Progress on Harmony Road Bridge on I-69

26 Jul

The HT published an article this morning (“INDOT confident Section 4 of I-69 will open by the end of 2015“), which probably came as a surprise to a lot of people, including myself, who have seen Section 4 (the section running from Crane up to south of Bloomington) looking pretty much like a dirt road even very recently. So I decided to stop by this morning and visit what is probably the most technically challenging part of I-69 Section 4 in Monroe County — the Harmony Road bridge — and was surprised to see how far along things were.

Although the bridge isn’t finished, the prestressed concrete structural elements are all in place, and I had no problem walking across it. The contractors are in the process of excavating what appears to be about another 30 feet of earth beneath it. And the main line of the highway to the west is already paved.

IMG_2386 IMG_2388 IMG_2389 IMG_2390 IMG_2384 IMG_2385 IMG_2380 IMG_2381 IMG_2383 IMG_2375 2 IMG_2377 IMG_2378 IMG_2379  IMG_2374 2

This has been probably the most disruptive road closure in the whole project so far; I’m sure the residents will be very glad to have Harmony Road finished and open again!

Next week I’ll try to make it back down to Black Ankle Creek in Greene County, which is probably the longest bridge in the whole highway.

Preview of Monroe County Council Meeting 2015-07-14

14 Jul
2015 Monroe County Council

2015 Monroe County Council

The packet and agenda for today’s regular meeting of the Monroe County Council is now available: Council_Packet_2015_07_14.

Here are the highlights of the meeting:

  • The County Commissioners are requesting an additional appropriation of $15,000 for emergency shelter support.
    • The intent of this request is to be able to provide temporary funding to keep the Martha’s House emergency shelter operational until the end of the year, in order to provide enough “breathing room” to find a sustainable organization to operate the shelter.
    • The nonprofit organization that ran Martha’s House dissolved as of June 30, 2015, leaving the shelter’s future in doubt. Perry Township, which owns the property, has pledged 90 days’ worth of additional operational funding (around $45K).
    • The County is hoping to be able to partner with the City of Bloomington, Bloomington Township, and potentially other organizations to come up with another 90 days’ operational funding, with the idea that this would be enough time to identify a stable organization that could operate the shelter.
    • In the interim, Monroe County United Way has agreed to be the fiscal agent for the shelter.
    • This is really a joint request from the County Commissioners and several members of the County Council (Shelli Yoder, Cheryl Munson, and myself); however these types of social service appropriations outside of the Sophia Travis Community Service Grants program typically appear in the Commissioners’ budget.
  • The Emergency Management department is requesting the appropriation of a grant from the state for an off-road vehicle (a John Deer Gator) for use in remote incident situations, and will include medical transport equipment (“med-bed”).
  • The Auditor is requesting an appropriation of $25K out of the Ineligible Deduction fund (which comes from taxes and penalties recovered from those who have claimed multiple homestead deductions) to fund personnel training on the accounting system and rack space for servers.
  • The Prosecutor is requesting the appropriation of grant funding from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to fund one year’s salary and most benefits for a Sex Crimes Deputy Prosecutor’s Investigative Assistant.
  • The Legal Department will be presenting the proposed 2016 interlocal agreement with the City of Bloomington and the Town of Ellettsville for animal management.
    • This agreement allows Monroe County Government to enforce animal control ordinances in the Town of Ellettsville.
    • It also allows the county and Ellettsville to use the City of Bloomington’s animal shelter, and specifies the payments made by the County and Ellettsville for use of the shelter.
    • The formula used to determine payments is based on the overall operations budget for the animal shelter and the percentage of animals housed at the shelter (picked up by animal control officers, strays brought in by county residents, and animals relinquished by residents) from outside the city as a percentage of all animals handled by the shelter from the previous year.
    • For the budget year 2016, the County’s share will go down from $310,067 in 2015 to $254,011 in 2014.
  • The Legal Department will also be presenting an interlocal agreement with the City of Bloomington that specifies the distribution of the 2015 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. The County will receive $4,722 out of a total of the $23,860 grant (the split is determined by the percentage of violent crime that occurs in the city and outside the city).
    • The City of Bloomington intends to spend its grant on body-worn cameras for officers
    • The County intends to spend its grant on in-car video system for police vehicles
  • The Legal Department will present to the County Council the annual reports from the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission for its 3 TIF districts (west side, North Park, and Fullerton Pike).
  • The County Council will confirm its dates for budget hearings. The proposed dates are:
    • Hearing Dates:
      • Tuesday, September 1 5:00 – 9:00 pm
      • Thursday, September 3 5:00 – 9:00 pm
      • Tuesday, September 8 5:00 – 9:00 pm (Regular Session Council Meeting Date)
      • Wednesday, September 9 5:00 – 9:00 pm
      • Friday, September 11 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
      • Tuesday, September 15 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
    • Budget Adoption Date:
      • Tuesday, September 22 5:30 pm
  • The County Council will consider an amendment to the wheel tax/excise surtax (also known as a local option highway user tax) ordinance. This is an administrative correction to an error that the council made in a previous amendment.
  • The County Council will consider an appointment to fill a vacancy on the Monroe County Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission, and the Council President will make 2 citizen appointments to the Sophia Travis Community Service Grant Committee.

As always, the meeting is open to the public, and will be held tonight at 5:30 in the Nat U Hill room of the Monroe County Courthouse, and it will be broadcast on CATS. Public comment will be taken. Hope to see you there!

Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Meeting Today — Fullerton Pike, Other Road Projects

8 May

FullSizeRenderThis is one of those blog postings that I wish I had made several days earlier (in my copious free time, of course!). Honestly, I had expected more press coverage, beyond a generic announcement of the meeting.Today’s meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Policy Committee (1:30PM at City Council Chambers) is a very important one, with several key votes scheduled for critical (and sometimes controversial) road projects. The three main items up for discussion and vote are:

  • Adoption of the 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan (Draft 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan)
  • Certification of Complete Streets compliance for 3 road projects
  • Adoption of the 2016-2019 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)

I’ll talk very briefly about each of these items.

Adoption of the 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan

Our current long-range transportation plan (LRTP), covering up to 2030, expires on May 14, 2014. If a new plan is not adopted to replace it in time, the existing Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) will be frozen, and transportation projects will not be able to be modified. The TIP is a document that spans four fiscal years, and documents the distribution of MPO funding throughout the region. A project must be in the TIP to be eligible for federal transportation funding. If the 2030 LRTP is allowed to expire, the existing 2015-2018 TIP will be frozen in place, giving us no flexibility for modification.

Unfortunately, the MPO has not been able to complete the 2040 LRTP in time to supersede the expiring 2030 LRTP. MPO staff has been working with a consultant to use new analytic methods and modeling techniques for the new plan — but has not been successful in completing the work in time. Therefore, they are proposing that we adopt an interim 2035 LRTP that is essentially identical to the 2030 LRTP (with updated demographic and financial projections) in order to “buy” more time to complete the 2040 LRTP. It is this interim 2035 LRTP that we will be asked to vote on today.

Certification of Complete  Streets Compliance

The MPO Policy Committee will be asked to certify that three projects in the proposed 2016-2019 TIP compliant with the MPO Complete Streets Policy:

  • West 17th Street Reconstruction
  • Woodlawn Avenue Railroad Crossing
  • Fullerton Pike Phase 2 (from just East of Walnut Street Pike, near the Rhorer Road Krogers to 500 feet West of Rogers Street)

The Fullerton Pike Phase 2 compliance discussion will undoubtedly be controversial, as many residents, particularly those who live along the corridor, have strong opinions on this project. The MPO Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) two weeks ago declined to certify the Fullerton Pike Phase 2 project as compliant with the Complete Streets policy.

Approval of 2016-2019 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)

The MPO will be asked to approve the 2016-2019 TIP, which will specify the allocation of MPO funding for area transportation projects. Inclusion in the TIP is a requirement for projects that will receive federal funding. The following projects are in the proposed/draft 2016-2019 TIP:

  • Monroe County
    • Fullerton Pike Phase 1 (from just west of Walnut Street to just east of Walnut Street Pike)
    • Fullerton Pike Phase 2 (from just east of Walnut Street Pike to just west of Rogers Street)
    • Karst Farm Greenway Phase  3 (construction of multi-use trail from railbanked Monon corridor to Hartstraight Road, to tie into the Ellettsville Heritage Trail)
    • Signal backplate installation at county signalized  intersections
    • Bridge safety inventory and inspection
  • City of Bloomington
    • Reconstruction of Old SR37 and Dunn Street
    • Reconstruction of Tapp Rd and Rockport Rd
    • Black Lumber Trail (multi-use trail from Henderson St to Walnut St)
    • Installation of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon at Allen St and Walnut St intersection
    • Guardrail on south side of Moore’s Pike at Southeast Park
    • Construction of at-grade railroad crossing at Woodlawn Ave between 12th and 13th Sts
    • Pedestrian refuge island at 4th St and Rogers St intersection
    • Traffic signal modernization at 3rd St and Woodscrest Dr intersection
    • Sidepath construction on north side of E. Rogers Rd at the Jackson Creek bridge to The Stands Dr
    • Sidepath construction on S Henderson from Black Lumber Trail to Winslow Rd
    • Sidepath construction on Winslow Rd from S Walnut St to S Highland Ave
    • Retrofitting curb ramps for compliance with ADA
    • Jackson Creek Trail from Southeast Park/Arden Drive to High Street then to Sherwood Oaks Park/Goat Farm to Rhorer Road and east to Sare Road
    • 17th Street Reconstruction
    • 2nd St and College Ave signal replacement
  • Bloomington Transit
    • Passenger Shelters
    • Operational Assistance
    • Purchase Major Vehicle Components
    • Purchase BT Access vehicles
    • Support Vehicle replacement
    • Exhaust system upgrade at garage
    • Fleet maintenance software
    • Surveillance equipment
    • Two-way radio communications equipment
    • 35 foot hybrid bus replacement
    • Replace fare collection equipment
    • Mobility management program
    • 40 foot diesel bus replacement
  • Rural Transit
    • Operation of Rural Transit
    • Bus maintenance
  • INDOT
    • SR45 pavement, from SR46 to Unionville
    • I-69 Section 5
    • SR45/46 pavement
    • SR37 from Dillman Road to I-69
    • SR46 traffic signal visibility/back-plate installation
    • Underwater bridge inspections
    • Bridge load rating inspections

The complete packet for the MPO Policy Committee meeting can be found here: MPO Packet 2015-05-08. Public comment will be taken on all items up for a vote (including all of the items discussed above).

I-69 Section 5 Public Open House Tonight (Wed, 4/29/2015, 6:30-7:30PM)

29 Apr

I-69 Development Partners, the contractor hired to build I-69 Section 5 (the section from Bloomington to Martinsville) will be holding a public open house TONIGHT, from 6:30-7:30PM at the Holiday Inn at 1710 Kinser Pike. I’m surprised that this event has not received any publicity, as far as I can tell.

This is an opportunity to look at plans and scheduling, and ask questions.

I69

Circuit Breaker (Tax Cap) Impacts for 2015 in Monroe County

16 Apr

The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance just released the report on circuit breaker impacts on local units of government for 2015. The report for Monroe County specifically can be found here.

The circuit breakers — also referred to as “tax caps” — refer to various statutory (and constitutional) limitations on the property tax responsibility of individual property taxpayers in Indiana. There are two types of circuit breakers: the 1%-2%-3% circuit breakers (which limit property tax liability to a certain percentage of assessed value) and the Over 65 circuit breakers (which limit property tax increases to lower-income seniors). I wrote about the circuit breakers for 2014 in more detail here and here.

As you can see in several of the charts below, 2015 saw a slight increase in the circuit breakers from 2014, compared to a substantial increase from 2013 to 2014. This is very welcome news to local units of government, many of whom were very concerned after the large increase in 2014.

The following table shows the amount of circuit breaker credits by circuit breaker type, by year, from 2010-2015.

Screenshot 2015-04-16 21.14.36

The following chart illustrates the same data graphically:

Screenshot 2015-04-16 21.26.35

One can easily make the following quick observations from these two charts:

  • Almost all of the increase in circuit breakers since 2011 come from the 1% (owner-occupied residences). This is not surprising, as Indiana’s property tax system is generally considered very favorable to homeowners (vs. other classes of property owners, such as businesses)
  • This means that our assessed values in Monroe County kept pace with property taxes
  • The circuit breakers for 2% (non-owner-occupied residential, agricultural, and long-term care facilities properties) and over 65 have been very stable over time (other than a dip in the 2% circuit breaker in 2013)
  • 2015 is the first year that Monroe County has seen any circuit breaker credits for 3% (commercial and industrial) properties — for a whopping total of $9
  • The overall increase in circuit breaker from 2014-2015 was very small, which will work to the benefit of local units of government (though not as good as a decrease, obviously!)

The following chart breaks down the impact of the 2015 circuit breakers by taxing unit.

Screenshot 2015-04-16 20.52.27

As this chart shows, only 3 units, Monroe County, City of Bloomington, and MCCSC saw circuit breaker increases of more than $10K. The Town of Ellettsville actually saw a $6702 decrease in its circuit breaker from 2014.

Summary of 2014-2015 Circuit Breaker Changes

  • County-Wide
    • Increase from $819,507 to $865,759
  • Monroe County Government
    • Increase from $153,018 to $164,157
  • County General
    • Increase from $111,920 to $120,905
  • Summary
    • Still an increase from 2014-2015 – but a very small increase\
    • Increased much less in 2015 than in 2014

Preview of Monroe County Council Meeting 2015-04-14

14 Apr
2014 Monroe County Council

2014 Monroe County Council

3:30PM Update: I just received a new agenda at 2PM that has one addition. The Council will be considering two resolutions related to non-discrimination. The new agenda is here: Council_Agenda_Amended_2015_04_14. The packet (above) hasn’t changed, and we have not yet received the text of either of these resolutions.

Original Posting: The packet and agenda for this Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Monroe County Council is now available: Council_Packet_2015_04_14. By the way — hopefully by next month we will have an updated photo of the Council that will include our newest member, Ryan Cobine!

This meeting looks like a long one! Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Prosecutor’s Office is requesting funding and approval to turn a part-time child support investigator into a full-time position. The costs of the position would be paid out of the General Fund and reimbursed around 2/3 by the federal Title IV-D program
  • The Highway Department is requesting an appropriation of $1,248,000 for the County’s Cumulative Bridge program for 2015. The Cumulative Bridge program, which supports all construction, maintenance, and repair of bridges not on state roads in the county, is funded by a property tax levy. By convention, the Cumulative Bridge appropriation for bridge projects for each year is not done during budget hearings, but instead is done through a separate request for an additional appropriation. The 2015 Cumulative Bridge detailed request, including specifics on the condition of Monroe County’s bridges, can be found here: 2015 Cumulative Bridge Program.
  • The Commissioners are requesting an appropriation of $968,000 (it was intentionally advertised high at $995K) for the prepayment of 10 years of software maintenance for the Spillman Computer-Aided Dispatch/Records Management System (CAD-RMS) software used by the 911 Dispatch Center.
    • The County Commissioners have already signed a contract for the 10-year agreement.
    • The appropriation requests have been advertised so that the council can take the funds out of either the General Fund, the Rainy Day fund, or some combination of the two.
    • This item has been somewhat controversial primarily because a 10-year agreement is unusual in local government in Indiana, and will probably engender heightened scrutiny by the State Board of Accounts. On the other hand, the agreement is highly fiscally favorable. The vendor (Spillman) has agreed to freeze the annual maintenance payment for the entire period of the 10 year agreement (as opposed to their usual 7% annual escalation), and provide 2 of the 10 years free. In addition, the payments start after 10 years at what they would have been in 2013. This results in an inflation-adjusted savings of around $475K over the 10 year period, and around $1.5M over a 20 year period.
    • The costs will be split 50-50 between the City of Bloomington and Monroe County, based on the current interlocal agreement between the two parties, which is just now being renegotiated. It is likely that the County will seek some additional compensation (in the form of interest) from the City for funding the prepaying up front (essentially loaning money to the City).
  • The Commissioners are also requesting an additional appropriation of $75,000 for the contract that they signed with the accounting firm Hartman and Williams to sort out the reconciling problems in the Treasurer’s Office. This is in addition to $75,000 that has already been spent on this effort.

In addition, the Council will be appropriating funds received from several grants, including: Homeland Security training grant, light tower trailer for emergency management, and Title X family planning funds to operate our Futures Family Planning Clinic for an additional year.

As always, the meeting is open to the public, and will be held tonight at 5:30 in the Nat U Hill room of the Monroe County Courthouse, and it will be broadcast on CATS. Public comment will be taken. Hope to see you there!

Indy Star Article Asks if Local Ordinances Really Protect LGBT Residents — And Points Out Caveats in Bloomington Ordinance

6 Apr

Good article in yesterday’s Indy Star following the intense attention to RFRA and its possible effects: Do local laws really protect rights of LGBT Hoosiers?

The second paragraph of the article summarizes its conclusions:

“But even though Marion County and 10 other Hoosier communities already have local nondiscrimination ordinances that include sexual orientation, experts say such protections can be so weak that they are virtually unenforceable.”

The article points out the communities that have some local regulations that protect LGBT residents:

  • Indianapolis, Marion County, West Lafayette, New Albany, South Bend, Evansville, Bloomington, and Monroe County all have local ordinances that protect both sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Terre Haute, Michigan City, Lafayette, and Tippecanoe County have local ordinances that protect sexual orientation but not gender identity

The upshot of all of this discussion is that protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity must be added to statute in order to ensure legal enforceability of these protections — and we need to continue to press our representatives in Indianapolis to do the right thing. However, I do leave this discussion wondering if we really need to be so deferential to a potentially over-cautious interpretation of home rule in Indiana.

The local human rights ordinances in Bloomington and Monroe County can be found here:

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