Big meeting makes little progress on convention center expansion agreement, smaller group to try again

In three weeks, a group of four city and county officials will try to achieve what a larger group of 13 electeds could not accomplish on Monday night.

Monday’s meeting was the third one this year that has tried to build on some momentum from December, when Bloomington and Monroe County officials finally agreed that a capital improvement board (CIB) would provide the governance structure for the project.

If the details can be worked out, the idea is for the county commissioners to create a CIB, so that an architect can be put under contract for the design and construction phase of a planned $44-million convention center expansion project.

The project has been stalled over governance issues for nearly 10 months—since May 19 last year when a steering committee voted to recommend a northward expansion of the convention center.

The next public meeting, now pencilled in for March 23, will include just one county councilor, one city councilmember, one county commissioner and Bloomington’s mayor.

The four will try to hammer through the points of disagreement about the four-way interlocal agreement that is supposed to help guide the governance of the convention center expansion project. Continue reading “Big meeting makes little progress on convention center expansion agreement, smaller group to try again”

Commissioner on land contributions from city, county for convention center expansion: “We are really far apart on this one.”

After meeting for more than two hours on Monday night, city and county officials were maybe incrementally closer to hammering out an interlocal agreement that’s meant to help move forward a $44-million convention center expansion project.

The current convention center is located at College Avenue and 3rd Street.

On Monday, elected officials reviewed the newest draft of the interlocal agreement, which is intended to supplement statutory requirements for the eventual formation of a capital improvement board (CIB).

Sticking points are the same as those identified at a meeting earlier in the year: the way appointments are made to the convention and visitors commission; and which parcels of land will be contributed to the new CIB by the two sides.

Of the two topics, it’s the land contributions where city and county officials have the more serious disagreement. President of the county commissioners, Julie Thomas, said about the land issue: “We are really far apart on this one.”

The city wants to see all the city- or county-owned land in the vicinity of the convention center put at the disposal of the CIB. County officials want to contribute just the parcels to the CIB that are known to be needed for the current project. [city proposal] [county proposal]

The two sides are hoping for a next meeting on March 2.

May 19 will be the one-year mark for the time the project has been stalled, since a steering committee voted to recommend a northward instead of an eastward expansion of the existing convention center facility.  The yet-to-be-formed CIB is supposed to make the final choice of the site plan.

Continue reading “Commissioner on land contributions from city, county for convention center expansion: “We are really far apart on this one.””

County, city leaders review draft interlocal agreement for convention center capital improvement board, set next meeting for Feb. 10

Several Bloomington and Monroe County officials met Monday evening to push ahead the $44-million convention center expansion project. They reviewed a draft interlocal agreement, circulated shortly before the meeting, that is intended to supplement statutory requirements for the eventual formation of a capital improvement board (CIB).

The three county commissioners, in addition to several members of the city and county councils, were joined by Bloomington’s deputy mayor, Mick Renneisen at the meeting they’d set at the end of last year.

Monday’s discussion centered on budgets, land, and appointments. Continue reading “County, city leaders review draft interlocal agreement for convention center capital improvement board, set next meeting for Feb. 10”

Column: Christmas colors, political parties at the convention center

Unlikely to be resolved, even after a thousand years of diplomacy, is the ongoing bitter dispute over the best Christmas color. It’s green, some will say. But some stubborn souls will always insist that it’s red.

An occasional centrist will advocate for white, ignoring the fact that it’s not even a color.

Still others will try to frame the debate in terms of the mutually essential qualities that red and green each add to the Christmas palette. Continue reading “Column: Christmas colors, political parties at the convention center”

City, county weaving web of agreement for convention center governance in 2020

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Monroe County commissioner Julie Thomas holds aloft a diagram that illustrates the relationships between the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FBTAC), capital improvement board (CIB), and convention and visitor’s commissions (CVC) at a Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 meeting.  (Dave Askins/Beacon)

After months of disagreement between city and county officials, in the last couple weeks, the choice of governance for the $59-million expansion of Monroe County’s convention center has settled on the formation of a capital improvement board (CIB).

A CIB is enabled under the state statute as an entity that county commissioners can create through enacting an ordinance.

At a Thursday late afternoon meeting that wrapped up in about an hour, Monroe County and Bloomington officials continued reviewing some of the gnarlier details of an interlocal agreement that is planned to supplement the statutory requirements for the CIB.

The outcome of the meeting is that county attorney Jeff Cockerill and Bloomington’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, will be working just before year’s end or in the first few days of next year to put together a draft of the interlocal agreement.

Elected officials have set a next meeting for Jan. 13. Continue reading “City, county weaving web of agreement for convention center governance in 2020”

Vote on governing entity for convention center expansion project put off until Jan. 8 as more time needed to dot i’s in CIB ordinance

Two years and five days ago, Monroe County commissioners councilors voted 4–3 to enact a 1-percent food and beverage tax.

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From left: Monroe County commissioners Lee Jones, Julie Thomas, Penny Githens at their Dec. 18, 2019 meeting. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The convention center expansion, which the tax is supposed pay for, will need to wait a few more weeks to get a governance structure.

Monroe County commissioners voted Wednesday morning to put off until Jan. 8, 2020, a draft ordinance that would have exercised their power under a state statue to adopt an ordinance establishing a capital improvement board (CIB).

Chair of the board of commissioners, Julie Thomas, said the ordinance was “not quite ready for prime time.”

But it appears that the city of Bloomington and Monroe County have put the major differences behind them that have stalled the project since late May.

Formation of a CIB, which is now expected early next year, will answer the question of governance for the long-planned convention center expansion project.

The timing of holidays this year means that no meetings of the commissioners will take place over the next two weeks. That makes Jan. 8 the next possible regular meeting for the CIB ordinance enactment. Continue reading “Vote on governing entity for convention center expansion project put off until Jan. 8 as more time needed to dot i’s in CIB ordinance”

County, city disagreement defused with oral agreement to pursue CIB for convention center expansion, down to working out details

Two days short of the second anniversary of the Monroe County council’s vote to enact a 1-percent food and beverage tax, city of Bloomington and county officials have agreed on the basics of the governance structure for a $59-million convention center expansion.

By law, the tax has to be spent on the expansion of the current convention center facility or related economic development projects.  The current facility is located on the southwest the corner of College Avenue and 3rd Street.

The oral agreement, in principle to pursue a capital improvement board (CIB), was reached at Wednesday morning’s regular work session of the county commissioners. The session was attended by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, a handful of city councilmembers and other city staff. Continue reading “County, city disagreement defused with oral agreement to pursue CIB for convention center expansion, down to working out details”

Monroe County’s council loads legislative gun, levels it at food-and-beverage tax as prelude to Wednesday’s convention center negotiations

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Monroe County’s council on Dec. 10, 2019. From left: Cheryl Munson, Peter Iversen, Trent Deckard, Eric Spoonmore, Kate Wiltz, Geoff McKim, and Marty Hawk. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

[Update at 1:18 p.m. Dec. 11, 2019: This piece has been updated at the end to include action from Wednesday morning]

At their Tuesday night meeting, Monroe County councilors helped set the stage for Wednesday morning’s negotiations between county commissioners and Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, about the governance of the convention center expansion project.

Will it be a statutorily-enabled capital improvement board (CIB) or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that decides the site plan, acts as the architect’s client, and eventually owns the facility?

The county council’s stage-setting work included approval of a resolution that expresses the council’s support for the CIB option, with a 3-3-1 split of appointments between the city and the county on the seven-member board. The county and city would get three appointment apiece, with the seventh member appointed by the first six.

But on Tuesday, the county council also set in motion what had previously been more or less an implicit threat: If the county commissioners cannot agree on a governance model and put it in place to implement the $59 million project, the county council will exercise its power to sunset the food and beverage tax. The county council enacted the tax two years ago on a 4–3 vote.

Two alternatives were given a first reading on Tuesday to sunset the tax. No votes were taken. [Ordinance A] [Ordinance B] Continue reading “Monroe County’s council loads legislative gun, levels it at food-and-beverage tax as prelude to Wednesday’s convention center negotiations”

Convention center expansion deal between Bloomington and Monroe County looks possible by year’s end

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City councilmember Steve Volan (center), is flanked by deputy mayor Mick Renneisen and county commissioner Julie Thomas at Friday’s meeting about the convention center expansion. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Last Friday, city and county officials met for two hours about the convention center expansion. It was the latest in of a flurry of recent efforts to bridge longstanding disagreements on governance of the project. What entity will have control, direction and eventual ownership of the project—a capital improvement board or a 501(c)(3) non-profit? Continue reading “Convention center expansion deal between Bloomington and Monroe County looks possible by year’s end”

Opinion: Convention center expansion should be designed from ground up as Net Zero facility

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“Climate Action Now” banner hung at city hall on Dec. 6, 2019. A meeting between county and city officials about the convention center expansion was taking place at the same time at the climate strike sit-in. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council is set to approve an appropriation ordinance for around $6 million of food and beverage tax money. It’s for an architect to design the expansion of the convention center at College Avenue and 3rd Street. Continue reading “Opinion: Convention center expansion should be designed from ground up as Net Zero facility”