Convention center notebook: Monroe County commissioners react to Bloomington pitch by putting appraisal of property on agenda

“I think it only makes sense to go into negotiations armed with knowledge.”

That was county commissioner Julie Thomas’s commentary on Wednesday morning about the possibility of getting an appraisal of county-owned real estate in downtown Bloomington.

Her comment came at the end of Wednesday’s work session, which followed the regular meeting of the three commissioners. The approval of a contract for the appraisal of county real estate in downtown Bloomington will likely appear on next Wednesday’s (Aug. 17) regular meeting agenda.

Possibly getting the county’s property appraised comes as a reaction to a proposal from the city of Bloomington, to transfer the real estate connected with the convention center to the city. That means the existing building, as well as other property the county has acquired as part of a planned center expansion.

The hoped-for collaboration between the city and the county on a joint effort at expansion had been stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce as a go-between, the city of Bloomington last week pitched the idea that it would take over the convention center’s operation and expansion, in exchange for reasonable compensation.

The county council got a presentation of the proposal at its Tuesday meeting.

At Tuesday’s county council meeting, Bloomington deputy mayor Don Griffin said he hoped a deal could be reached by the end of September. At Tuesday’s county council meeting, Griffin also framed the proposal as something that is not a purchase: “This is not a real estate sale, but a transfer and trade of assets.”

The first reaction of commissioners—to get the property appraised—indicates they at least want to know what the market value of the property is, if it were treated as a real estate sale.

Commissioner Penny Githens asked at Wednesday’s work session that the appraisal provide a value of parcels separately or as one lot. Thomas concurred with the view saying, “It seems like the value would be different as one full lot versus separate parcels.”

County attorney Jeff Cockerill told commissioners he would check into what’s included in the appraiser’s $15,000 quote for doing the work.