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. Continue reading “Convention center notebook: Monroe County commissioners react to Bloomington pitch by putting appraisal of property on agenda”

County council warm to Bloomington’s pitch for convention center transfer

While a lot of details remain to be worked out, Monroe County councilors appear receptive to the basic idea of transferring ownership of the county’s convention center and related properties to the city of Bloomington.

The city’s hoped-for timeline for getting the deal done is the end of September.

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, county councilors took turns responding to a pitch from Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Eric Spoonmore, who is their former colleague, and Bloomington deputy mayor Don Griffin. The two gave a somewhat longer version of the proposal that county commissioners had heard during public commentary at their regular meeting last Wednesday. Continue reading “County council warm to Bloomington’s pitch for convention center transfer”

Bloomington’s initial convention center pitch: County transfers property, city pays debt, gets hotel tax

The initial potential term sheet that has been floated by the city of Bloomington for the acquisition of the Monroe County convention center is now public.

The key points of the proposal include the transfer of the convention center at 3rd Street and College Avenue to the city of Bloomington—as well as other property that has been purchased by the county government with proceeds from the innkeeper’s tax.

The city wants to acquire the convention center, in order to purse an expansion of the facility independent of the county, because the joint venture between the two governments was stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Under the terms, the county would also have to support an annual transfer from the county to Bloomington, or its property manager, the proceeds from the county’s 5-percent innkeeper’s tax. The tax is overseen by a five-member convention and visitors commission, which is appointed by county government. It’s the innkeeper’s tax that is used by the county to make the payments on the existing debt on the convention center.

As part of the term sheet, Bloomington would pay off the existing debt, which is about $2.5 million. The only other direct compensation for any real estate would be for property that the county has acquired using “non-convention center-dedicated funds.” That appears to be synonymous with “funds other than innkeeper’s tax revenue.”

Other property that has been acquired by the county for the convention center expansion, like the former NAPA auto parts store at 3rd and Walnut Streets, would simply be transferred to the city, without cash compensation. Continue reading “Bloomington’s initial convention center pitch: County transfers property, city pays debt, gets hotel tax”

Bloomington wants to buy Monroe County convention center for expansion, no numbers given

The city of Bloomington is now interested in purchasing Monroe County’s convention center and possibly other land from the county government, in order to pursue the expansion of the facility.

That’s the message that was conveyed to county commissioners during public comment at the start of their Wednesday meeting, when Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce president Eric Spoonmore told the commissioners that “a viable path forward for convention center expansion” could “involve a transfer of assets from the county to the city.”

Spoonmore said the city of Bloomington is “willing to reasonably compensate the county.” No dollar figures were mentioned by Spoonmore or by deputy mayor Don Griffin, who followed Spoonmore to the public mic.

Griffin wrapped up his remarks in under a minute, saying, “We’re ready to talk. I’m ready to listen. And let’s move forward.”

The expansion project which was supposed to be a joint venture of the county and city governments, has been stalled since early March 2020, before the pandemic hit.  The county and the city were having trouble coming to terms over the selection of members for a capital improvement board, which could provide governance for the expanded convention center.

If the city were the sole governmental entity undertaking the expansion, that work would not require the kind of close collaboration between the city and the county, which up to now has not been achieved. Continue reading “Bloomington wants to buy Monroe County convention center for expansion, no numbers given”

Monroe County looking to build new jail in SW Bloomington, $10M real estate deal gets initial OK

If Monroe County builds a new jail, where will it be located? The answer to that question came Wednesday morning.

A $10.02 million purchase agreement for an 87-acre piece of land at the northeast corner of I-69 and West Fullerton Pike was approved on a unanimous vote of the three Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday meeting.

The land sits inside Bloomington in the southwest corner of the city.

The land deal is part of a plan to replace the jail currently located in the justice center building at 7th Street and College Avenue in downtown Bloomington. County officials hope to have the deal done by year’s end.

The impetus to replace the jail includes long-standing challenges identified in two reports from consultants delivered a year ago. Continue reading “Monroe County looking to build new jail in SW Bloomington, $10M real estate deal gets initial OK”

Food and beverage revenues up in Monroe County, as state legislators “make sausage” on time limiting tax

Food and beverage tax revenues for Monroe County were better in 2021 than 2019, the most recent year not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $3.63 million collected in 2021 is about 5 percent more than the $3.45 million generated by the tax in 2019. Based on just the last six months of the year, 2021 was about 16 percent better than 2019.

That’s based on the December numbers reported by the county, which got a passing mention at the end of the Monroe County council’s meeting on Tuesday.

About the $372,000 figure from December, county councilor Cheryl Munson said the numbers indicate that the public is supporting restaurants. “This is just good news for us in terms of our local economy,” Munson said.

The tax is divided between Bloomington and Monroe County government, based on where the business is located. The tax collected from customers by businesses located inside the city limits goes to Bloomington, the rest to Monroe County government.

The December numbers broke down like this: $331,340 (89 percent) for Bloomington) and $40,781 (11 percent) for Monroe County. Continue reading “Food and beverage revenues up in Monroe County, as state legislators “make sausage” on time limiting tax”

Monroe County commissioners set Nov. 16 meeting to get public feedback on planned convention center expansion

A public input session on the future of the Monroe County convention center has been set for Monday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m. It will be conducted by video conference.

President of the county board of commissioners Julie Thomas made the announcement at the end of the board’s regular Wednesday morning meeting.

When The Square Beacon touched base with county council president Eric Spoonmore, he said, “It’s a good idea,” to have a meeting on the topic. Spoonmore added that it’s important to reach out to Bloomington officials to make sure they are included in the meeting.

The backdrop to the announcement includes an uncontroversial six-month pause to the project caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But before that, the project had already been stalled for 10 months in a controversial way, over governance issues. The architect for the project has not yet been contracted for the building design.
Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners set Nov. 16 meeting to get public feedback on planned convention center expansion”

Big meeting makes little progress on convention center expansion agreement, smaller group to try again

In three weeks, a group of four city and county officials will try to achieve what a larger group of 13 electeds could not accomplish on Monday night.

Monday’s meeting was the third one this year that has tried to build on some momentum from December, when Bloomington and Monroe County officials finally agreed that a capital improvement board (CIB) would provide the governance structure for the project.

If the details can be worked out, the idea is for the county commissioners to create a CIB, so that an architect can be put under contract for the design and construction phase of a planned $44-million convention center expansion project.

The project has been stalled over governance issues for nearly 10 months—since May 19 last year when a steering committee voted to recommend a northward expansion of the convention center.

The next public meeting, now pencilled in for March 23, will include just one county councilor, one city councilmember, one county commissioner and Bloomington’s mayor.

The four will try to hammer through the points of disagreement about the four-way interlocal agreement that is supposed to help guide the governance of the convention center expansion project. Continue reading “Big meeting makes little progress on convention center expansion agreement, smaller group to try again”

Commissioner on land contributions from city, county for convention center expansion: “We are really far apart on this one.”

After meeting for more than two hours on Monday night, city and county officials were maybe incrementally closer to hammering out an interlocal agreement that’s meant to help move forward a $44-million convention center expansion project.

The current convention center is located at College Avenue and 3rd Street.

On Monday, elected officials reviewed the newest draft of the interlocal agreement, which is intended to supplement statutory requirements for the eventual formation of a capital improvement board (CIB).

Sticking points are the same as those identified at a meeting earlier in the year: the way appointments are made to the convention and visitors commission; and which parcels of land will be contributed to the new CIB by the two sides.

Of the two topics, it’s the land contributions where city and county officials have the more serious disagreement. President of the county commissioners, Julie Thomas, said about the land issue: “We are really far apart on this one.”

The city wants to see all the city- or county-owned land in the vicinity of the convention center put at the disposal of the CIB. County officials want to contribute just the parcels to the CIB that are known to be needed for the current project. [city proposal] [county proposal]

The two sides are hoping for a next meeting on March 2.

May 19 will be the one-year mark for the time the project has been stalled, since a steering committee voted to recommend a northward instead of an eastward expansion of the existing convention center facility.  The yet-to-be-formed CIB is supposed to make the final choice of the site plan.

Continue reading “Commissioner on land contributions from city, county for convention center expansion: “We are really far apart on this one.””

County, city leaders review draft interlocal agreement for convention center capital improvement board, set next meeting for Feb. 10

Several Bloomington and Monroe County officials met Monday evening to push ahead the $44-million convention center expansion project. They reviewed a draft interlocal agreement, circulated shortly before the meeting, that is intended to supplement statutory requirements for the eventual formation of a capital improvement board (CIB).

The three county commissioners, in addition to several members of the city and county councils, were joined by Bloomington’s deputy mayor, Mick Renneisen at the meeting they’d set at the end of last year.

Monday’s discussion centered on budgets, land, and appointments. Continue reading “County, city leaders review draft interlocal agreement for convention center capital improvement board, set next meeting for Feb. 10”