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Ask The Mayor: Bloomington’s Hamilton On Annexation Perception

John Hamilton, Bloomington Mayor

Thousands of solar panels are being installed by the end of the year, the city’s tech park is still empty despite tech firm demand and the city’s bicentennial celebration kicks off New Year’s Eve at City Hall.

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: I hear the city won some awards, including a higher fire rating?

Hamilton: They went from a three to a two, with one being the best. We’re only one of eleven fire departments in the state rated as a two. This actually can play through for fire insurance for people.

Hren: The city is moving forward on the installation of solar panels, including the parking where the Farmers Market takes place?

Hamilton: We’re putting up about 15,000 solar panels between September and the end of this year in order to beat the terribly planned choice by legislators to put this deadline in. But, panels will start going up on the Farmers Market awnings. The 15,000 panels will generate five megawatts of electricity, five times what we’re doing now with solar in the community.

Hren: You’ve mentioned the smaller tech firms are bursting at the seams, but the Trades District is empty?

Hamilton: That transition is difficult, we’re working on it. From what I’m told by our private investors, they don’t tend to build speculative buildings in Bloomington where you build an office building and you build it and they come. That happens in bigger markets, our market it tends to be those buildings are dependent on pre-lease. So what’s going on now is potential building investors are talking to potential tenants and that will come.

Hren: Ann emailed in a question: “The court case is moving forward and the city has made a deal with Cook, Inc., allowing them to avoid annexation. The original roll out of the annexation plan was not well received by the residents of the county that were affected by the plan. The current special deal with Cook is unlikely to help this perception. If the courts allow the plan to move forward, how will the city win over the county residents?

Hamilton: Annexation was never done as a political or PR effort. I proposed annexation because I believe the city boundaries need to reflect the urbanized area of Bloomington. My predecessor didn’t annex anything, we had 12 years where we didn’t annex. The city grew a lot. I thought the debate was good, the discussion was good, there was no magic in the exact placement of all those lines and I think we have been and ready to talk about where should that line be.

In the long run, if the city boundaries don’t change, we’re going to end up in a difficult situation where we have a lot of people living right next to the city, using the city, part of the city, but not part of the government or the economic base of the city. So I’m going to continue talking about it and I know it’ll be interesting, but I look forward to continuing those discussions.

Hren: Sounds like you have something planned for New Year’s Eve this year?

Hamilton: Yep, the city and county turn 200 years old in 2018. So New Year’s Eve if you’re looking for something to do, come on down to City Hall. We’re going to have a nice party late afternoon, early evening to help usher in our 200th year. More details will be coming.

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