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”

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”

Bloomington mayor, Monroe County commissioners schedule public meeting: Charting course to catch better winds for becalmed convention center expansion?

In a letter sent Thursday to Monroe County commissioners, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, told them he plans to attend their weekly Wednesday morning meeting on Nov. 6.

The mayor’s letter didn’t come out of the blue—it was his response to an invitation sent by commissioners earlier the same day: “[W]e write to invite you to attend our November 6th meeting to discuss this exciting opportunity.”

The “opportunity” to which the commissioners referred was the idea of creating a capital improvement board in connection with the convention center expansion.

Administrator for the board of commissioners, Angie Purdie, told The Beacon on Friday that the mayor will be first on the agenda under new business. Continue reading “Bloomington mayor, Monroe County commissioners schedule public meeting: Charting course to catch better winds for becalmed convention center expansion?”

Joint city-county convention center meeting: Financial analysis predicts smooth sailing, procedural pitch-and-yaw scuttles key agenda topic

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A second joint meeting of city and county elected officials about the planned convention center expansion was held on Tuesday night, this time at the county courthouse. The first such meeting was held a month and a half ago, at the existing convention center.

For roughly the first hour and a half of Tuesday’s meeting, the group’s focus was on the planned funding sources for the convention center expansion (food and beverage tax) and its related parking garage (TIF revenue).

The overall consensus of the group was: The presentation showed the food and beverage tax would generate sufficient revenue to pay for a 30,000-square-foot project, estimated to cost around $44 million. Previous questions about the adequacy of the city’s TIF district to pay for an expanded center’s separate 550-space parking garage got positive answers.

When the discussion of finances was concluded, Geoff McKim said about the city’s presentation, “It really was absolutely spot-on…all these questions—asked and answered.”

But the meeting concluded without a focused discussion about the third agenda topic, which was the formation of a capital improvement board. The unanswered questions indicated on the agenda were: When should a CIB be created? Which properties should the CIB own? Which units of government should make appointments to the CIB?

It’s possible the topic could surface again, at the next meeting of the city and county councils, plus the mayor and the board of county commissioners. It was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 21.

Scheduled for the Nov. 12 regular meeting of the county council is a presentation by county legal staff about CIBs.

Continue reading “Joint city-county convention center meeting: Financial analysis predicts smooth sailing, procedural pitch-and-yaw scuttles key agenda topic”

Public’s interest in convention center expansion high as city, county councils set to meet Oct. 29

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Aerial view of area around the existing convention center from Monroe County’s GIS system’s  Pictometry tool.

On Sept. 16, members of Bloomington’s common council, Monroe County’s council, the Monroe County’s board of commissioners and the mayor of Bloomington met to discuss how to move ahead with a planned expansion of the county convention center.

That meeting concluded with a consensus that the two councils—city and county—would sort out the next meeting on the topic.

By the end of last week, that meeting was finally set for Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the Nat U. Hill room of the county courthouse.

The public’s interest in the convention center expansion was evident at Wednesday’s District 3 candidate forum. Residents of the Bell Trace senior living center wanted to hear the thoughts of all the candidates on the expansion.
Continue reading “Public’s interest in convention center expansion high as city, county councils set to meet Oct. 29”

City consultant says food and beverage tax could support $42.7M in bonds for convention center expansion, in the range of covering whole cost

At a meeting held Monday night at the Monroe Convention Center, elected officials from Bloomington and Monroe County governments got an analysis of revenue from the countywide food and beverage tax. It’s a one-percent levy that has been collected since February 2018.

Buzz Krohn, of O.W. Krohn and Associates, told the group that the city’s portion of the food and beverage tax would provide roughly $42.7 million of bonding capacity—on the “preferred” option for bonding.

That’s maybe $1.3 million shy of the $44 million needed for the current project to expand and renovate the convention center.

Another $15 million, for a 500–550 space parking garage, is reckoned by the city to be paid for out of tax increment finance (TIF) money, a different revenue stream from the food and beverage tax. Continue reading “City consultant says food and beverage tax could support $42.7M in bonds for convention center expansion, in the range of covering whole cost”

Twenty elected officials to meet and discuss one topic : Convention center expansion

Twenty elected officials are now scheduled to meet on Monday, Sept. 16, to discuss the expansion of the convention center in downtown Bloomington. The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at the existing convention center, on the southwest corner of College Avenue and 3rd Street.

Monroe County commissioners announced the scheduling of the 20-strong gathering at the start of their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

Bloomington’s mayor (1), the city council (9), the Monroe County Council (7) and the Monroe County Board of Commissioners (3) have agreed to come together to talk about how to move the convention center project ahead.

The backdrop to the meeting is the work of a city-county steering committee over several months, which culminated earlier this year, in May. Continue reading “Twenty elected officials to meet and discuss one topic : Convention center expansion”

Convention center update: County Board of Commissioners pitches better collaboration between city and county, suggests formation of capital improvement board

Monroe County should form a capital improvement board to handle the ownership, control and management of an expanded convention center in downtown Bloomington—that was a key point of a memo distributed Wednesday morning by the Monroe County Board of Commissioners to the County Council, Bloomington City Council and the mayor.

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Monroe County Commissioners (from left) Lee Jones, Julie Thomas, Penny Githens.  July 24, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The memo was read aloud in parts by each of the three commissioners at the conclusion of their Wednesday morning meeting. The memo concludes with a reference to the “Convention & Civic Center project.” Board of commissioners president Julie Thomas stressed the word ‘civic’ when she read it aloud, and added “underline ‘civic’.”

The memo came less than 24 hours after the county council’s Tuesday evening work session discussion about the idea of a kind of convention center summit involving city and county elected officials.

After the introductory material, which stresses “a spirit of consensus-building” among the four entities, the memo addresses two main topics: how the project will funded and how specific facilities will be configured. Continue reading “Convention center update: County Board of Commissioners pitches better collaboration between city and county, suggests formation of capital improvement board”

County might hope to add convention center summit to Bloomington City Council’s agenda of annual budget, electric scooters, student housing, and parking zones

By late last week, the Bloomington City Council was getting ready to return to its normal meeting routine after a summer hiatus. Councilmembers last met in regular session on June 12; their next regular meeting falls on the last day of July.

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City council activity is now at least a smidgen easier to follow, because the city’s website user interface for public meeting listings got an upgrade a couple of weeks ago. Links to materials like agendas, minutes, and packets, now show standardized text, icons, a neatly stacked layout, and mouseover behavior.

Based on some conversation at a work session last Friday, they’re thinking about how to set up the calendar for at least three topics they’ll be handling soon: a proposed 820-bedroom student housing development on North Walnut at the current Motel 6 site; possible tweaks to a still-pending ordinance that would regulate shared-use electric scooters; and some amendments to the new parking ordinance.

And based on conversation at a work session held by the Monroe County Council on Tuesday evening, Bloomington’s city council could in the next couple months be called on to participate in a four-way meeting about the proposed convention center expansion.

The potential summit-type gathering would include the Monroe County Council, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, the Bloomington Common Council and Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton. That would cover the legislative, executive, and fiscal components of the city and county government. Continue reading “County might hope to add convention center summit to Bloomington City Council’s agenda of annual budget, electric scooters, student housing, and parking zones”