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Ask The Mayor: Bloomington's Hamilton On Helicopter Military Training, Annexation

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Unknown Speaker
We are streaming live on Facebook on WFIU this is asked the mayor. Hello, everybody. I'm Joe Hren. And once a month we meet with Bloomington john Hamilton. Thank you very much for joining us today. Very good to be with you. As always, Joe, good to see you. As always appreciate your time. And let's just get get right to it. As always, we usually start with kind of a COVID update health officials in Indiana 140 new COVID cases, two deaths Monday it's the lowest number of new reported cases since the beginning of the pandemic, even this weekend, I was out and about venturing out a little bit you're seeing less masks, more signs that say masks for those not vaccinated. You know, where are we right now? Are we in a really good place? Or is there still cause for concern?

Unknown Speaker
Well, we're moving in the right direction. For sure. Joe, you mentioned the cases in the in the desk, the death rate is as low as it's been since over a year ago at the beginning of the pandemic in terms of a state average. That's all good. You know, the President has urged as a target that we have 70% of adults in the country with at least one shot by July 4, it's not clear the country is going to make that it's pretty clear Indiana is not going to make that we're in the bottom quarter of the states in terms of overall vaccination. So we have work to do still. But that being said, the direction of hospitalizations, the direction of desk direction of cases is all positive. You know, we've had four weeks with no employees testing positive which is which is great. On the other hand, we just confirmed that we lost an employee an employee died because of COVID in the last few weeks, confirmed to us. So it reminds us that it is still a disease that is really challenging. And it's really important to remember 99 and a half percent of the people in hospitals from COVID are unvaccinated. That is if you're vaccinated, you're even if you get sick, you're very very unlikely to get very sick. But if you're unvaccinated, you can this disease can still take you so it's really important that you said keep keep masking and please get vaccinated when you can.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, you're talking about vaccination rates about 53% in Monroe County, for those 12 and older county officials and that press conference that you had on Friday say that they really want to reach 70 75% this summer, most mayors I talked to Bennett and Terre Haute Lin up in Columbus is not sure they're going to reach that herd immunity. But you are you gave good reasons why to get vaccinated. So what's the plan to get to that benchmark?

Unknown Speaker
Well, first, Joe, it's worth noting and I want to personally and on behalf of our community thank Indiana University and IU health two of our largest employers and institutions who have both taken the step to require vaccinations particularly IU it's of course all the students, all the faculty, all the staff that is a huge benefit to our community to to be assured that that vast majority of those folks will be vaccinated by the fall similarly with IU health and major local employers. So those are two really helpful steps to move our community toward more safe You know, as a city, we are not allowed to do that under the new state law. That's unfortunate. I'm not sure we would have their pluses and minuses but we are not allowed to. But we continue to provide our our $100 incentive to every employee who shows their vaccination card, we've gotten about 500 of them well over 50%, which we're very pleased with, because we know you're safer, and our workforces safer and our communities safer when you get vaccinated. So we're in our health system are offering $100 cash to everybody who, who does that. I hope everybody will just remember, this is how you keep yourself safe, your family safe, your friends and your in your community safe is by getting vaccine. These are very effective, very safe, wonderful vaccines that we have the chance to use. So I hope everybody will do so.

Unknown Speaker
I saw a press release just today, today's Tuesday for those watching this at another date. But there's the recovery process to $650,000 COVID funding for social service agencies. Jim more information on that.

Unknown Speaker
Well, Joe, this is kind of another in a series we've done over a million dollars of extra Community Development Block Grant and similar grants to the social service agencies, the these heroes in the trenches, who are making sure people have food and have shelter and have childcare and have health care and really helping people in our social safety net to make sure they do well. So we're putting another 650,000 available through the through the federal government, this one and we will continue to work really closely to try to make sure people can recover this. This was a really tough pandemic. We're still in it that the unemployment, poverty, that homeless, food insecurity, all those things have been really stretched. So we're not out of the woods yet. We're, as you all know, where we don't have the jobs back that we lost. We're climbing our way out, but there's still a ways to go.

Unknown Speaker
For those that like to submit a question, don't forget, you can do so news at Indiana public media.org. You can also tweet us at ask the mayor. Two things, too. I want to make sure we get to and we do have some questions. We'll get to the end before you we leave here today. We have talked about helicopters and we have talked about annexation. So let's go ahead and get to those because I know there's a lot of people that have been asking us about that. And I'm sure you too, as well. Last week, military helicopters performed some training exercises in Bloomington and ellisville created some concerned upset residents. So can you just walk us through? You know, why Monroe County first of all? And what was that process that allowed that to happen? Because I feel like from what I've heard there was some notification or maybe an asking from the military about this.

Unknown Speaker
Sure. And look, I apologize if anybody was upset or alarmed or disturbed. I know there can be concerned that people may project or worry what might be happening around and I'm sorry about any anxiety about that. The quick answer the military, this was the US Army Special Forces out of Fort Bragg North Carolina. So doing doing urban training and flight flight formation and close order work. asked us I got communicated as the Office of the mayor of several months ago about doing exercises in Bloomington. And we I will say look, these these men and women of the military helped keep us safe. We believe deeply in training, we know how important that is for our law enforcement officers and for our for our military as well. And they they identified that this was a good place to do a particular kind of training. And I essentially said fine, work it out with our police department and coordinate with them. And they did so I actually just didn't know the exact night it was going to happen. I'll tell you that. But we we cooperated with the military to let them do the training in an empty building that proved to be what's something that was useful for them. I know that for Blackhawk helicopters coming in can be noisy. I confess I didn't hear it that night, but I certainly heard about it. And we there was notification made by the army for people in the area. off duty police officers were used to keep the area safe and clear so that the army could do its exercises but I think we we should have done an earlier social media notification at least when it was going on so people could have found out what was happening and not have to wait till the morning so I'm sorry about that. And we'll we'll do better if this if this were to happen again. I don't know that it will. But look, you know the long and short of it is these are these are hours Our military who are protecting us in our training, and they use the facility in our community to do so. And I'm glad they did. And everybody was safe. And the training was successful so far as I know, and we're glad they're better trained, and we're safer because of it.

Unknown Speaker
Was there any during the asking or the allowing of this any money refunds exchanged?

Unknown Speaker
No, there was not. Now I don't I don't know. Frankly, Joe, whether there was any off duty, security, exchange of resources? I don't think so. But I'm not sure. But it was basically the military, notifying us, hey, we're interested in doing these exercises in your community. And I refer them to our law enforcement to coordinate the particular events of that evening.

Unknown Speaker
couple comments I came across about the zero notice about the Blackhawks dozen times, saying they were shaking our walls rattling the windows explosions being set off gunfire, saying this was disgusting. Another person in the UK calling an ugly look during Pride Month. Some people volunteering licensed mental mental health counselor when she said she wanted to help people, especially veterans with PTSD. Were you aware of how big this was going to be?

Unknown Speaker
I was not Joe, I knew that there was a coordination from the Special Forces, again from Fort Bragg and coordinating with our local law enforcement, which I guess they did a second night here in the in the area as well. And I you know, I regret if anybody had Ill, Ill results from this, again, you know, our law enforcement have to train every every day in volatile and difficult situations. I know the military does and and we're glad to be a partner with them to help keep those men and women safe and us. But I think we would have been advisable for us to do a quicker social media notification. And again, apologize for that. And we'll try to do better next time.

Unknown Speaker
The annexation process continues. The city council presented the fiscal report since the last time we talked and that that I'm sorry, you presenting the fiscal report to city council. I did talk to some county officials in a recent report news report that I did, and did look over didn't read every page of the 700 page report, but did look over a lot of it. And I know there's some still some unclear data for some people on the financial impact, especially to county services, I think reports and maybe some 2 million and in reduction of residential tax base. But then when you add up all the other taxes, there's excise food and beverage, that kind of go that list goes on and on. It could be more than 3.7 million. So I guess my question would be what, by what means is the city now helping identify these losses for some of these taxing units?

Unknown Speaker
Sure. Well, let's just take a step back. I mean, annexation is a very organic and natural process very much illegally defined but something the city of Bloomington has done hundreds of times in our history. We have continually expanded our borders from the original, several blocks downtown that were the original Bloomington every other piece of Bloomington has been annexed over time into Bloomington. The tricky part is we haven't annexed anything for 17 years. So there's been a build up of developed areas that typically in our history would have been gradually incorporated into the city, with with little impact for each one as as as an area comes into the city. Some county services remain for example, the county provides all the Justice Criminal Justice Services for all 150,000 of us in the county. However, the county does not provide road services to the parts of the city. They don't provide law enforcement services, either the sheriff or the police department does. The county doesn't provide parks system for inside the city. So So while the county does see some reductions, as they have in all the annexations. They also in reductions in revenue, modest reductions, they also have reductions in services. So as the city increases territory, we pick up those services of we do, of course, the law enforcement, and then we do the street sweeping in the street, plowing in the street paving and the pothole fixing and the parks development and trails and economic development and all those things and recycling pickup and trash pickup and such and so we're working very closely. I've been meeting regularly with officials from the county I've been offering and have started meetings with the library and the township trustees and the school Corporation and county officials and also I'm very pleased that I think we have Several years to plan this, the effective date is not till 2024. If the vote happens, as we expect it to in September, October. So we have plenty of time. And there's a lot of conversation going on. We've done this before we know the drill, this is a little bigger than the average annexation, because we're playing catch up. But we know how to do this. And we'll work very closely with our partners to make sure it goes smoothly.

Unknown Speaker
Right and playing bigger. playing catch up means that instead of being incremental, like of course, you said it should have been the last 17 years, it's kind of all happening at once. So some of these units, like the library or school are going to have that a bigger impact. But But you're saying you've got four years to help with that?

Unknown Speaker
It will. And look, I'll make a couple points. One is once we do this catch up, then we should be in good position to do incremental annexation going forward. We can't do that now. Because you have to be contiguous. And so that as areas develop and build up, right now, they're not contiguous with the city, so they can't be annexed a piece at a time. So this catch up is quite important to do. A second point I just make besides the multi year delay and effective date into 2024, actually, the local income tax impact is is staggered, and even beyond that two or three more years. So there's a lot of time for planning. There's a lot of time for collaboration. And I'm confident like we've done it in the past, we'll be able to do this. Well. And I think it'll strengthen both Bloomington and the whole region by having a thriving city that can be more efficient with services and provide the two new parks that we expected to create for certain neighborhoods and the new level of services that really match the urbanized areas.

Unknown Speaker
But if some of these taxing units are seeing, you know, a bigger cut, and for some, you know, maybe even the library where we know, schools are really strapped and even if it's a 600,000 may not sound like a lot in a bigger budget, but that could be a lot of money. How can the city help that transition?

Unknown Speaker
Well, I'm in conversations, I've already been in conversations with the library in the school district, I think they're very productive positive. I know our new school superintendent has been to to much more dramatic annexation impacts in Kokomo when he was the superintendent there and they were able to manage through it and did did well. And we look forward to the same thing. We're happy to sit down and explore any any approaches that make sense. Again, our job is to try to think about and look at what are the right urban boundaries, where is the urbanized area in our community, and let's make the boundaries reflect the realities on the ground. And then we can work out the fiscal impacts and exchanging services or mutual contracts back and forth, as makes sense.

Unknown Speaker
residents have August 4, I believe that's the public hearing. So why one and not multiple hearings or forums?

Unknown Speaker
Sure. Well, just to remind people, we're actually picking up the annexation where we left off four years ago, we started this in 2017. And I'll just note, we would be done by now if the legislature had not illegally taken action in the dark of night in the last day of a state legislative session to to single out Bloomington and say you have to stop your annexation. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Indiana said that was unconstitutional. So we are we are picking back up where we left off. And that means we've we've had a lot of public hearings. But we'll have one more formal public hearing on August 4, as this is all very specifically required by state law, a lot more than we're required to do by state law. We're also we have a very robust website, and I would encourage anybody who's interested or concerned has questions, feedback, go to the website, you can give feedback there, you can call us or email us or through the website, put questions to us get them answered, give comments about it. City Council will have that hearing on August 4 as a formal state required matter. And then they need to take action on each of the eight different annexation ordinances in 30 days to 60 days after that hearing. So basically, in September, there will also be public votes by the City Council on what they want to do going forward.

Unknown Speaker
When you mention, you know picking up where we left off, was that back and that was back in What 2017? Yes. So in that, you know, it's now it's 2021 people have moved people, you know, come and go. So in some ways, yes, I guess it is picking up where you left off, but it's also kind of new to a lot of people and some are saying that the one isn't just not enough. And I believe is that going to be on zoom or is that going to be in public?

Unknown Speaker
So let me let me make clear while we are picking up where we left off, we've also redone the full mailing of a significant packet to 1000s and all the all the parcel owners all the property owners in the in the proposed annexation area got a mailing in June, indicating with a lot of material in it. Again, we have very every day and 24 seven, there's public interaction available to anybody who's interested in talking about it, we found, actually, Joe, that kind of one on one discussion seem to be more helpful to people, if they have a particular question they want to ask, they can do so. Can I can I, you know, what's going to happen? Can I still burn my trash? Or can I keep my animals? Or what about my roads? How are they going to be all those questions we can answer as we go. And that's very difficult to do in a big public meeting for each person. So I really do encourage anybody, if they have questions or concerns, please reach out in these weeks, many weeks. And then the hearing itself on August 4 will be a combination in person and virtual meeting. So you can either show up at City Hall in person, or you can attend virtually and either way, make comments, follow the dialog. And then again, there's another 30 days where you can give input and reactions and suggestions until the city council will begin voting in a 30 day window 30 days after that hearing.

Unknown Speaker
And how can people do you mentioned the one on one is that just email the best is our phone call

Unknown Speaker
to our office or email and if you go on this on the website, and Bloomington dot i n.gov slash annexation. You can get lots of suggestions on how to do that whatever is easiest for you phone call email direct through the website, or come by city hall if you'd like

Unknown Speaker
the remonstrance period goes until January 1, right 2024

Unknown Speaker
Well, there's this is all very defined by state law and I don't want to give legal advice to folks but there's a there's a remonstrance remonstrance is how individuals can protest an annexation and state law has very specific requirements for who can do it and how you do it. And it doesn't run that long, I think, the remonstrance period, maybe 90 days after the ordinances are passed, or some some period of time, I'm not sure I shouldn't give advice. I don't we need to look that up themselves. But but the effective date of the annexation under the ordinances is January 120 24. Again, under state law, the services may be kind of layered in over the next year or two or three depending upon capital requirements and others. But the the legal impact begins on January 120 24, for whatever ordinance is passed, and was at a date that was picked by the city. Again, it is it is part of the ordinance that we propose city council will have to adopt it, it's very specified under state law, what window you can have it can't be longer than three years. We want it to be sure this is a significant annexation, that we give time for transition again, and some of the issues that we talked about. So it's it's about a two and a half year period are so that we can that will look to work together to get that in place.

Unknown Speaker
Okay. And the reason why I'm asking that where I'm going with this is that's right after what would be the 2023 municipal elections, so why not move the process up before election to give those new residents, you know, what would be their new benefit? And that's to vote?

Unknown Speaker
Sure. And I get that question. Again, if we'd not been interrupted by the state legislature, this would all be done by now. And the folks would be able to vote and be able to weigh in, but because we got delayed. And because the Supreme Court didn't get an action till almost four years later, we really didn't have a choice. Joe, if if we tried to make this effective, before the election in 2023, it would really have to be effective December of 2022, which would mean really only 13 or 14 months after they were adopted. And I promise you if we did that, we would hear a lot of people saying that's way too fast, to try to manage all of these transitions of services and streets and law enforcement and all those other things which do take time to plan and let people do plan their budgets so that they can adjust budgets over the time. So there's no perfect time. State law does not let us go longer than three years. So we really tried to pick the most appropriate time we couldn't do it in the middle of an election. Because you need to give time to district for it. So this really lets us redistrict get in place and people will be assigned to a city council member on the effective date and we'll be able to have a have their voice heard from the beginning and then the elections in due time.

Unknown Speaker
Okay, we got a couple of questions and Wendy writes in we active devoted citizens of Bloomington would like more respect, one step to increase this would include allowing our video facial presence during our individual public comment time on zoom meetings. Any thoughts on that?

Unknown Speaker
Well, most of that is driven by the City Council rules. I do think there In an effort to manage, kind of, we've had some issues with zoom bombing and various things. I know, I don't know all the intricacies of that. But I certainly appreciate it. I do expect that most of our meetings will move to hybrid. In the next few weeks, probably in July and August, you'll start to see hybrid meetings, which will allow both in person and on screen zoom meetings. And I hope that it'll be more more accessible. Everybody had to kind of figure out how to make all this happen over the last year and a half in the pandemic. And we've learned some new things. And there were some things that were less than perfect, but I hope we found a lot of public input. People found it easier to attend public meetings from their home, rather than having to spend many hours at a at a city hall sitting in the audience. So I kind of guess you can kind of pick your favorite approach in the future, which one you prefer?

Unknown Speaker
I need to preface this question from Steve. So we know what we're talking about here. I know I attended my first city press conference in a community announcement. It was the Waldron Art Center with you. That was a big announcement where the city will renovate open January 1 as an art center, and then look into building perhaps a performing arts center. So Steve wants to know has there been or will be an RFP for the feasibility study.

Unknown Speaker
So thank you, Joe. Yeah, we were very excited. We had a community group led task force of about two dozen people who recommended what to do with the water in the Old City Hall, the arts building that's been returned to city ownership. They recommended and I followed a number of steps. As you mentioned, we're going to put about a half a million into upgrading the Waldron so that it can open January early January 2022. And just half a year, and and be ready to serve for five years. That's kind of the window that we've outlined. We're going to be looking through a process for an RFP to find somebody to manage that building. We've got some interest already. And then we are also as you indicated, the the task force recommended and I agreed to identify a really look at the potential for a purpose built Performing Arts venue for the city, we we haven't really had such a thing. Both the Waldron and the Buskirk, and most other places have been kind of jury rigged or transformed into performance space that we have used and have had fantastic use. But we do want to explore what it would mean for the community and our amazing arts, colleagues and friends to have a purpose built space. So we'll we'll look at that we'll we'll identify partners, and we really don't have the process picked out yet for that. Did that answer his question about an RFP? Yeah. For the for the purpose built space? Is that what he's after the

Unknown Speaker
fees? I think it's gonna be a feasibility study.

Unknown Speaker
I'm not sure I would call it a feasibility study. I think it's I think it's really an exploration of what it would mean for the community, it will probably be multi step. Okay. I think the first step, we will I don't know whether we use an RFP or not. But we'll we'll find some partners who can help us maybe do an RFP, maybe not, that will help us start to just look at what would what would it look like, what kind of size, what kind of costs, what kind of locations, what kind of interest is there from the community. And then and then ultimately, there would be a more detailed feasibility study that would dig into much more detailed market analysis cost and etc.

Unknown Speaker
If you're driving around Bloomington this summer, a lot of construction road construction projects, portion of Seventh Street is closed. Now you had a ceremony to begin the seven line project.

Unknown Speaker
I'm very excited about the seven line project show. This is the first of four Bicentennial trails that we funded in 2018. It takes a while for these to come through. But this is one of four trails we're giving to the future, if you will, and this will be an East West protected bike lane and much enhanced pedestrian experience running from the Beeline on the near West Side East through across Seventh Street through Seventh Street re restructuring Seventh Street all the way to campus. Ultimately, the plan is to take it all the way to 446. And create a really terrific bike and pedestrian link running East West through our community and it started it should be completed yet this year for that first segment from the Beeline on to campus at Woodlawn. You can check it out now. I'm sorry. It's a little frustrating. I know there's a lot of construction going on. But I think it'll be a fantastic East West connector to campus to the community. We appreciate your patience and I hope you'll be pleased with the final result.

Unknown Speaker
And we're getting here just a couple minutes left. I will we see you in the it's I think it's the reverse July 4 Parade.

Unknown Speaker
I don't know yeah. Joe Whether I will be there, but I it's going to be a unique experience. And I encourage folks to do it. This is where the, the the float stays fixed and the audience moves to see the floats. This was designed a couple months ago when we still are quite unclear about the COVID protocols. So it'll be different. It'll be up in the IU Sports Complex parking lots, and I'll encourage folks to enjoy it, it'll be a little different, we'll probably go back to normal we hope next year, we'll hope and trust for that. But please take a take a look, you know, I might just plug to, it's a wonderful time to go to the switchyard Park, there's food truck Fridays going on there. And, you know, as as we're able to get out and about and be together more, it's a really wonderful time to explore the pools or the splashpad, or the the music that's being played at a bunch of different city parks and encourage people to get out there and enjoy that.

Unknown Speaker
We've got one minute left, do you have any announcements or anything else you'd like to say?

Unknown Speaker
Well, Joe, I would just say, you know, the next couple months are going to be really important budget cycle time for us. We have the American rescue plan, which is $22 million of one time money for the city, there's $29 million dollars for the county. So together that $50 million will be appropriated over the next few weeks and months. we're digging into that we welcome ideas about that from city council from residents working with our county friends, there's a lot of opportunity, I announced some intention to do some things, big things about housing, affordability, arts, jobs, quality of life investments, this is a very special opportunity to try to help our community climb out of the pandemic and the recession in ways that make us more inclusive, that make us more sustainable. So I'm really excited and welcome public input about how we can do that best.

Unknown Speaker
All right, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. Mayor and we'll see you in July. I hope.

Unknown Speaker
Joe thanks very much. Take care.

Unknown Speaker
And those watching, appreciate you joining us and again Don't forget always taking your questions for Bloomington Mayor Terre Haute Mayor Columbus down in Nashville news at Indiana public media.org or at estimator on Twitter. Have a good day. Thank you
'Ask The Mayor' On Facebook LIVE With Bloomington's John Hamilton

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton during Tuesday's Zoom call. (Zoom)

Hamilton apologizes for lack of notice of last week's military helicopter overnight training, residents can contact the city one on one rather than in public forums over annexation issues, and 7th street closure is just the beginning of the 7 Line project.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton addresses these issues and more during a Facebook Live Zoom event Tuesday. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU. Here are some highlights.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: Vaccination rates are about 53% in Monroe County for those 12 and older. County officials said in that press conference you had on Friday they really want to reach 70 to 75% this summer. Mayors Bennett in Terre Haute and Lienhoop in Columbus are not sure they're going to reach that herd immunity. What's the plan to get to that benchmark?

Hamilton: Well, first, Joe, it's worth noting and I want to personally and on behalf of our community thank Indiana University and IU Health, two of our largest employers and institutions who have both taken the step to require vaccinations - particularly IU, of course all the students, all the faculty, all the staff. That is a huge benefit to our community to to be assured that the vast majority of those folks will be vaccinated by the fall similarly with IU Health and major local employers.

As a city, we are not allowed to do that under the new state law. That's unfortunate. I'm not sure we would have, they're are pluses and minuses but we are not allowed to. But we continue to provide our our $100 incentive to every employee who shows their vaccination card, we've gotten about 500 of them well over 50%, which we're very pleased with.

I hope everybody will just remember, this is how you keep yourself safe, your family safe, your friends and your community safe is by getting vaccine.

READ MORE: Indiana Reports 240 COVID-19 Cases, 7 Deaths Tuesday

Hren: Last week, military helicopters performed some training exercises in Bloomington and Ellettsville creating some concerns and upsetting residents. First, why Monroe County? And what was that process that allowed that to happen?

Hamilton: Sure. And look, I apologize if anybody was upset or alarmed or disturbed and I'm sorry about any anxiety about that. The quick answer, this was the US Army Special Forces out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina doing urban training and flight formation and close order work. I was communicated as the Office of the Mayor several months ago about doing exercises in Bloomington. And I will say these these men and women of the military helped keep us safe. We believe deeply in training, we know how important that is for our law enforcement officers and for our for our military as well.

They identified that this was a good place to do a particular kind of training. And I essentially said fine, work it out with our police department and coordinate with them. And they did so. I actually didn't know the exact night it was going to happen. I'll tell you that. There was notification made by the army for people in the area. Off duty police officers were used to keep the area safe and clear so that the army could do its exercises, but I think we should have done an earlier social media notification at least when it was going on so people could have found out what was happening and not have to wait till the morning so I'm sorry about that. And we'll we'll do better if this were to happen again.

Hren: Was there any money or funds exchanged during the asking or the allowing of this?

Hamilton: No, there was not. Now I don't know. Frankly, Joe, whether there was any off duty, security, exchange of resources? I don't think so. But I'm not sure. But it was basically the military, notifying us, hey, we're interested in doing these exercises in your community. And I refer them to our law enforcement to coordinate the particular events of that evening.

Hren: The annexation process continues. You presented the fiscal report to city council since the last time we talked. I did talk to some county officials in a recent report I did, and I know there's still some unclear data on the financial impact, especially to county services. What means is the city now helping identify these losses for some of the taxing units?

Hamilton: Sure. Well, let's just take a step back. I mean, annexation is a very organic and natural process very much legally defined but something the city of Bloomington has done hundreds of times in our history. The tricky part is we haven't annexed anything for 17 years. So there's been a build up of developed areas that typically in our history would have been gradually incorporated into the city, with little impact.

Some county services remain. For example, the county provides all the criminal justice services for all 150,000 of us in the county. However, the county does not provide road services to the parts of the city. They don't provide law enforcement services, either the sheriff or the police department does. The county doesn't provide parks system for inside the city. So while the county does see some reductions in revenue, modest reductions, they also have reductions in services.

I've been meeting regularly with officials from the county. I've been offering and have started meetings with the library and the township trustees and the school corporation and also we have several years to plan this, the effective date is not till 2024. But we know how to do this. And we'll work very closely with our partners to make sure it goes smoothly.

READ MORE: Bloomington's Annexation Proposal A Hard Sell For Some Non-City Residents

Hren: Residents have August 4, I believe that's the public hearing. So why one and not multiple hearings or forums?

Hamilton: Well, just to remind people, we're actually picking up the annexation where we left off four years ago, we started this in 2017. And I'll just note, we would be done by now if the legislature had not illegally taken action in the dark of night in the last day of a state legislative session to single out Bloomington and say you have to stop your annexation. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Indiana said that was unconstitutional.

We've had a lot of public hearings. But we'll have one more formal public hearing on August 4, as this is all very specifically required by state law, a lot more than we're required to do by state law. We also have a very robust website, and I would encourage anybody who's interested or concerned has questions, feedback, go to the website, you can give feedback there, you can call us or email us or through the website, put questions to us get them answered, give comments about it.

City Council will need to take action on each of the eight different annexation ordinances in 30 days to 60 days after that hearing. So basically, in September, there will also be public votes by the City Council on what they want to do going forward.

Hren: When you mention picking up where we left off, that was back in 2017. People have moved and that was awhile ago.

Hamilton: We've also redone the full mailing of a significant packet to thousands. All the property owners in the proposed annexation area got a mailing in June with a lot of material in it. Again, every day and 24-seven, there's public interaction available to anybody who's interested in talking about it. We found, actually, Joe, that kind of one on one discussion seems to be more helpful to people, if they have a particular question they want to ask, they can do so.

The hearing itself on August 4 will be a combination in person and virtual meeting. So you can either show up at City Hall in person, or you can attend virtually and either way, make comments, follow the dialog. And then again, there's another 30 days where you can give input and reactions and suggestions until the city council will begin voting in a 30 day window 30 days after that hearing.

Hren: Annexations would take effect January 1, 2024, right after the 2023 municipal elections, so why not move the process up before election to give those new residents their new benefit - voting?

Hamilton: If we'd not been interrupted by the state legislature, this would all be done by now. And the folks would be able to vote and be able to weigh in, but because we got delayed, and because the Supreme Court didn't get an action till almost four years later, we really didn't have a choice.

Joe, if we tried to make this effective before the election in 2023, it would really have to be effective December of 2022, which would mean really only 13 or 14 months after they were adopted. And I promise you if we did that, we would hear a lot of people saying that's way too fast, to try to manage all of these transitions of services and streets and law enforcement and all those other things which do take time to plan. So there's no perfect time. State law does not let us go longer than three years. So this really lets us redistrict and people will be assigned to a city council member on the effective date and we'll be able to have their voice heard from the beginning and then the elections in due time.

Hren: Here's an email from Wendy, "We active ,devoted citizens of Bloomington would like more respect. One step to increase this would include allowing our video facial presence during our individual public comment time on zoom meetings."

Hamilton: Well, most of that is driven by the City Council rules. We've had some issues with Zoom bombing and various things. I don't know all the intricacies of that. But I certainly appreciate it. In the next few weeks, probably in July and August, you'll start to see hybrid meetings, which will allow both in person and on screen Zoom meetings. And I hope that it'll be more more accessible. Everybody had to kind of figure out how to make all this happen over the last year and a half in the pandemic. And we've learned some new things. And there were some things that were less than perfect, but I hope we found a lot of public input. People found it easier to attend public meetings from their home, rather than having to spend many hours at city hall sitting in the audience.

Waldron Arts Center announcement
Waldron Arts Center announcement (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: I need to preface this question from Steve so we know what we're talking about here. The Waldron Art Center big announcement a couple weeks ago revealed the city will renovate the center and open January 4, and then look into building perhaps a performing arts center. So Steve wants to know has there been or will be an RFP for the feasibility study?

Hamilton: We were very excited. We had a community group led task force of about two dozen people who recommended what to do with the Waldron in the Old City Hall, the arts building that's been returned to city ownership. They recommended and I followed a number of steps. As you mentioned, we're going to put about a half a million into upgrading the Waldron so that it can open early January 2022 and be ready to serve for five years.

We're going to be looking through a process for an RFP to find somebody to manage that building. We've got some interest already. And then we are also as you indicated, the task force recommended and I agreed to identify a look at the potential for a purpose built performing arts venue for the city, we haven't really had such a thing. Both the Waldron and the Buskirk, and most other places have been kind of jury rigged or transformed into performance space that we have used and have had fantastic use. But we do want to explore what it would mean for the community and our amazing arts, colleagues, and friends to have a purpose built space. So we'll look at that and identify partners, and we really don't have the process picked out yet for that.

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