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 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.
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.
Tornado siren at City of Bloomington services area on Miller Drive east of Henderson Street. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
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.
Alexander Memorial, Monroe County Courthouse Sept. 10, 2019
Councilor Marty Hawk
Councilor Geoff McKim
Councilor Kate Wiltz
Commissioner Julie Thomas
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.
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’.”