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”

First Black woman chosen by Monroe County Dems for council: “Yes, I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

Jennifer Crossley was chosen at Sunday afternoon’s Democratic Party caucus to fill the vacant seat on the seven-member Monroe County council.

That means she’ll be stepping down as chair of the Monroe County Dems. Instead of Crossley, presiding over the caucus proceedings on Sunday was party vice chair David Henry.

The caucus was held in the auditorium of the Monroe County Public Library.

In her remarks delivered before the vote, Crossley said, “I’m running to fill this seat because I truly feel and believe that representation matters. And it is important to me that individuals from different backgrounds, lived experiences, and socio-economic statuses are in elected positions and get a seat at the table.”

Crossley added, “And as a Black woman, I feel that I bring this to this table. This is a historic moment in our county and our party, because if voted in this caucus today, I would be the first Black woman to serve on the county council.”

Crossley wrapped up her point by saying, “Yes, I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.” Continue reading “First Black woman chosen by Monroe County Dems for council: “Yes, I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.””

Monroe County’s new job grid gives raises to most, leaves salary sore point for commissioners on Spoonmore’s last day of service

On Tuesday, his last night of service on the county council, Eric Spoonmore called the group’s adoption of a new job classification grid “momentous for Monroe County government.”

The new job grid means an increase in compensation for most county employees.

In his closing remarks, Spoonmore said, “This council has made tremendous progress on how we compensate county employees. And this meeting tonight is perhaps the most striking example of that during my six years as a member of this body.”

Spoonmore added, “For me personally, it’s particularly gratifying to see all this come together at what will be my last meeting.”

Spoonmore resigned from the council effective after Tuesday’s meeting to take over as head of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, starting the following day, on Dec. 1.

In their remarks during Tuesday’s meeting, department heads and several county electeds supported the adoption of the grid of job classifications and compensation levels. The grid had been recommended by Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates (WIS) under a contract with the county worth $98,720.

On Tuesday, voices of dissent, about their own compensation level, came from two of the three county commissioners. Continue reading “Monroe County’s new job grid gives raises to most, leaves salary sore point for commissioners on Spoonmore’s last day of service”

Crossley declares bid to fill Monroe County council vacancy, recuses herself from caucus process as Democratic Party chair

In a communication issued by the Monroe Democratic Party late Tuesday afternoon, logistical details were released about a caucus to fill the District 4 vacancy on the county council.

The caucus will be held on Sunday, Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. in the Monroe County Public Library.

The bigger news in Tuesday’s release was party chair Jennifer Crossley’s declaration that she will stand as a caucus candidate to fill the vacancy.

The vacancy in District 4 will be created when incumbent Eric Spoonmore’s resignation becomes effective on Nov. 30.  Spoonmore is resigning to take the job of president and CEO of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

Under state law, it’s the party to which the resigning councilor belongs that has the responsibility to find a replacement. Normally, the party chair presides over the caucus.

In the event of a tie vote among the 20 precinct chairs of District 4, it’s the party chair who would, under state law, cast the deciding vote at the caucus.

But Crossley will be distancing herself from the administration of the caucus, according to the release. Crossley is quoted in the release saying, “[T]o be transparent and to make sure that our caucus runs smoothly, I am recusing myself on anything related to this caucus.”

Presiding over the caucus, instead of Crossley, will be the Democratic Party’s county vice chair, David G. Henry. Continue reading “Crossley declares bid to fill Monroe County council vacancy, recuses herself from caucus process as Democratic Party chair”

Spoonmore to resign from county council to take top job at Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce

In a news release issued on Monday, the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce announced Eric Spoonmore as its pick to fill the vacancy that will be left when current CEO and president Erin Predmore leaves her position.

Predmore’s pending departure was announced in a news release issued by the chamber in late July. Applications for the open position were accepted through the end of August, according to the July news release.

Spoonmore will start the chamber job on Dec. 1, according to Monday’s news release. Spoonmore has worked as associate director of enrollment management at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business for more than a decade.

Effective Nov. 30, according to the Monday news release, Spoonmore will be resigning from his position representing District 4 on the Monroe County council. Spoonmore is currently president of the seven-member council, which is the elected fiscal body for county government.

Spoonmore is quoted in the news release saying, “I am excited to begin this next phase of service in my career, and I look forward to working with the Chamber Board, our talented staff, and all our existing and future members to build upon the myriad successes achieved throughout our impressive 106-year history.”

Chamber board chair Amy Somers Kopp is quoted in the release saying, “Eric will bring a wonderful perspective to the Chamber gained from his vast experience in county government and experience at Indiana University.”

Spoonmore announced in early July that he would not be running for reelection in 2022. So it was already known that someone besides Spoonmore would be sitting in the District 4 county council seat no later than the start of 2023.

Monday’s announcement means that the District 4 seat will be filled a year earlier with someone different—initially by a caucus of the Democratic Party, not by a general election. Continue reading “Spoonmore to resign from county council to take top job at Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce”

Monroe County councilor Spoonmore won’t seek re-election to District 4 seat in 2022

In a statement released Friday night, Monroe County council president Eric Spoonmore has announced he will not seek re-election in 2022, representing District 4.

B Square file photo from January 2020: Monroe County councilor and council president Eric Spoonmore.

Spoonmore put it like this: “I will conclude my service on the Monroe County Council when my term expires at the end of 2022.”

Spoonmore currently serves as the president of the seven-member council, which is the county government’s fiscal body.

Spoonmore’s statement talks about the next year and a half that he will still be serving county residents: “I also recognize that the most important public service I have to offer as a member of the Council could well occur over the next 18 months as our County addresses a number of upcoming and exciting opportunities.”

The statement wraps up with an acknowledgement of his family’s support: “Finally, I want to thank my wife, Lindsey, and our family, who have made many sacrifices in allowing me to pursue my interests of public service.”

The statement concludes: “We look forward to discovering new ways to make a difference here in the community we love.” Continue reading “Monroe County councilor Spoonmore won’t seek re-election to District 4 seat in 2022”