The Bloomington city council’s first meeting of 2017 Wednesday had a packed audience for a busy agenda. The audience was not present to add comment to the night’s resolutions, but rather to discuss the success of the Indiana Recovery Alliance in the last year.
Members of the IRA, a local volunteer organization providing needle exchanges and physical and mental health services to drug addicts, spoke during the public comment period.
They described the various services the organization provides and what the city could be doing to further help the opioid-using population.
Penny Caudill, an administrator for the Monroe County Health Department, said that beyond the syringe exchange – to be renamed syringe services programs – the IRA has provided mental health referrals, assistance to health insurance access and services for sexually transmitted diseases in its first year. She added that the 93 percent of their clients were white, and the majority of them were men.
Chris Abert, executive director of the IRA, suggested to the council that the city and the rest of the nation work to fight stigma against drug users, access to low-barrier medical assistance, immediate treatment services, pre-arrest diversion programs and decriminalize low-level drug use and paraphernalia ownership.
He also suggested the city approach users wherever they are, using People’s Park as an example, to give assistance. Council members did not respond to any of the eight people who made comment about the IRA. The chamber promptly emptied following the adjournment of the council meeting.
The meeting of the whole session following the regular meeting heard the results of contract negotiations for the Bloomington Fire Department regarding compensation for the next four years. This updated contract comes after reports firefighters were owed $235,000 in backpay for overtime. Under the new contract, all firefighters will see a 2 percent salary increase each year for the next four years. Starting pay for firefighters will be $50,964 this year. The updated agreement eliminates contractual overtime.
The department will also implement a quartermaster system, in which the department will own, inspect and maintain gear for firefighters. Firefighters were previously in charge of their gear.
Firefighters will still be in charge of purchasing their own clothing, with a decreased clothing allowance of $450 from their previously contracted $1,600.
Firefighters will also see eight paid scheduled days off.
The council also unanimously elected new officers for the calendar year. Former council vice president Susan Sandberg was elected as president, Dorothy Granger as vice president and Tim Mayer as parliamentarian.
Members of the council also expressed hope for civility in the coming year, alluding to their individual concerns for president-elect Donald Trump’s upcoming term. Council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith said in her opening remarks that the city will feature a series of public workshops and projects on Jan. 20 called Inaugurate the Revolution. The event, according to its website, is to promote justice and civility.
The council will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 18 in City Hall.
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