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Bloomington City Council approved the expansion agreement for the Convention Center



Bloomington, Indiana – An ordinance approving an interlocal agreement between Bloomington and Monroe County for the assistance of constructing an expanded convention center was approved by the Bloomington City Council on Wednesday with a unanimous vote.

The 302 S. College Ave. Monroe County Convention Center hosts a variety of events, including concerts, gallery walks, and fundraisers. The non-profit Bloomington Downtown Co. is the owner of the conference center.

Prior to being converted into a conference center by the city in 1991, the Henry Ford Model T assembly facility and showroom were located there. In 2012, the convention center was remodeled.

A city document states that the council decided to back the 1% food and beverage tax that the Monroe County Council approved in 2017 in order to pay for the convention center’s expansion. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2018 by the Monroe County Board of Commissioners and Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton, establishing a nine-person steering group with the task of outlining the expansion project’s implementation plan.

Members of the county and city councils supported the creation of this board, but in December 2022 Hamilton vetoed a resolution establishing a capital improvement board. Hamilton maintained that a tax-exempt non-profit should administer this project rather than a capital improvement board made up of county and community leaders to oversee the expansion. But in January 2023, the city council overrode his veto.

In July 2023, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners formally decided to form a capital improvement board for this project.

The interlocal agreement, which Hamilton signed on November 15 and which the city council adopted on Wednesday, describes the roles and obligations of the county, city, and CIB in the expansion.

Hamilton stated in a news statement, “We are now in position to advance our economic future after seven years of often frustrating efforts to get this project launched.” “Millions of tourists, convention attendees, business travelers, and local businesses will all benefit from an expanded convention center, which will also help downtown businesses thrive.”

A news statement from the City of Bloomington states that the CIB is in charge of creating the plans and construction of an expanded convention center. A city nonprofit building organization, which has not yet been chosen, will issue debt and hold the property on behalf of the city, and the city council will authorize funding and oversight for the project. Beth Cate, the city’s corporation counsel, stated that the debt will be settled by the city using money collected from the food and beverage tax. According to Cate, county government will only get engaged when monies are provided by the county.

The city and county governments will examine and approve the CIB’s budget before it assumes operations and management of the larger convention center after construction is finished. The property will be reclaimed by the city upon completion of debt service.

Councilmember Stephen Volan claimed that the expansion has taken too long, despite some work being made in initiating this over the past year.

“Getting to this point shouldn’t have been this difficult,” Volan remarked. “I believe that the commissioners and the mayor have both shown a great deal of stubbornness. I am being courteous. extremely obstinate

The Herald-Times claims that although the county and city struck an agreement on the project in 2018, the commissioners terminated it two weeks later on the grounds that the mayor had broken the agreement.

Over the course of his 20 years in office, according to Volan, the council has talked about growing the convention center. He stated that Bloomington would benefit greatly from the Convention Center’s expansion.

According to Volan, Bloomington has consistently ranked as the second most popular travel destination in the state, behind Indianapolis. However, there hasn’t been a convention center that has performed up to that.

Councilwoman Isabel Piedmont-Smith expressed her satisfaction with the deal.

Piedmont-Smith stated, “I believe that this is a very important step for the county and city.” “Not only does it demonstrate our ability to work together, but it also serves as evidence that the convention center and the goal of the food and beverage tax can truly be implemented.”

Piedmont-Smith expressed her satisfaction with the agreement’s explicit mention of a commitment to ecologically friendly building methods and sustainable building. According to the agreement, the city’s engineers must submit the convention center plans to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Council also unanimously approved a contract between Bloomington and Monroe County for the 2023 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant funds. This federal grant program aims to enable local communities to support resources related to law enforcement, litigation, prevention, and education.

A city memo states that Bloomington will get $50,533 for this initiative. The message stated that the Bloomington Police Department will purchase portable radios with the funds. As part of this program, Monroe County will get $3,804 to be used on defibrillators.

Piedmont-Smith did vote to support the ordinance, but she nonetheless voiced unhappiness in it.

“Promoting racial equity and support for underserved communities, preventing and combating hate crimes, crime and violence reduction strategies, and community-based violence intervention approaches are the areas of emphasis that [the Bureau of Justice Assistance] put out for this year,” Piedmont-Smith said. “You know, I noticed that none of these points of emphasis are included in either the city’s or the county’s proposals.”

Piedmont-Smith expressed her disappointment that the JAG proposal did not incorporate justice reform, citing it as a major problem since 2020.









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