A capital improvement board for convention center governance as soon as Wednesday?

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.

Thursday morning’s meeting of the county council and the county commission was attended by deputy mayor, Mick Renneisen. Continue reading “A capital improvement board for convention center governance as soon as Wednesday?”

Monroe County’s council loads legislative gun, levels it at food-and-beverage tax as prelude to Wednesday’s convention center negotiations

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Monroe County’s council on Dec. 10, 2019. From left: Cheryl Munson, Peter Iversen, Trent Deckard, Eric Spoonmore, Kate Wiltz, Geoff McKim, and Marty Hawk. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

[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.

Two alternatives were given a first reading on Tuesday to sunset the tax. No votes were taken. [Ordinance A] [Ordinance B] Continue reading “Monroe County’s council loads legislative gun, levels it at food-and-beverage tax as prelude to Wednesday’s convention center negotiations”

Convention center expansion: City councilmembers, county commissioners look to post-Thanksgiving work based on commitment to equal representation

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Excerpt from draft MOU extension, red-lined by the city in spring 2019, for continued work by a nine-person steering committee on the convention center expansion.
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On Nov. 21, 2019, city and county officials met for the third time on the convention center expansion. From left: city councilmembers Susan Sandberg and Dave Rollo; Mayor John Hamilton; county councilor Eric Spoonmore, and county commissioners Julie Tomas and Lee Jones. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Thursday night in Bloomington’s city council chambers, city and county elected officials convened their third meeting since mid-September about the convention center expansion .

It was hard for the watching public on Thursday to discern much forward progress for the project. It has been stalled since late May, when a nine-member steering committee made a preliminary site plan and size recommendation.

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.

On the question of governance options, Thursday’s meeting established that the mayor is not alone in favoring a 501(c)(3) over a capital improvement board. Two city councilmembers, Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Chris Sturbaum, expressed support for the non-profit option. County commissioners strongly favor a capital improvement board.

So on that issue, it’s possible that opinions are now, after Thursday’s meeting, more clearly divergent than they were before.

But county councilor Trent Deckard told The Beacon he thought the meeting was “incredibly positive,” even if it might be hard to see. A key positive outcome identified by Deckard: “There was a coalescing of views around equal representation.”

By “equal representation” Deckard meant the oral commitments that individual city councilmembers gave, at around the one-hour mark of the meeting. They committed to the idea that the representation on the expansion project’s eventual governing body would be evenly split between the county and the city.

The eventual governing body could be a 501(c)(3) or a capital improvement board. Continue reading “Convention center expansion: City councilmembers, county commissioners look to post-Thanksgiving work based on commitment to equal representation”

Monroe County commissioners: Equal county-city representation is “only way” to move convention center expansion forward

Set for Thursday night in Bloomington’s city council chambers is the third in a series of meetings between city and county elected officials about the planned expansion of the county convention center.

short letter Screen Shot 2019-11-21 at 12.38.43 AMA 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.

Based on Wednesday’s one-sentence letter, commissioners are not willing to negotiate the point. Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners: Equal county-city representation is “only way” to move convention center expansion forward”

By one-vote margin: Peter Iversen chosen to fill Monroe County’s council vacancy left by Shelli Yoder

On Thursday night, a caucus of the Monroe County Democratic Party (MCDP) chose Peter Iversen over Richard Martin to fill the vacancy left when Shelli Yoder resigned her District 1 seat on the county council, effective Nov. 1. Yoder served through the end of October.

Iversen prevailed by a 7–6 margin among the 13 precinct chairs from District 1 who attended the caucus. District 1 covers the eastern third of the county. Voting was by secret ballot.

Right after his winning tally was announced, Iversen was sworn into office by Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Browne. Continue reading “By one-vote margin: Peter Iversen chosen to fill Monroe County’s council vacancy left by Shelli Yoder”

“It’s time to just throw some dynamite on this thing,” says new Monroe County council president, who’s in favor of capital improvement board to re-start convention center expansion project

At their regular meeting on Tuesday night, Monroe County councilors handled a raft of routine business before a scheduled presentation from county attorneys on the legalities of capital improvement boards (CIBs).

The presentation and commentary from Jeff Cockerill and Margie Rice confirmed in more detail, what was already generally understood—that a CIB could handle all aspects of the convention center expansion project, which has made no visible progress in the last five months.

The presentation on CIBs was enough to persuade the current six members of the seven-member county council that it is the right tool in the short term for the next phase of the project, and the eventual ownership, oversight and operation  of the expanded convention center. A CIB can hire architects, engineers, accountants, attorneys, and consultants and acquire land for a capital project like the convention center expansion.

As a part of the presentation, councilors also heard that a building corporation would need to be formed, in order to avoid going over either the county or the city’s constitutional debt limit. That limit is 2 percent of the value of the taxable property in the geographic area of the respective governmental units.

A general consensus formed on Tuesday’s meeting that the tentatively scheduled third meeting of city and county elected officials on Nov. 21 should include just two items: the site plan (northward versus eastward expansion); and the formation of a capital improvement board.

On Tuesday, which of the county councilors was most supportive of moving forward with a capital improvement board was a close call. Continue reading ““It’s time to just throw some dynamite on this thing,” says new Monroe County council president, who’s in favor of capital improvement board to re-start convention center expansion project”

New mayoral letter sets backdrop for county council’s Tuesday briefing on governance of convention center expansion

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Excerpt from the Nov. 9, 2019 letter from Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, to Monroe County commissioners, which was sent three days after he appeared at the regular meeting of the commissioners on Nov. 6.

Monroe County councilors will be getting a presentation about capital improvement boards (CIBs) at their meeting scheduled for Tuesday night.

The goal is for the fiscal body of the county to get a clearer understanding from the county’s legal staff about how a CIB might fit into the planned expansion of the county’s convention center.

County councilors will also get a presentation from the three county commissioners on the eastward expansion option for the convention center. It’s the option the commissioners favor. It’s different from the northward option recommended in the spring by a nine-member steering committee, and favored by Bloomington.

Part of the background for the Tuesday meeting of the county council will now include a letter sent on Saturday, by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, to the county’s board of commissioners. The board is the executive branch of government for the county.

The letter summarizes the mayor’s position in writing, which he expressed orally last Wednesday, when he attended the regular meeting of the commissioners.

The main point of conflict between the mayor and the commissioners is what entity should move the convention center expansion forward from a preliminary design phase that concluded this spring. The project has made no visible progress since the preliminary site plan recommendation was made by a nine-member steering committee in late May. Continue reading “New mayoral letter sets backdrop for county council’s Tuesday briefing on governance of convention center expansion”

County’s bond issuance OK’d for $3.3 million: Projects include quarry heritage land costs, but no action yet on land acquisition

 

At its work session on Tuesday night, Monroe County’s council voted 5–1 to approve issuance of general obligation bonds worth $3.3 million. Dissent came from Marty Hawk, who had expressed concern to the bond issuance from the time it was first proposed at $5.17 million in early September.

Hawk’s objection was based on the fact that the bond proceeds are supposed be used in part to pay for land to construct a limestone quarry heritage project—northwest of the I-69/SR-46 interchange.

Hawk has concerns about the land’s history, which is located next to a site that was contaminated with PCBs. At its Oct. 16 meeting, the board of commissioners approved a $2,500 contract with Vet Environmental for a review of environmental documents associated with the property.

On Tuesday night, county council put off a vote on land acquisition for the project, because the land appraisals have not yet been returned. In early October, the board of commissioners contracted for the second of the two required appraisals. Continue reading “County’s bond issuance OK’d for $3.3 million: Projects include quarry heritage land costs, but no action yet on land acquisition”

Yoder chairs her final meeting of county council: “Find what makes you come alive and go do it.”

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Shelli Yoder, president of Monroe County’s council, chairs Tuesday’s work session. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Tuesday night’s Monroe County council’s work session was highlighted by debate on the issuance of $3 million worth of general obligation bonds—the item passed on a 5–1 vote with dissent from councilor Marty Hawk.

At the end of session, councilors marked the occasion of council president Shelli Yoder’s last time to preside over a meeting. Yoder announced her resignation last Thursday, effective at the end of October—she’s moving out of District 1, which she represents.

The council left the matter of electing a new president of the council for another time. Continue reading “Yoder chairs her final meeting of county council: “Find what makes you come alive and go do it.””

Yoder to leave Monroe County’s council due to residency change, still considering what’s next

In a release posted on Facebook, Democrat Shelli Yoder announced on Thursday that she is resigning from Monroe County’s council and will serve through the end of October. Yoder’s resignation was caused by a pending change in her residency, according to the release.

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In this photo from July 2019, Shelli Yoder chairs a meeting of the Monroe County council as its president. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Yoder currently represents the county council’s District 1, which covers the eastern third of Monroe County and the northeast corner of Bloomington.

The release quotes Yoder as saying “Although this move will take my family into a different Bloomington neighborhood just beyond the border of District 1, my commitment to our community and Monroe County’s continued success is as strong as ever. I look forward to finding new opportunities to serve and to continuing the work of meeting the challenges we face at the local, state, and national levels.”

At-large seats on the council can be held by residents who live anywhere in the county. Asked by The Beacon via text message, if she had contemplated running for one of the three at-large positions on the county council that is up for election in 2020, Yoder replied: “I’m still considering what’s next.”

The three at-large seats on the seven-member council are currently held by Geoff McKim, Cheryl Munson, and Trent Deckard.

Yoder also told The Beacon that she plans to attend the joint meeting of the county council and the Bloomington’s city council, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 29  in the Nat U. Hill room of the county courthouse. That means Yoder will spend part of her antepenultimate day of county council service in the same room where she’s chaired its meetings as president of the council for the last couple of years. Continue reading “Yoder to leave Monroe County’s council due to residency change, still considering what’s next”