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School pays respect to car crash victim

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On October 20th, The Richland Bean Blossom School Board sent their respects to the family of recent graduate Josiah Winks who died in a single-car collision on October 18th.  Superintendent Mike  Wilcox opened with comments about Winks who received his diploma earlier this month.

Larry DeMoss, speaking on behalf of the RBB Educators Association also expressed his condolences to Winks’ family, but said that “at the other end of the emotional spectrum” reports of a class trip to Michigan was an “upper” for the school district. Isabel, a student of Edgewood High School teacher Jeff Carmichael, has participated in three of Carmichael’s class trips, and thanked the school board for the educational opportunity.

The school board also talked about the upcoming bidding proposal for the school bus routes of the 2015-2019 school year.  Superintendent Wilcox outlined the key dates for the bidding process.

The school district is also in the beginning phases of developing a long-range plan, beginning with the formation of a long range planning committee.

Gripp awarded three year contract for wastewater monitoring

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The city of Bloomington utilities department has awarded a three year contract to Gripp Incorporated to monitor city wastewater.  City of Bloomington Utilities engineer Phil Peden addressed the Utility services board on October 20th and lined out the contract parameters.

Board member Jeff Ehman inquired about the previous company contracted to monitor Bloomington’s wastewater.

Peden said that several bids came in for the wastewater flow monitoring,  and that Gripp had the lowest bid.  The contract has been review by the city of Bloomington legal department and was unanimously approved by the utility services board.

Questions raised on necessity of new recycling facility

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A group studying proposals for a new recycling facility in Monroe County raised questions at a meeting October 16th. Stephen Hale is a member of the citizens advisory committee to the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District. Hale and other committee members formed a working group last year to look into the feasibility of building a new materials recovery facility, or MRF. That facility would process local recyclables and get them ready for sale. But Hale said he doesn’t have enough information yet to convince him the project is viable.

The District got final approval earlier this month to move forward with building a clean-stream MRF, meaning it will only process pre-sorted recyclables. But District employees are also pushing to build a waste-stream MRF that would pull recyclables from unsorted garbage. Hale said the issue needs to be studied further.

The MRF proposal has been a subject of dispute on the District’s Board of Directors. Bloomington  Mayor Mark Kruzan has opposed the project, as have County Commissioners Iris Kiesling and Patrick Stoffers. Those three have been outvoted by four other members of the Board, led by Board President and City Council member Steve Volan.

Monroe County to Spend 2 Million for Improving Energy Efficiency on County Buildings

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Monroe County is preparing to spend $2 million on new projects, mostly aimed at making county buildings more energy efficient. The County Council heard a presentation on the projects at a meeting October 14th. Council member Marty Hawk asked if all the equipment upgrades were necessary.

Of the $2 million in projects, about $1.25 million is set aside for retrofitting buildings to save energy. County attorney Jeff Cockerill responded to Hawk’s questions. The County has contracted with the firm, Honeywell, to determine exactly what equipment should be replaced. Honeywell is a multinational corporation and defense contractor based in New Jersey.

The projects would be paid for with one-time tax increase throughout the County. Besides the retrofitting project, the money would also pay for upgrades to computer equipment, replacement of four County vehicles and additional emergency sirens. The list originally included a prospective parking garage behind the Justice Building, but that project was removed before the Council meeting. The Council voted unanimously in favor of the projects.

New Regulations for Rural Areas of Monroe County to be Reviewed by Plan Commission

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Monroe County is days away from finishing what one official says is a nearly final draft of some much-debated zoning rules. County Plan Commission member John Irvine said a group of Commission members plan to review new regulations for rural areas on October 28th. Irvine made the statement at a Plan Commission meeting on October 21st.

The rules would only affect rural areas of the County. Bloomington, Ellettsville and other municipalities fall under different zoning rules. So does the two-mile fringe around Bloomington. But the new regulations could mean major changes for rural areas. Previous drafts banned all new subdivisions and put all land into just two categories, one called rural residential and the other called farm and forest. Currently there are 20 different rural zones. Rural landowners and businesses have expressed concern their properties would be classified as nonconforming, which would make it more difficult for them to build new structures or subdivide their land. Commission member Kevin Enright took issue with saying the rules are nearly finalized.

The Commission’s Ordinance Review Committee will consider the new regulations October 28th. The Commission will hold another meeting November 6th, where they will take public comment on the rules. The final vote could happen as soon as November 18th.

Hoosier Swimmers Raise Money in Pursuit of 2016 Olympics

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Three Hoosier swimmers are using crowdsourcing to raise money for their Olympic dreams. The online platform Dreamfuel is a website specifically dedicated to competitive athletes. Because of their accomplishments, three former IU swimmers have been picked to be profiled and supported on the Dreamfuel platform. They are Margaux Farrell, Lindsay Vrooman and Cody Miller.  Vrooman and Miller are are part of the 37-person roster that will represent the United States in the short course World Championships in Qatar in December. Vrooman graduated from Indiana University last year and still lives and trains in Bloomington. The suits that Vrooman wears during competitions can cost four hundred dollars, and its not easy to balance out an income with Olympic training.

Vrooman is aiming to participate in the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil, competing in the 400 and 800 freestyle and the open water 10K race. While she calls herself a bit of a long shot, her career as a Hoosier is full of accomplishments.

Dreamfuel Co-Founder Emily White’s Grandfather, Bob White Sr. swam for IU in the 1940’s and also competed at the Olympic Trials. White says the crowdsourcing site goes beyond fundraising and also teaches athletes how to  build and nurture their support networks and engage their fans. Vrooman’s personal networks, family, and high school teachers have all chipped in to get her about half way to her fund raising goal with one week left in the campaign. She says fund raising is especially hard for solo athletes.

According to an article in the magazine Fast Company, 85 percent of Olympic hopefuls earn less than fifteen thousand dollars per year and many do not have corporate sponsorships.

Indiana State Health Department Establishes Call Center for Questions About Ebola Virus

Yesterday the Indiana State Health Department announced the establishment a call center for the public to ask questions regarding the Ebola Virus Disease. Health representatives will be available to answer questions over the phone regarding the disease’s symptoms, screening procedures, and diagnosis of the potential problem. Those symptoms are similar to influenza: diarrhea, fever, headaches and joint/muscle pain, overall weakness, and stomach pain and abnormal bleeding.

The call center telephone number is 877-826-011 and will be available Mondays through Fridays from 8:55 AM through 4:15 PM. The Health Department reminds Hoosiers that Ebola is NOT spread through the air or by casual contact. Currently only individuals who have traveled to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are at risk of having been exposed to Ebola.

Governor Pence Declines Possibility on 80 Million Dollar Grant for Pre-Kindergarten Education

Last week Governor Pence announced that his administration would not seek a federal education grant that could have brought up to 80 million dollars to Indiana to fund pre-kindergarten education.  According to the Indianapolis Star, Pence’s Family and Social Services Administration had worked with the state Department of Education writing this grant and it came as a surprise that the Governor would not submit the grant.  A previous grant submitted last year was rejected. The odds of getting funded this year are thought to be greatly improved because Indiana is one of just two states labeled ‘category one’ states, identified as those states with highest need.

In an opinion piece published Monday on the Indystar website, Pence defended his decision, saying that Indiana has its own, five county, pre-K pilot program that will start next year and, “It is important not to allow the lure of federal grant dollars to define our state’s mission and programs.”

State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, also published an opinion piece on the website.  She stressed that after last year’s application was rejected, the governor reiterated his support to seek federal funds this year.  She expressed disappointment that, after the grant was completed, the Governor changed his mind and would not sign it.  Her opinion piece says, “Published reports indicate the governor was under intense lobbying from out-of-state special interests. Those special interests wanted to reject federal support for early childhood education.”

On Monday Senator Donnelly’s office issued a press release also expressing disappointment with the decision.  In a letter to the Governor, Donnelly asked Pence to provide answers to specific questions about why the Governor decided not to submit the grant.

The deadline for submission is today. The grant cannot be submitted without the Governor’s signature.

Human Remains found in Mobile Home Park

From the City of Bloomington Police Department:

This Morning the Bloomington Police Department responded to a call of possible human remains being found on a vacant lot at Arlington Valley Mobile Home Park located at 1600 North Willis Drive. Property managers made the discovery while cleaning up the lot that had been vacant since a mobile home was moved from it sometime this summer.

It appeared that a plastic storage bin had been placed over the remains which was located at the rear of the vacant lot. Upon arrival, officers and detectives confirmed the remains were human and found them to be in an advanced stage of decomposition. Initial estimates indicate the remains may be two to three months old. No indication of age, race or gender was able to be made.

The Bloomington Police Department is working with the Monroe County Coroner’s Office who also had representatives at the scene. The remains have been transported to the University of Indianapolis where personnel from the Anthropology Department will assist with identification and a possible cause of death. According to the Coroner, results may not be available for four (4) to six (6) weeks.

The death investigation is ongoing and additional details will be released as it becomes available.

President McRobbie Details New Plans For Indiana University

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie unveiled a five year plan last week.

McRobbie’s State of the University address was devoted to what he labelled his Bicentennial Strategic Plan, which is to be implemented during the lead up to IU’s two hundredth year anniversary in 2020. The Bloomington campus should see more construction and renovation as well as the introduction of new schools and strategic changes to older schools. Most of the capital investment is to be focused on renovation of buildings around the Old Crescent, to the immediate east of Sample Gates. The plan also calls for renovating the old Wells Quad buildings to return them to their original residential function.

As for academics, McRobbie wants to put more emphasis on what he calls ‘Building and Making’, which means developing products that can be commercialized to the university and economy’s benefit. He wants to see the campus create engineering programs in art and design, and in information technology. Work on consolidating old programs into the new umbrella media school and fleshing out the new schools of public health, and global and international studies will continue.

A significant decline in enrollment at the school of education, coinciding with on-going changes in the state’s treatment of the teaching profession, and the imminent departure of the school’s long-serving Dean González, prompted the President to announce that he would establish a Blue Ribbon Panel of external experts, charged with not only making recommendations on a new dean, but undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of the school’s entire operation and making recommendations for its future.

The cultural life of people connected with the university as well as the larger community was the focus of the plan’s section on supporting creativity and cultural enrichment which noted the multi-million dollar investment over the last decade on teaching and presentation of music, theater, visual art, film, and other forms of art and entertainment.

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