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bloomington

‘A sense of community’: City council debates renewing Kirkwood closure

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The Bloomington City Council met on Wednesday night to deliver councilmember reports and discuss renewing the outdoor dining program on Kirkwood Avenue. The next city council meeting will be March 1.  

Lake Monroe and Monroe County Jail among topics of councilmember reports 

Susan Sandberg expressed concern for the water quality of Lake Monroe, mentioning the occasional odd taste of City of Bloomington water.  

“We owe it to our residents to safeguard our water supply,” Sandberg said.  

[RELATED: Water tasting weird? You’re not alone. City says tap water has harmless algae

She brought up the use of pesticides in the Hoosier National Forest, which is part of the lake’s watershed. A watershed is an area of land where water runs off into the lake.  

Councilmembers Dave Rollo and Jim Sims agreed the city should do more to prevent the use of pesticides in the forest and to protect the lake.  

Councilmember Sims spoke about Black History Month, and the importance of teaching Black history, which Sims said is not usually taught in schools.  

“Black history is American history,” he said.  

Councilmember Stephen Volan spoke about the debate surrounding building a new county jail in light of terrible conditions in the current jail. Volan advocated for keeping the jail in the city of Bloomington, preferably downtown. The previous plan for the jail was for it to be built near Fullerton Pike, which is on the southwest side of the city, although these plans fell through.  

He said multiple stakeholders opposed building the new jail outside of the city. 

“The only people who think it’s a good idea are three commissioners,” he said.  

Renewing outdoor dining on Kirkwood: postponed 

The council considered an ordinance that would renew the Expanded Outdoor Dining Program along two and a half blocks of Kirkwood Avenue, which includes closing the area and parking spaces to outdoor dining spaces for participating businesses. This program was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on restaurants. 

The ordinance includes a recommendation that the program be shortened to only take place from April 3 to Oct. 1.  

Andrea de la Rosa, the assistant director for small business development, said businesses are still struggling, even though the direct effects of the pandemic are less than they were previously.  

“Fifty percent of restaurants nationally are expected to lose money due to inflation,” de la Rosa said.  

Councilmember Sandberg expressed concern that the program has “winners,” like the restaurants along Kirkwood, and “losers,” the retail businesses along the street.  

Talisha Coppock, the executive director of the city revitalization nonprofit Downtown Bloomington Inc., said support for the program was not split between retailers and restaurants. She said retail shops along Kirkwood were generally supportive, saying the program brought people to the area to shop. Other businesses felt the Kirkwood closure increased safety for shoppers.  

Those in opposition included some businesses on the Square, which Coppock said rely on having ample parking.  

Representatives from Trinity Episcopal Church expressed concern in public comment that the closure of Kirkwood takes away parking from those attending the church and makes it difficult for fire trucks to access the church. They also highlighted accessibility concerns.  

Bob Costello, the president of Kirkwood Community Association, spoke in support of the outdoor dining program. Costello, who also owns Soma and the Village Deli, said the program did more than just help businesses financially during the pandemic.  

“The thing that we also provided was a sense of a community at a time when we did not have that community,” he said.  

The council voted unanimously to postpone the matter until the next city council meeting on March 1.

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