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’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”

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”