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.
Monroe County councilor Cheryl Munson on Dec. 12, 2019.
Monroe County councilor Geoff McKim (left) and deputy mayor Mick Renneisen on Dec. 12, 2019.
Based on discussion at a meeting of Bloomington and Monroe County officials last Thursday (Dec. 12), a capital improvement board could be established as soon as this Wednesday to provide governance for an expanded convention center.
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.
[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.
City councilmember Steve Volan at the Dec. 4, 2019 Bloomington city council meeting.
County councilor Eric Spoonmore at the Dec. 4, 2019 Bloomington city council meeting..
County commissioner Julie Thomas at the Dec. 4, 2019 Bloomington city council meeting..
Some increased pressure on Monroe County’s board of commissioners and Bloomington’s mayor generated some activity on Wednesday, if not progress, on the question of the stalled convention center expansion project.
In a week, it likely will be easier to tell how much of the activity counts as progress.
Late last week, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, and county elected officials started an extra push for a speedier resolution to the disagreements between the city and the county that have stalled the project since late May.
Part of Hamilton’s push included relenting on the question of equal representation for governance of the expansion project. Hamilton committed in writing to equal appointments by the city and county.
Hamilton’s effort can be analyzed as at least two-pronged.
[Note: The timeline at the end of this piece has been updated to include links to documents released at the Wednesday, Dec. 4 meeting of the Monroe County board of commissioners.]
On Tuesday afternoon, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FBTAC) voted to postpone for a week Bloomington’s request for an additional $2.35 million of tax money to go with the $4 million that FBTAC approved in January of this year.
Food and beverage tax money, collected since early 2018, is required to be spent on an expanded convention center and related tourism.
The Monroe County council was not expected to discuss the convention center expansion at its Tuesday night work session. A draft resolution on the topic, floated at the council’s meeting two weeks ago, had been pulled from Tuesday’s agenda.
But an appearance at the council’s Tuesday’s work session by all three county commissioners led to a half hour of discussion of the convention center expansion.
A short letter from the three Monroe County commissioners, sent Wednesday to Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, will help now set the mood for Thursday’s meeting.
The single sentence in the letter, which dispenses with salutation and closing, runs 27 words:
The only way we will consider moving forward with the Convention Center Project is with the County having an equal representation of membership on the oversight board.
The project is an expanded 30,000-square-foot exhibit space with a 550-space parking garage. It’s estimated to cost $59 million, of which about $15 million is for a parking garage.
In previous written and oral exchanges, it has been evident that representation in the governing entity—whether it’s a building corporation, a capital improvement board, or a 501(c)(3)—is a point of acute disagreement between county commissioners and Mayor Hamilton.
For a seven-member capital improvement board, commissioners have proposed either a 4–3 or a 3-4 split. Hamilton has countered by saying that he thinks 6–1 or 5-2 in the city’s favor would reflect better the city’s financial contribution to the project.