The Monroe County Board of Commissioners voted last week to form a capital improvement board to oversee the expansion of the Monroe County Convention Center.
The board will be composed of seven appointed members: two appointed by the mayor of Bloomington, two appointed by the county commissioners, one appointed by the county council and one appointed by the Bloomington city council. These six members will then vote to select a seventh member. Indiana statute requires that the board cannot include more than four members from the same political party. The mayor and county commissioners are prohibited from choosing their appointments from the same political party, according to the ordinance.
The Monroe County Convention Center, located at 302 S. College Ave., underwent a remodel in 2012. According to the Monroe County Commissioners, the center provides meeting spaces for local organizations and hosts events including the Hoosier Hills Food Bank’s Annual Soup Bowl Benefit.
In a press release, Monroe County Board of Commissioners President Penny Githens said the board received support for their ordinance from County Council members, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and members of the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation.
“The work of the board members will involve determining the general design of the expansion and, I assume, the recruitment of hotelier, because we envision an additional hotel that will be linked to the expanded center,” Githens said in the release. “They may decide as a group to rename the convention center, and there will have to be support staff like a construction manager hired and things like that.”
Monroe County Commissioner Lee Jones said in the press release that the expansion may bring in additional convention business.
“Since conventions tend to be held in the middle of the week, that could allow local hoteliers to fill their rooms during underutilized times, and we expect that that could provide more local jobs,” Lee said in the release.
The Monroe County Council voted in 2017 to enact a 1% food and beverage tax to fund the expansion project — a move that was supported by Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton. The Monroe County Board of Commissioners and Hamilton established a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a nine-member steering committee and outline steps to implement the project in 2018.
While the formation received support from County and City Council members, Hamilton vetoed a resolution to create a capital improvement board in December, instead arguing a non-profit, 501(c)(3) should manage the project. City council overrode his veto in January.
The work of the board will be guided by an interlocal agreement between city and county officials. County attorney Jeff Cockerill said at last week’s meeting Hamilton did not support the draft of the interlocal agreement.
Indiana House Bill 1454, which was signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in May, requires Monroe County and Bloomington to spend funds from their food and beverage tax and report expenditures before July 1, 2025. The legislation also requires the county to develop a written plan on their use of the tax funds before Dec. 1 each year. If Monroe County fails to meet these requirements, it will not have the ability to collect revenue on the food and beverage tax.