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MCCA Holds Holiday Open House At Proposed Police Substation

Cristian Jaramillo

Mid-Central Community Action opened the doors of a house discussed a possible Bloomington Police substation. 

The house is at 828 West Jefferson Street in Bloomington.  The open house was Sun., Dec. 18 

The proposed substation has received pushback from the Bloomington-Normal chapter of Black Lives Matter and other community members.  Bloomington councilman Scott Black was at the open house.  He said he was disappointed some people didn’t dig deeper into the reasons the sub-station was proposed. 

"We specified very clearly the chief wanted to have a place where police can engage with the neighborhood," said Black.  "It wasn't going to be used for storing arms or arresting people. It was designed to help engage with people in the community."

MCCA had planned the open house as another way to engage the neighborhood in general,  before the city council tabled the sub-station vote.  But Black said in addition to kids creating crafts and people enjoying holiday treats,  the proposed substation was part of the dialog among those attending.

"We saw people here from all walks of life. Some people from the neighborhood, we saw people who were concerned and skeptical who got to see what this facility is. Having an open house dispelled a lot of the rumors that are out there to help us continue to focus on a fact based discussion," said Black.

One of the criticisms by Black Lives Matter of the substation was the short time span between the public announcement of the proposal and the date the council would vote on the matter. Matt Drat, Director of Resource Development and Community Engagement for Mid Central Community Action, said their extensive canvassing of the neighborhood uncovered an overwhelming desire for a larger police presence, saying it was key to safety.

"People are talking to us about that, which is where we're trying to focus.  But have we talked to every single person, and sometimes that's really difficult. Should we take more opportunity to do so?  Absolutely.  That's what we're hoping the next couple weeks will give us an opportunity to do," said Drat.

The open house was characterized by Drat as a "wild success" in engaging neighbors and other community members.  It was also sponsored by the Bloomington Police Department and West Bloomington Housing Collaborative.  The Bloomington City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposed sub-station January 23.

Editors Note: The photo was updated after this post was originally published.

Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.