Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing

On Monday, details of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s 2021 proposed budget were released, putting some meat on the bones that were previewed to the media on Friday.

Hamilton delivered remarks to the city council on Monday night for the first night of a four-day series of departmental budget hearings, which wrap up on Thursday.

If the focus is narrowed just to the general fund, the picture looks the same as last year, with a couple of caveats.

Proposed for this year is $48.69 million which is a 4.1 percent increase, compared to last year’s $46.76 million. But adjusting for a $2 million package of “Recover Forward” initiatives and a decrease in property tax cap expenditures of $193,772, the proposed budget works out to a zero percent increase (out to two decimal places).

The mayor’s proposed budget draws on $3.3 million in reserves—$2 million from the rainy day fund and $1.3 in fund balances. By the end of 2022, Hamilton expects to have drawn down total reserves from four months’ worth of operating expenses to three months’ worth. Continue reading “Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing”

Bloomington RDC OKs payment of property taxes connected to real estate deal for convention center expansion

On Monday night, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved the payment of some property taxes, on land it does not (yet) own.

The uncommon circumstance arose from the fact that when the RDC purchased the Bunger & Robertson property on College Avenue last year for $4,995,000, the deal did not include two parcels making up the north part of the parking lot that serves the building.

That portion of the parking lot has different owners. Based on a count using aerial images from the Monroe County GIS database, the two parcels include around 45 parking spaces.

The RDC is still looking to buy the parking lot parcels, so they can be used for the Monroe County convention center expansion project. That’s why the RDC bought the Bunger & Roberston real estate.

The convention center expansion is currently paused due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, the RDC is leasing the two parking lot parcels from the owners. The deal approved by the RDC in May includes a contractual agreement that the RDC pay $3,500 a month, for an annual total of $42,000.

But the contract also includes a requirement that the RDC pay the property taxes on the parcels.

It was payment of the property taxes that the RDC approved at its regular Monday night meeting. Continue reading “Bloomington RDC OKs payment of property taxes connected to real estate deal for convention center expansion”

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”