A large group of Bloomington residents are upset with the City Council's decision to unanimously approve a lease from Mid-Central Community Action for the property at 828 W. Jefferson Street to serve as a community house.
The property started controversy when it was originally proposed as a police substation.
Over 40 residents signed up to discuss the community house during the meeting's public comment session.
Henry Dick was one of only 12 residents that were allowed to speak before the session ended. Dick said the city needs to find a different response to crime rates than adding more police.
"Police know how to police. Community organizers know how to organize a community," said Dick. "If you have a lease with the police station, it's going to be a substation."
Dick said even though the community came out to oppose the decision, council members didn't hear the message.
Mayor Tari Renner said he hopes people will see the West Jefferson Community House as a great asset to the community. Renner also said he wants protesters to stay involved in the discussion in order to create a better neighborhood.
Renner added he would like to see an advisory board of citizens created for the community house.
Alderman Joni Painter said she can't ignore that crime is a salient issue in the West Bloomington area.
Painter said approving the lease was only one piece in the puzzle of improving citizen relations with police.
"We all have to listen, and listen very closely, to the complaints of the citizens in the community when they come up," said Painter. "If we don't, we're going to have problems that will be immeasurably worse."
MCCA Resource Development and Community Engagement Director Matt Drat provided the final statistics from a survey that was conducted over the last month. Drat said the surveys were split into two zones to cover the area, but MCCA wasn't able to get to all of the houses due to lack of volunteers.
Drat showed 75 of the 82 residents surveyed in Zone One said they wanted a police engagement center located in their neighborhood. He added Zone Two surveys were only available online and at listening sessions with the public.
Drat said there was also an email account established to get feedback, but MCCA received no messages through that outlet.
West Bloomington resident Louis Goseland said the council isn't willing to look at the root of the problems that play out in some of the neighborhoods. He said it was wrong to approve the increase of police that already harass people that live there.
Police Chief Brendan Heffner pointed out that he never said the community house will add more officers to the neighborhood.
Editor's note: This story was updated to say there were over 40 residents signed up to discuss the community house instead of the original story stating the residents signed up to express concern about the situation. Due to a limited amount of speakers during the public comment session, there was no way to put an exact number of people who would have supported or opposed the community house through their comments.