Bloomington city council overrides mayoral veto on convention center governance, path forward unclear

A mayoral veto of a Bloomington city council resolution supporting a capital improvement board (CIB) as the governance method for a convention center expansion, has been overridden by the city council.

It was at 3:15 p.m. Friday, the day before Christmas Eve, when Bloomington mayor John Hamilton issued his veto of the council’s Dec. 14 resolution.

In December the council had approved the resolution by an 8–1 vote, with Kate Rosenbarger as the sole voice of dissent.

At this Wednesday’s city council meeting, the outcome of the vote was the same, satisfying the two-thirds majority required under city code to override the mayor’s veto.

On Wednesday as in December, Rosenbarger’s dissent was not based on any support for Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s preferred convention center expansion governance structure, which is a 501(c)(3). Instead, Rosenbarger is skeptical that a convention center expansion should be built at all.

Continue reading “Bloomington city council overrides mayoral veto on convention center governance, path forward unclear”

“We’ve gotta get moving on that,” says state rep on convention center project, given threat of tax sunset

The Monroe Convention Center expansion project needs to make some progress, state representative Democrat Rep. Matt Pierce (District 61) said at a Friday luncheon hosted by the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce at The Mill.

Looming during this year’s legislative session is a threat to the project’s planned funding source, which is the county’s 1-percent food and beverage tax. The threat cited by Pierce is Senate Bill 37,  which has already been filed by Republican Sen. Mike Gaskill (District 25).

If SB 37 is passed, it would end food and beverage taxes across all counties in the state 20 years from now, on Jan. 1, 2043, or the date on which all bonds or lease agreements that are outstanding on May 7, 2023, are completely paid—whichever is later.

Pierce summed up the stalled effort of Bloomington and Monroe County government to collaborate on the convention center expansion like this: “We gotta get moving on that.”

Pierce was joined at the event by three other area state legislators: Sen. Eric Koch (District 44); Sen. Shelli Yoder (District 40); and Rep. Dave Hall (District 62).

Pierce’s comment on the convention center expansion came in response to a question from chamber CEO and president Eric Spoonmore.

The other three legislators didn’t comment on Spoonmore’s food and beverage tax question. Continue reading ““We’ve gotta get moving on that,” says state rep on convention center project, given threat of tax sunset”

Ice storm: Bloomington mayor vetoes city council resolution on CIB for convention center expansion

A Bloomington city council resolution in support of a capital improvement board (CIB) as the governance method for a convention center expansion, has been vetoed by mayor John Hamilton.

The announcement of the veto came at 3:15 p.m. Friday, the day before Christmas Eve, when local overnight temperatures had dipped as low as –8 F.

The council had approved the resolution by an 8–1 vote at its Dec. 14 meeting. The sole dissenter was Kate Rosenbarger.

Hamilton’s veto statement recites the reasons that the administration has previously given against the use of a CIB, and for a 501(c)(3). Those reasons include the idea that the only way to make a CIB palatable to the city would also make it too “cumbersome.” Continue reading “Ice storm: Bloomington mayor vetoes city council resolution on CIB for convention center expansion”

What candidates said in 3 minutes to make their best pitch to Monroe County voters

On Monday evening, several candidates for local and regional office made an appearance at a networking event hosted by the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) at The Mill, a co-working space north of city hall.

Each candidate got a chance to deliver a quick three-minute stump speech.

This B Square roundup is limited to candidates in contested, partisan races where both candidates appeared.

That leaves out school board races, which are non-partisan.

But one takeaway from Monday’s event was the position taken by school board candidates on the Monroe County Community School Corporation ballot referendum. Each of the three MCCSC school board candidates who attended Monday’s event expressed strong support for the levy increase that appears on the ballot. The three who spoke were: Daniel O’Neill (District 3); Ashley Pirani (District 3); and Erin Wyatt (District 1).

If it’s passed, the referendum would set the school referendum levy rate at $0.185 for eight years, which would increase the average residential taxes paid to the schools by about 35 percent, according to the ballot question wording. The ballot language says the additional money will support the retention and attraction of teachers and staff and enhance programs in STEM, the arts, and special education.

The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election is Oct. 11.  Early voting for the Nov. 8 election starts on Oct. 12.

In Monroe County, early voting will take place at the election operations building at 3rd and Walnut streets.

The GBCC has set up a website with a roundup of information on candidates.  An additional resource for information about candidates is the The League of Women Voters Vote411 website. Continue reading “What candidates said in 3 minutes to make their best pitch to Monroe County voters”

Potential convention center deal: City, county leaders meet, agree to meet again

On Wednesday at noon, the possible expansion of the county convention center was the topic of a meeting of Monroe County and Bloomington officials.

The gathering at the county courthouse included county commissioners, some county councilors, city councilmembers and the mayor’s office.

It was the first time that representatives from all four groups had sat at the same table on that topic since early March of 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

After about 45 minutes of conversation, the group had not made much progress, but agreed it was worth another meeting.

The city wants to get a deal done by the end of September. So “sooner rather than later” was the city’s wish for a next scheduled meeting.

One twist that emerged on Wednesday was the possibility that a convention center deal between the city and the county could hinge on Bloomington’s approval of a rezone for land that the county wants to use for construction of a new jail.

At the table were: Mary Catherine Carmichael (Bloomington’s director of public engagement); Susan Sandberg and Sue Sgambelluri (president and vice president of the Bloomington city council); Lee Jones, Julie Thomas, and Penny Githens (Monroe County commissioners); and Cheryl Munson Geoff McKim (Monroe County councilors). Continue reading “Potential convention center deal: City, county leaders meet, agree to meet again”

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”