County contracts for required appraisals for possible land deal to create limestone heritage site

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Screen shot from the Pictometry module of the Monroe County online GIS system, showing one of the parcels the county might buy for a limestone heritage educational destination site. On Wednesday’s board of commissioners agenda was a contract with an appraiser. Unrelated to the appraisal, on Wednesday the board also approved a six-year contract with Pictometry for $362,320 to provide flyover imagery.

At its regular Wednesday morning meeting, the Monroe County board of commissioners approved a $7,900 contract with Integra Realty Resources for an appraisal of some land northwest of the interchange of I-69 and SR-46. The county is thinking of purchasing the land, which includes several quarry holes, for use as a limestone heritage site.

It’s the second appraisal contract that the commissioners have approved for the same land. At their regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25, the county commissioners approved a $5,520 contract with First Appraisal Group, Inc. for the first set of appraisals.

At Wednesday’s meeting, county attorney Jeff Cockerill reminded commissioners that in order to buy the property, two appraisals are required, and the county can’t pay more than the average of the appraised value. Continue reading “County contracts for required appraisals for possible land deal to create limestone heritage site”

Monroe County councilors find $500K in projects that don’t need GO bond, get heads-up on RFP for election equipment

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A joint work session of Monroe County’s board of commissioners and county council was held Friday in the conference room off the county council’s office suite. At the head of the table is  county attorney Margie Rice. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

At a joint work session held Friday afternoon by Monroe County commissioners and councilors, the elected officials got a rundown of itemized cost estimates for projects to be funded with a $5-million general obligation (GO) bond.

The gathering grew out of some frustration on the part of councilors, expressed on Sept. 10, when the three-member board of commissioners first presented the proposed $5.17 million bond issuance to the council. On that occasion, councilors wanted to see the kind of detail they eventually got, on Friday.

County attorney Margie Rice told the group on Friday that she sensed some dissatisfaction from councilors with the earlier presentation—that’s why the extra session on Friday was convened. Rice told the councilors she’d never before seen this level of detail given to a county council for a bond issuance.

The detailed breakdown allowed the council to identify several items, adding up to $559,080, that they wanted to pull out of the bond proposal, and pay instead out of cash reserves or other funds. To be pulled off the list of bond projects were: renovating the Alexander Monument ($153,000); running fiber to the data center ($100,000); paving of a seating area on the courthouse grounds ($60,000); installing HVAC fans for the justice center ($50,000); and sealing the parking garage deck ($50,000), among other items.

Not a surprise was the idea of paying for the Alexander Monument using a source other than the bonds. Councilor Marty Hawk had advocated for that on Sept. 10, when she said that the county had enough cash to pay for the restoration of the veterans memorial. Hawk also objected at that time to the amount of the bond, which was $5.17 million. It was a change to state law that allows the county to bond for $5 million, plus a growth quotient, instead of just the $2 million worth of GO bonds the county has issued in years past.

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From left: County councilors Kate Wiltz, Trent Deckard, Geoff McKim, Marty Hawk, and county attorney Margie Rice. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Based on the discussion on Friday, the county council will be weighing whether to go ahead and bond for the roughly $5 million, or to ratchet the amount down to $3 million. Bonding for $3 million, according to the board of commissioners administrator Angie Purdie, would not increase tax rates. Bonding for $5 million would mean an extra $27.66 in property taxes paid by the owner of a house with a value of $200,000.

Among the items that’s still proposed to be paid out of the GO bond is election equipment costing around $1 million. County attorney Jeff Cockerill announced to the group on Friday that an RFP (request for proposals) would be made for the election equipment. Prospective vendors will be asked to appear in Monroe County on Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. to demonstrate their wares, Cockerill said. That comes after Monroe County’s election board appeared to have already recommended a choice of vendor, Hart Intercivic.

Continue reading “Monroe County councilors find $500K in projects that don’t need GO bond, get heads-up on RFP for election equipment”

No burn ban for Monroe County, but new tornado siren software

A dozen counties in southern Indiana have declared burn bans in the last few days—Crawford and Jefferson counties were the first to declare one, on Sept. 19.

But Monroe County is not among them.

The county’s director of emergency management, Allison Moore, told the board of commissioners on Wednesday, at their regular weekly meeting, that the Monroe County Fire Chief’s Association is monitoring the situation and will recommend a ban if they think one is needed.

Burn bans weren’t on the meeting agenda—Moore talked about them during public comment time. It was a point of information for commissioners.

But a different emergency management issue required a vote of the commissioners. They approved unanimously the purchase of new software from Federal Sirens for $4,021.50—for monitoring of the county’s 40 tornado warning sirens.

Continue reading “No burn ban for Monroe County, but new tornado siren software”

Monroe County’s councilors want to know: How do propane, parking decks, PCBs, a pillar and polling equipment add up to $5.17 million?

A presentation from Monroe County’s three commissioners to the seven-member county council on Tuesday night listed out a dozen and a half projects they want to pay for with one-year general obligation (GO) bonds. The not-to-exceed amount that the commissioners want the county council to authorize is $5.17 million.

Adding up the cost of the individual projects might come to that total, but councilors weren’t provided that information by commissioners on Tuesday. And they expressed their wish to have that information before voting on the bonds.

The list of items includes: propane conversions for vehicles in the county fleet; sealing of a parking garage top deck; purchase of some land that was declared a Superfund site by the EPA in the 1980s; refurbishment of the Alexander Memorial; voting equipment that will be deployed in the 2020 spring primaries; and a raft of other items.

One way to arrive at the $5.17 million figure is to check the statutory limit for the maximum allowable bond issuance, above which the proposal becomes what the state legislature calls a “controlled project.” This year that limit matches the amount the commissioners want the county to bond for: $5.17 million—any higher and the bond issuance would be subject to remonstrance and potential referendum.

The GO bonds were just up for a first reading Tuesday night. The vote will come at the county council’s next regular meeting, which is set for Oct. 8. That gives the councilors some time get the kind of cost details they are looking for.

During the meeting, the council’s president, Shelli Yoder, put together an ad hoc committee to look at paying cash for a few items instead of bonding for them.

Marty Hawk summed up her lack up of support for the bond by pointing to the amount, which is more than twice as much as the amount for which the county has bonded in past years: “I just think it’s over the top.”

Besides the ad hoc committee, another outcome of the back-and-forth between the council and commissioners was scheduling a special work session, before the Sept. 24 session already on the council’s schedule, for the 10 elected officials to talk about the projects on the list.

Continue reading “Monroe County’s councilors want to know: How do propane, parking decks, PCBs, a pillar and polling equipment add up to $5.17 million?”

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”

Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations

Vendors who moved to a different location during the recent two-week suspension of Bloomington’s farmers market had to get a $50 temporary permit from the county health department.

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Susan Welsand, the Chile Woman, was exuberant on Saturday Aug. 3, 2019 at the alternate location for farmers market vendors behind the east-side Bloomingfoods in the former Kmart parking lot.  (Dave Askins/Beacon)

That was the news from Penny Caudill, the county’s health administrator, as delivered to Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

Permits from the health department for vending at a farmers market are issued to individual vendors not the market as a general site, Caudill told The Beacon.

Caudill said her department had reviewed whether it would be possible to waive the fee for the temporary event permits, which her department issued to the displaced vendors. It wasn’t possible, she said. Continue reading “Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations”

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”