Monroe County Convention Center, Dec. 23, 2019, colorized red.
Monroe County Convention Center, Dec. 23, 2019, colorized green.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monroe County councilors Marty Hawk and Geoff McKim
Monroe County councilor Eric Spoonmore
Bloomington city councilmembers Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Chris Sturbaum
Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton
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.
Monroe County commissioners Julie Thomas and Penny Githens at the Sept. 4, 2019 meeting of the board of commissioners. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Monroe County Convention center looking southwest at the corner of College Avenue and 3rd Street. Sept. 4, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)
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.
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.
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.
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’.”
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.
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.