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Ask The Mayor: Bloomington's Hamilton On New Hospital Traffic, State Of City

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

The mayor's State of the City Address is Thursday, public comment periods are being scheduled with the new convention center architect, and stormwater fees could double by next year.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton addresses these issues and more. 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.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: Convention Center expansion project is moving forward, you're spending money on initial phases. Is the site plan next or building design? And how does the steering committee move on with the hotel anchor which was a point of contention last year?

Hamilton: We're starting to get visible with this process. The week before spring break, we're going to have three days of public engagement. So anybody interested in weighing in on that, there'll also be a website people can go to. The beginning of the money will go to he engagement process and design process.

The hotel developer will probably get worked out in the few months ahead. We don't want to wait too long because ideally you really want the design of the convention center and the design of the hotel to happen in parallel, so we'll start in earnest and a few months ahead we'll want to know the hotelier by then.

Convention-Center-Sign.jpg
Hamilton says the steering committee will need to address the anchor hotel for the convention center expansion. (WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: Stormwater fees are being voted on to double, we reported on it last week. More funds are needed to update aging infrastructure, why wasn't money saved up over time?

Hamilton: When I came into office, one of the things the utility department had not done was have regular price checks rate increases, so we have a big build up of a failure to keep up with infrastructure. We've actually doubled the infrastructure investments over the last three years compared to the three years before that. We're also included a big piece of green infrastructure.

We had 40 water mains break in 2015 I think, we had 80 water mains break last year. These are pipes that need to be replaced and we just didn't have the schedule in place. When I came in with Vic Kelson as head of CBU, we said look, this is basic stuff. Nobody wants water pipes to burst, it's dangerous, disruptive, so the council supported it unanimously and they said let's not wait 15 years before we get this in place.

flooding,-cars.jpg
Hamilton says the stormwater rate hasn't increased in more than 15 years. (WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: State of the City is ready for Thursday night? Any preview?

Hamilton: Please welcome everybody Thursday night at 7 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. That's a time for a little entertainment, and then really a look back at the city - we just finished our bicentennial year so I guess you can say we're starting our next century so it's time to look ahead at what's next.

hamilton-leaving.jpg
Hamilton leaves last year's State of the City Address after being shut down by protestors. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Email from Margaret: Looking ahead to the new hospital on the Bypass, what plans are there to upgrade roads and intersections to handle increased traffic?

Hamilton: There is a lot of planning going on now. It's the biggest economic development project we've had in our history. The connection at the bypass on 14th Street or Range Road will become a signal. The connections at Pete Ellis and Smith on 10th Street will also be upgraded - there's a lot of planning work for that to go on. 

Email from Jonathan: What has been achieved which will facilitate broadband internet access for Bloomington residents?

Hamilton: We continue to work on that. I don't have any announcements on that yet - absolutely it's the right question on how are we getting better, and we keep working on it. I think some of the work we've done in the city prompted AT&T, Smithville, and Comcast to up their game a little. But I still feel it's an important infrastructure improvement that lies ahead. 

Email from Curt: I am curious how one, a mayor, goes about splitting up or chunking down the big job of being mayor into manageable, daily, weekly, (etc.) tasks? 

Hamilton: The main thing is having good people with you, I'm so pleased to have great department heads, great people in the office of the mayor that work closely with the council. I've run big organizations before and each of us does it a little differently. I have a lot of lists, I have a lot of goals we set out, we do planning every year, but it's trying to keep your eye on the ball way out in advance. 

Email from Kierston: In reality of the continuing increase in babies born within the opioid pandemic, as baby one baby is born addicted every 19 minutes, I am interested to know if Indiana is looking at passing bills to limit this?

Hamilton: Yes, every time mayors get together these days, opioids and substance use disorder is a big topic. It affects everybody, family, neighbors, economy, schools, everything in our communities. I think most of us believe this is a health issue, his is not an issue criminal justice gets us out of, and that's how we're addressing it locally.

We have many more treatment facilities, we're looking at ways to get people help when they want help - and actually part of it is reducing the stigma so people will talk about this. This is a disease.

Email from Bill: Please address thoughts, plans, efforts for Bloomington to have renewable energy for city buildings, and to support citizens to get renewable energy for homes and businesses.

Hamilton: Yes sir we do. We've put solar on 30 city buildings in the last couple years. We've quintupled our solar production and that's just in city facilities and we have hundreds of residents who put solar on their roofs with help from city programs. In fact, we have a program to help low-income homeowners to get solar. I'll talk about that during the State of the City Thursday night. 

Climate change is a moral issue of our time, everyone needs to take the steps needed to improve that. 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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