County’s bond issuance OK’d for $3.3 million: Projects include quarry heritage land costs, but no action yet on land acquisition

 

At its work session on Tuesday night, Monroe County’s council voted 5–1 to approve issuance of general obligation bonds worth $3.3 million. Dissent came from Marty Hawk, who had expressed concern to the bond issuance from the time it was first proposed at $5.17 million in early September.

Hawk’s objection was based on the fact that the bond proceeds are supposed be used in part to pay for land to construct a limestone quarry heritage project—northwest of the I-69/SR-46 interchange.

Hawk has concerns about the land’s history, which is located next to a site that was contaminated with PCBs. At its Oct. 16 meeting, the board of commissioners approved a $2,500 contract with Vet Environmental for a review of environmental documents associated with the property.

On Tuesday night, county council put off a vote on land acquisition for the project, because the land appraisals have not yet been returned. In early October, the board of commissioners contracted for the second of the two required appraisals.

Introduced at Tuesday night’s council session was some possible uncertainty, related to the idea of acquiring a different property from the one that’s been targeted. Randy Cassady, who owns the Woolery Stone Mill property, told the council he believed that the owners of some quarry property near the Woolery Mill are willing to sell the land to the county. (Cassady has served in the past as a member of Bloomington’s commission on sustainability.) Based on the ensuing conversation among councilors, they’ll use the window of time for the delay, to make inquiry with the property owners themselves.

The land the county has targeted has been on the real estate market, in contrast to the property Cassady described. Based on the discussion on Tuesday night among councilors, there’s not a lot of enthusiasm on the council for the alternate property—which they’d only just heard about. But at least some due diligence, in the form of an inquiry, will be done.

In other quarry heritage-related action, the council withdrew a resolution expressing support for two grant applications the county is making, to the Community Foundation and the Regional Opportunities Initiative, to help fund the quarry heritage project. The grants, if awarded, would amount to $300,000 in funding, commissioner Julie Thomas said at the council’s work session. The board of commissioners no longer felt the resolution was needed, because of the inclusion of the project on the general obligation bond project list, according to county attorney Margie Rice.

The resolution expressing support for the grant applications had been opposed by Hawk, because she does not want to commit to the particular piece of land that’s been targeted, northwest of the I-69/SR-46 interchange. Hawk is in favor of supporting limestone quarry heritage, and to that extent did not want to oppose such a resolution. But Hawk did not want to vote in favor of a resolution that committed the county’s efforts to the land about which she had environmental concerns.

Councilors on Tuesday in turn expressed their support for the limestone quarry heritage site that’s been identified. Trent Deckard said it would warm his heart as the grandson of a quarry worker to see the land repurposed as destination point. Kate Wiltz said she’d hiked the property, and felt it would be unwise to pass up the opportunity. Quarries are a part of Monroe County’s heritage, she said, and it should celebrated.

Geoff McKim said he was “very much committed” to the quarry project, saying he was glad Hawk had mentioned that it’s not itself an EPA Superfund site—it’s the adjoining property where PCB contamination was found.

The bond amount dropped from the $5.17 million that was first proposed. The initial proposal came from county commissioners in September. A subsequent joint work session trimmed around $550,000 worth of items from the list of projects to be paid for with the bonds. The idea was to pay for items like the restoration of the Alexander Memorial, and upgrades to the Nat U. Hill Room audio equipment, among others, out of cash reserves.

More items, including around $1 million worth of election equipment, were then trimmed out, lowering to $3.3 million the amount for the bond that incorporated into the county’s 2020 budget.

Besides land acquisition for the limestone quarry heritage project, the revised project list that was associated with the $3.3 million bond issuance included: highway equipment, county vehicle refresh (but not any propane conversions), justice center pin-tucking, roundabout design and landscape for Fullerton Pike and  fairground upgrades.

For the bond issuance, the 5–1 vote tally by the seven-member council was due to Cheryl Munson’s absence.

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