the job over to the County Clerk’s Office. In recent elections, there have consistently been problems with recruiting poll workers. Election Board member Lorraine Farrell, who represents the Monroe County Democrats, expressed regret that the pattern was repeating.

The County Clerk’s Office officially took over recruitment on October 14th. Clerk Linda Robbins told the Board she planned to hire someone who would work exclusively on finding poll workers. She explained the process to Farrell as well as Board member Brian Lemonds, who represents the Monroe County Republican Party.

Earlier this year, Robbins asked the Board for permission to pay recruiters from the Democrat and Republican parties. The goal, she said, would be to incentivize the parties to do a better job recruiting. At the time, Farrell and Lemonds both objected to paying political parties with taxpayer money.

Monroe County School Corporation Outlines Standardized Testing Changes to School Board

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The Monroe County Community School Corporation is preparing for a slew of changes in standardized testing. Administrators briefed the school board on the changes October 14th. The state and federal governments require all school corporations to give students certain tests. But Tammy Miller, the Corporation’s Director of Elementary Education, said one of those tests is going away next year. The test was called I-MAST. Students who would have taken the I-MAST will now the take the same test given to other students. That test is known as the I-STEP.

Board President Keith Klein asked about the reasoning behind the change. Other Board members also expressed concern about the end of the I-MAST. The change is reportedly the result of changing regulations at the federal Department of Education. Superintendent Judy DeMuth said there are major problems with giving students inappropriate tests.

The Board also heard about the most recent A through F grades given to schools throughout the state. Of the 17 elementary and middle schools in MCCSC, Miller said 13 received either As or Bs. Board member Jeanine Butler asked about grades over the years. Fairview Elementary received an F again on these tests, which were actually taken last school year. Fairview has received Fs the past three years, which has led to scrutiny and debate about how the school is run.
Reporting Live for WFHB, I’m Kelly Wherley.

Monroe County School Corporation Reports On Truancy Students; Long-Term Implications

Three months into the 2014-2015 school year, the Monroe County Community School Corporation reports six students have missed at least 10 days of school without an excuse. The school system automatically refers such truant students to juvenile probation. So far these early figures are being compared to the entire previous 2013-2014 school year when a total of 63 truant students was reported and 21 of these students had their drivers’ licenses suspended as punishment for the unexcused absences. According to an October 14 article in the Herald-Times, there is often a confluence of contributing factors involved in such student truancy, including family poverty, mental and physical illness, and domestic issues. School truancy is such an important issue, say experts, because past truancy can be an indicator of future behavior, such as not finishing high school, and then possible adult problems such as substance abuse, poverty and even criminal behavior that results in incarceration. In fact, according to Monroe County Prosecutor Chris Gaal, when examining criminal records in retrospect, one common factor in the lives of many persons already in prison is a history of school truancy.

Area 10 Agency on Aging to Hold Forum on Preventing Elder Abuse

Area 10 Agency on Aging will host a panel, “Elder Justice, A Community Conversation,” on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 in Lamkin Hall at IVY Tech in Bloomington. From 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. panelists from law enforcement, social services, and governmental agencies will discuss how to prevent or protect elder citizens from abuse, what community resources are available and what gaps in services exist.

Each year one in ten older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation or scamming and experts believe for every report of abuse 23.5 cases go unreported. The program is free to the public, but registration is appreciated.

Heartland Film Festival Begins Featuring IU Students and Alumni

The Heartland Film Festival begins tomorrow and two of the featured films were made by IU students and alumni, according to a press release by IU.
The film “We’ll be alright” is an 11-minute documentary by seniors Barton Girdwood and Carissa Barrett . The students produced the film last Spring as part of a class at IU in the Department of Communication and Culture. It is the story of Frankie Presslaff, his unique family, and his extraordinary mother, Mimsie. Frankie and his longtime partner Kelly Compton are dads to eight adopted children. And Frankie’s mother Mimsie assisted her son and touched the lives of many other Bloomington residents.

The film “Three Months” was produced by alumni filmmakers Matt Spear and Selena Hubbard from the IU School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The 20- minute film tells the story of a man who puts off his dream. Now, after a cancer diagnosis, it may be too late. This film follows the themes of pursuing dreams and not pushing them off for another day.
The Heartland Film Festival runs October 16th to 25th at venues throughout Indianapolis. The films “Three Months” and “We’ll Be All Right” will screen as part of the “Indiana Spotlight” program on October 20th and 24th.

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