Hiccup for convention center interlocal agreement: ‘Let’s take a breath’ says Monroe County council

It might be next year before all parties have signed an interlocal agreement between Bloomington and Monroe County—in connection with an expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The effort to get final consensus on a collaboration between city and county leaders about a convention expansion dates back several years, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

But two weeks ago, both branches of Bloomington’s government approved the interlocal agreement, for the operation of the capital improvement board (CIB) and the convention and visitors commission (CVC)—in connection with the convention center expansion.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton inked the interlocal on the afternoon of Nov. 15. The city council followed suit that evening, with an uncontroversial vote to approve the interlocal agreement.

The county council and the county board of commissioners were expected to consider and approve the agreement this week.

But the item appeared on Tuesday night’s county council meeting agenda only as a discussion item. And that’s where it remained for Tuesday. No vote was taken, even though councilors expressed a fair amount of solid support for the agreement.

Part of the delay on the county council’s side relates to a request from Bloomington mayor-elect Kerry Thomson, who wrote a letter to Hamilton two weeks ago, asking him not to make strategic decisions that could have an impact lasting into 2024. Continue reading “Hiccup for convention center interlocal agreement: ‘Let’s take a breath’ says Monroe County council”

Mayoral transition: Bloomington boards have upcoming vacancies, to be filled by city executive

In an open letter dated Nov. 9,  mayor-elect Kerry Thomson made a clarion call to Bloomington residents for them to participate in city government.

people sitting around a table with two empty chairs
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Thomson wrote to residents that her administration would “make it easy for them to participate in their government.”

She added: “That starts now—with you.”

Cited in Thomson’s letter as a path to participation is service on a board or commission, through a mayoral appointment.

She invites residents to apply for an seat on a board or commission

Appointments to boards and commissions also get a mention in a Nov. 14 letter that Thomson sent to current Bloomington mayor John Hamilton.

Thomson includes such appointments in the decisions that she asks Hamilton to refrain from making in his remaining time in office (emphasis in original): “Such decisions would include, but not be limited to, signing new or extensions of contracts, purchasing or conveying property, and making future board and commission appointments.”

Most board and commission terms go through Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, which means several naturally-occurring vacancies will need to be filled. For example, two of the five mayoral appointments to the plan commission end on Jan. 1, 2023.

At least some of the mayor-appointed members of boards and commissions are described explicitly in local law as serving “at the pleasure” of the mayor—like members of the board of public works or the board of public safety.

Seats on those two boards do not have specified term lengths. There’s not a natural point in time for a mayor to swap out one of those board members, by choosing not to re-appoint them.

The request about appointments in Thomson’s letter to Hamilton is not confined to just those board members that are explicitly described in the law as serving “at the pleasure” of the mayor. Continue reading “Mayoral transition: Bloomington boards have upcoming vacancies, to be filled by city executive”

Interlocal agreement on convention center approved on Bloomington’s side, county’s OK expected soon

At its regular meeting last Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council approved its side of the interlocal agreement that will control the working relationship among local government entities as they collaborate on an expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The vote was 8–0. Kate Rosenbarger was absent.

Signing the agreement earlier in the day on Wednesday was Bloomington mayor John Hamilton. That wraps up the city of Bloomington’s side of the arrangement.

Remaining signatories of the interlocal agreement are the Monroe County council and the county’s board of commissioners. The county elected officials are expected to consider the interlocal agreement at their first meetings after the Thanksgiving holiday. Continue reading “Interlocal agreement on convention center approved on Bloomington’s side, county’s OK expected soon”

Bloomington mayor-elect asks current mayor not to make strategic choices impacting beyond year’s end

With six weeks left before she is sworn into office, Bloomington mayor-elect Kerry Thomson has sent a letter to outgoing mayor John Hamilton asking him to “refrain from making any strategic or discretionary decisions which will impact beyond December 31, 2023.”

The letter was dated Nov. 14, exactly a week after Thomson was elected Bloomington’s next mayor. A Democrat, Thomson’s was one of 10 uncontested races on the ballot for city office—mayor, city clerk, and city council. It was Democrats who were all unopposed in those races. A Democrat prevailed in the 11th race as well.

Hamilton is also a Democrat. But Thomson’s letter could be one indication that the transition between the two Dems is not without some discontent.

Still, responding to an emailed B Square question, about whether there was a precipitating event that prompted her letter, Thomson called her request of Hamilton “a fairly typical request during transitions.”

Thomson confirmed to The B Square that her request of Hamilton includes the Showers West renovation and the sale of the 3rd Street police station.

But Thomson added that her request applies “also to any other significant commitments the city is making for which I and the next city council should have the opportunity to opine as we will be in leadership to carry these out.” Continue reading “Bloomington mayor-elect asks current mayor not to make strategic choices impacting beyond year’s end”

Board picks former Encore Cafe owner to join group to oversee Monroe Convention Center expansion

On Wednesday afternoon, Jim Silberstein was appointed as the final member of Monroe County’s seven-member capital improvement board (CIB).

Silberstein’s LinkedIn profile describes his role in founding the Encore Cafe and Tina’s Cuisine, which operated for 18 years, until the early 2000s, in the 6th Street building that is now home to Bloomingfoods.  Among the credentials cited at Wednesday’s meeting in support of his appointment were Silberstein’s MBA from Northwestern University and his work for Deloitte Consulting in Chicago.

The CIB was established by Monroe County commissioners in July of this year, under the terms specified in state law.

According to the ordinance enacted by the commissioners, the first six appointments to the CIB have to come from four different entities—county commissioners (2), county council, the mayor (2), and the city council. Those six then choose a seventh—which turned out to be Silberstein.

On Wednesday, the vote among the six on the seventh appointment was 4–2. The other two votes went to Valerie Peña. She is associate vice president in Indiana University’s office of government relations. Continue reading “Board picks former Encore Cafe owner to join group to oversee Monroe Convention Center expansion”

First meeting of new board gets momentum restarted for Monroe Convention Center expansion

In early July, Monroe County commissioners used a state statute to create a seven-member capital improvement board (CIB) to govern the expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

About three months later, on Wednesday morning, the first six appointees of the CIB convened an initial meeting in the Finch Room of the convention center.

The six appointments that have been made so far came from four different entities—county commissioners (2), county council, the mayor (2), and the city council. The initial six will choose the seventh.

Based on Wednesday morning’s meeting, the choice of the seventh member is hoped to be made at the board’s next meeting, now set for Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. Those interested in being considered can apply using a web-based form on Monroe County’s website.

The six are a group that includes members with a substantial history of governmental service. Here’s the list with their appointing authority in parens: Mick Renneisen and Adam Thies (mayor); John Whikehart and Joyce Poling (county commissioners); Eric Spoonmore (county council); and Doug Bruce (city council).

Under the chairship of Whikehart, who was chosen as president, the group worked its way on Wednesday through a meeting agenda that included: a briefing from county attorney Jeff Cockerill on the CIB’s responsibilities, how the initial budget will be created, where things stand with the food and beverage tax revenues, and a review of the properties that could be available for the expansion project.

Some light friction emerged right at the start when the vote was taken on a motion by Spoonmore to make Whikehart president and Bruce vice president. They were confirmed on a 4–2 split vote, with dissent from Renneisen and Thies. Continue reading “First meeting of new board gets momentum restarted for Monroe Convention Center expansion”

Convention center expansion: Bloomington city council looking to make CIB pick by early September

The Bloomington city council’s one appointment to a new seven-member capital improvement board (CIB) could be made at the council’s Sept. 6 meeting.

That’s the timeframe that city council president Sue Sgambelluri announced on Wednesday.

The CIB, which was created under state law by Monroe County commissioners on July 5 , is supposed to provide the governance structure for an expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The city of Bloomington has an online application for all board and commissions,  which now includes a box that can be checked for the capital improvement board. Continue reading “Convention center expansion: Bloomington city council looking to make CIB pick by early September”

Capital improvement board created, convention center expansion takes small step forward

A seven-member capital improvement board (CIB) has finally been created to provide the governance for a long-planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The unanimous vote by the three county commissioners to create the CIB came at their regular Wednesday meeting. Their vote was greeted with a rare round of applause in the Nat U. Hill room at the county courthouse.

Clapping enthusiastically in the audience for the vote were county councilors Geoff McKim, and Peter Iversen, as well as Eric Spoonmore, who is a former county councilor and now CEO of the Great Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

That appears to end the wrangling between the county commissioners and Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, over the governance of the expansion project, which has stalled the joint city-county effort since early March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Hamilton’s preferred way of handling the tasks that the CIB will oversee would have been through a nonprofit. A CIB is a public body, which the county commissioners can create under state law.

Still to be negotiated are the details of an interlocal agreement between the city and the county governments, which would lay out, among other things, the way that any land now owned by the city or the county will be incorporated into the expansion project. Continue reading “Capital improvement board created, convention center expansion takes small step forward”

Capital board as governance for Monroe Convention Center expansion to be on July 5 county agenda

The long-planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center, which has been stalled since March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, could take a small step forward next week.

Monroe County commissioners, from left: Lee Jones, Penny Githens, and Julie Thomas. (June 28, 2023)

At their regular meeting next Wednesday (July 5), Monroe County commissioners are likely to consider and approve an ordinance that will establish a seven-member capital improvement board (CIB) to provide the governance structure for the expansion. [2023-06-28 draft ordinance]

Expectations about next week’s action are based on the discussion at a Wednesday work session, which was held by commissioners following their regular meeting.

The previous night, at a county council work session, attended by commissioner Penny Githens, the council passed a motion made by councilor Geoff McKim, which supported the path that the commissioners are now taking.

When Githens asked for the county council’s thoughts on the idea of proceeding with the creation of a CIB, McKim responded by saying, “I move we express strong support for the commissioners moving forward and creating a CIB.” That motion got unanimous support from the seven county councilors. Continue reading “Capital board as governance for Monroe Convention Center expansion to be on July 5 county agenda”

Bloomington, Monroe County restart convention center talks, threat of lost tax revenue looms

Before Monday, it had been nearly six months since Bloomington and Monroe County officials last appeared in a public setting, to talk about the proposed expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The city council’s first meeting of the year, in early January, was the occasion when the city council voted to override  Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s veto, of a city council resolution related to the convention center expansion. The mid-December 2022  city council resolution expressed support for a capital improvement board (CIB) as the governance structure for a convention center expansion.

On Monday at noon, the Bloomington city council convened a work session on the topic of the planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

Providing a wake-up call to move the project forward was the Indiana General Assembly, which has now concluded this year’s session. Before wrapping up its work for the year, the state legislature passed HB 1454, which uses the local food and beverage tax as a prod, to require Bloomington and Monroe County to show some progress on the convention center project.

The center of Monday’s discussion was a draft of an interlocal agreement that is supposed to iron out some of the persistent wrinkles in discussions between the city and the county about the convention center. Continue reading “Bloomington, Monroe County restart convention center talks, threat of lost tax revenue looms”