Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, sent a memo late Monday afternoon to the 19 other city and council elected officials that have been meeting since September to try to re-start the convention center expansion project.
The project has been stalled at the preliminary design phase after a nine-member steering committee shepherded the project that far in late May.
Hamilton’s Nov. 25 memo suggests something that he was not yet ready to embrace last Thursday, when the group met in city council chambers: numerical equality for the city and the county’s appointments to the governance of the expanded facility.
Hamilton and the three county commissioners have been wrangling over what kind of entity to create for the governance—a capital improvement board (CIB), which is enabled by state statute, or a 501(c)(3). They’ve also not been able to agree on the split for the appointments on a seven-member CIB, if that’s the entity that’s created. The commissioners want a 3–4 or 4–3 split. Hamilton countered with a 6–1 or 5–2 split in the
But the Nov. 25 memo now suggests a 4–3 split in the city’s favor, which appears to put the two sides closer than they were before. County council president Eric Spoonmore told The Beacon he sees the spirit of Hamilton’s memo as consistent with moving forward, adding that he was encouraged by it.
Hamilton’s memo adds into the mix a way to achieve exact numerical equality, by considering the five-member convention and visitor’s commission (CVC), which oversees expenditures of the innkeepers tax. The innkeepers tax, past and future, is counted by the county as part of its contribution to the convention center expansion. As its claim to greater representation, the city points to its share of the food and beverage tax, which is planned to pay for the new construction of the expanded convention center.
Hamilton proposes to loop the CVC appointments into the arithmetic like this: If the city gets a 4–3 split in its favor on a CIB/501(c)(3) board, then the split should be 3–2 in favor of the county on the CVC, making for an exactly equal split in appointments when summed over both governing bodies.
The county currently makes all five appointments to the CVC. The county council makes three appointments and the county commissioners make two—that’s set forth in the state enabling statute for a CVC.
For the county government to give up some of its CVC appointments to the city, some kind of interlocal agreement would likely be necessary. Hamilton’s memo says as much when it states, “All these options would require interlocal agreements to implement them and assure their longevity and reliability.”
Exact numerical equality on a seven-member board had been suggested in earlier discussions with a different approach: The city and the county would each make three appointments, and those six appointees would make the seventh.
A highlight in the memo is an argument that Hamilton makes for a 501(c)(3) over a CIB as a better governance tool from the city’s perspective:
One noteworthy aspect is that Indiana law provides for annual County Council fiscal
oversight for both the CVC and any CIB. That could pose challenges for a CIB, given
the fiscal responsibility City officials would owe their constituents in connection with delivering nearly $60 million for investment
The idea of a 501(c)(3) got some traction with at least a couple of city councilmembers at last Thursday’s meeting. Councilmembers Chris Sturbaum and Isabel Piedmont-Smith both said they favored a 501(c)(3) because it does not have a partisan requirement like a CIB—which prohibits more than four members of any one political party.
Up until a recent visit by the mayor to a meeting of the county commissioners, the idea of a CIB has been the focus of the discussion.
The clear possibility that a 501(c)(3) could now be part of the mix has led the county council to pull an item from its work session agenda for Tuesday night, according to Spoonmore. Not a part of the council’s revised agenda is a draft resolution, floated at the council’s meeting two weeks ago. The resolution calls for the creation of a CIB as soon as possible and with a 3–3–1 approach to board appointments.
Hamilton’s memo expresses some hope that once the governance question is resolved, the other major sticking point, the choice of site plan, could be resolved. The city favors a northward expansion. The county commissioners favor an eastward expansion.
Related to the choice of site plan is the appropriation that Hamilton plans to put in front of the city council for approval before the end of the year, to fund the final design by the architect, which is Convergence Design.