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.
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.
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.
Excerpt from construction drawings for the Showers West renovation.
Excerpt from construction drawings for the Showers West renovation.
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.
CIB meeting (Nov. 8, 2023). Adam Thies attended via the Zoom video conferencing platform.
From left: Doug Bruce and Mick Renneisen
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.
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.
Board members are sworn in by Monroe County clerk, Nicole Browne. From left: Doug Bruce, Joyce Poling, Eric Spoonmore, John Whikehart, Adam Thies, and Mick Renneisen.
County attorney Jeff Cockerill, with back to camera, makes a point during the meeting.
Former Kokomo mayor Greg Goodnight.
Joyce Poling and Mick Renneisen visit before the start of the meeting.
From left: Jeff Cockerill and Beth Cate.
The most recent monthly figures for food and beverage tax revenue show the last three months as flat compared to last year.
Panorama of convention center looking to the southwest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.