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Vote Centers A Proposed Discussion With Monroe County Budget

Monroe County will tackle the contentious issue of vote centers again in the coming weeks. County Clerk Linda Robbins says she will propose vote centers during upcoming budget talks.Robbins made the statement at an August 7 meeting of the County Election Board.

“We are also going to look at comparing costs of precinct voting to vote centers so we’re going to try and tackle that again with some comparative costs,” Robbins says.

Switching to a vote center model would shrink the number of voting locations in the County. But a resident could vote at any of the locations instead of being limited to a single precinct. In the past, county Republicans have opposed the change.

Robbins insists it could save hundreds of thousands of dollars during each election.

“There’s been pushback from certain individuals about these centers,” Robbins says. “Any cost we incur with this will be charged back to the city, not the county.”

The Board plans to begin 2015 budget discussions on August 12.

Rural Monroe County Residents May See Major Rezoning Shifts

Some Monroe County residents raised questions June 17 about proposed rules that would affect the most rural parts of the county.

The rules would apply to areas more than two miles from Bloomington. They would not affect smaller communities like Ellettsville or Stinesville.

The County Plan Commission is seeking to simplify its rural zoning rules by establishing just two zones instead of the current 20. But resident Steven Cordell said that approach might have been counterproductive.

“You’re taking something that was too complicated and making it overly simplified,” Cordell says. “I think that might be a big over-correction.”

Cordell’s complaints with the proposed rules focused largely on restrictions that would keep residents from subdividing their land into lots of relatively small parcels. Commission members have said the County can’t support the infrastructure required by those kinds of typically residential developments.

Other residents, like Steve Smith, asked why the rules restrict rural businesses from developing.

“The existing businesses have been there a long time with the zoning code changing around them,” Smith says. “This would blanket change everything, and when they become pre-existing, non-conforming, that’s like saying ‘we don’t want you.’”

Commission members said they are waiting to develop some rules for businesses. Commission member Julie Thomas said consultant is still working on rules governing the Bloomington Urbanizing Area, which is the two miles of County land surrounding the city. Thomas said those regulations would affect the rural zoning rules.

 

Interchange – Republican Candidates for Monroe County Council

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In tonight’s episode of Interchange, host Joe Crawford speaks with six Republican candidates for the Monroe County Council. During our first segment Crawford was joined by Marilyn Brinley, Brian Ellison, Jennifer Mickel and Paul E. White, Sr., who are competing for the Republican nomination for the District 2 seat on the Council. The winner will run against Democrat Ryan Cobine in the general election.

Later in the show, Barry Jayne and Greg Knott joined the discussion. Jayne and Knott are competing for District 4 on the Council. The winner will run against an incumbent Council member, Rick Dietz, who is the only Democrat running for the seat.

Water Pumping Project Finishes $250,000 Under Budget

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The construction of a new water pumping station came in at about $260,000 under budget, according to officials at a Bloomington Utilities Service Board meeting on Feb. 24.

Michael Hicks, the Utilities Department’s capital projects manager, submitted a change order on the $6.5 million project.

“The project is complete and with the approval of this change order we can close out the project with our contractor,” Hicks said.

The construction was performed by the Orleans-based company Layne Incorporated, but the engineering was done by the Kansas-based company Black and Veatch.

Adam Westerman, from Black and Veatch, said the project did not cost as much as expected, in part because the contractor didn’t spend its full budget for items like office supplies, equipment, and furniture.

Board member Jason Banach asked Westerman about the city paying for a contractor’s supplies.

“Is this something we typically pay for, their pens and pencils?” Banach asked.

“We’ve handled it different ways historically, but for the past eight years we’ve taken on the cost of that,” Westerman said, “And anything left comes back to the city.”

The board later voted unanimously to approve the change order.

Weather Delays for Feb. 11

Delays

  • Brown County School Corporation on a two-hour delay.
  • Mitchell Community Schools on a two-hour delay.
  • Monroe County Community School Corporation on a two-hour delay.
  • North Lawrence Community Schools on a two-hour delay.
  • Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation schools on a two-hour delay.
  • Spencer-Owen Community Schools on a two-hour delay.
  • St. Mark’s United Methodist Church on a 1 1/2 hour delay.

Report It

If you know about a delay or closing that is not listed above, please send an email to wfhb@wfhb.org and let us know about it.

New Monroe County Recycling Facility Plans Still Uncertain

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The citizens advisory committee to the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District discussed plans last week for supporting a new recycling facility. The District’s Board of Directors has been split on the issue of whether to build a materials recovery facility, or MRF, to process recyclables.

But the advisory committee has supported the initiative, going so far as to form a separate working group for the project.

Stephen Hale, a member of the committee, will be leading the group.

“I really kind of see this group as getting up to speed and finding the history of past discussions with MRFs in the district,” Hale said, “When you change something in the system, a lot of things get impacted by those changes and finding where the potential impacts and connections are is a pretty good next step.”

Larry Barker, executive director of the District, told the committee that a bill working its way through the Indiana Statehouse could make the MRF project even more significant.

“This lays out some serious guidelines on how we will be recycling in the future,” Barker said, “One of the goals that the administration has is recycling 50% of the waste stream by 2019. Right now there is about 6.7 million tons of municipal solid waste going to landfills. That’s pulling out about 3.3 million tons of recycling. This is dramatic.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Hale asked Barker what he thought the group should do to support the MRF.

“We have to come up with some sort of outreach program that gets the community aware of what’s coming forward,” Barker said, “The last thing you want to do is spring something on the community when they aren’t aware of it.”

At a meeting in December, the District’s Board approved spending $42,000 to further explore the possibility of building a MRF.

But some board members objected to spending the money, and others have questioned the long-term feasibility of the project.

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,”

CATSweek: Same-Sex Marriage Resolution, Rules For Secondhand Shops, Proposed Recycling Facility

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In this episode of CATSweek, produced through a partnership between WFHB and Community Access Television Services:

The Bloomington City Council passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage December 4th; The Board president of the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District announced plans November 21st to renew discussion about a controversial recycling facility; On November 25th, the Ellettsville Town Council held another debate about new regulations on secondhand shops…And more.

Watch the full show on the CATS website.

Number of Homeless Students in Monroe County Increasing

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The Monroe County Community School Corporation has seen an increase in students experiencing homelessness. At a meeting November 19th of the Corporation’s Board of Trustees, Student Services Director Becky Rose said there are more than four hundred homeless students this year. That’s up from three hundred and two last year, and three hundred and eighteen the year before.

Rose went on to say that the estimated number of homeless students is probably too low. She said many of the students’ parents are reluctant to admit they are experiencing homelessness.

Rose said the School Corporation tries to reach out to those families, to help them access the appropriate services.

Monroe County Plan Commission Votes to Change Road Name

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The Monroe County Plan Commission voted November 19th to change the name of a road on the far east side of the county. County Planner Beth Rosenbarger told the commission the road’s name causes confusion, which can be dangerous in emergency situations. She showed the road’s location on a map.

Jeff Schemmer, communications manager for the County’s Central Emergency Dispatch, said emergency personnel often have trouble with addresses on the edge of the County.

The commission voted to change the name from Deckard Ridge Road to Elkins Road. The new name was suggested by a local resident, and will take effect March 1st.

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