No vote Bloomington?

By: Diane Benjamin

I filed a FOIA request with Bloomington earlier in January. Since I watch every Council meeting and never heard a discussion about moving offices to the Government Center, I wondered how much it cost. I also wondered who was still working at the Old City Hall. I got the FOIA yesterday, I didn’t get any information about the old location but this year’s budget has this comment: PDF page 287 https://www.cityblm.org/home/showpublisheddocument/26434/637575549746730000

Some staff including Facilities, Parks Recreation & Cultural Arts and Public Works will relocate to existing City facilities including the City Hall building located at 109 E. Olive Street.

The Bloomington Election Commission (which shouldn’t exist since they duplicate services handled by the County Clerk) is now renting space in another building because they were squeezed out of their location in the Government Center. I know at least one other County office doesn’t have enough space either. The building does not have security, a non-employee was found recently using the County phone in the basement. I reported theft from a County office yesterday: https://blnnews.com/2022/01/25/fly-on-the-.wall-government-center-theft/

Bloomington’s current year budget has 2 pages about the Government Center, see those here:

Those two pages provide a lot of details. The lease expense dropped from $402,500 to $105,000 this year. I would have to FOIA the building owner for why: McLean County Public Building Commission.

Page 2 of the Government Center document shows the budget. NO extraordinary expenses are included for moving City offices to the building even though the pages talk about the move. The budget shows a decrease of $271,457 for the year.

Why is all this important?

It is important because spending is supposed to be authorized by the people you elect. A note with the FOIA (see below) states the City isn’t done spending money yet but so far the total is $481,265.60. The City Manager can only spend $50,000 at a time without Council approval, maybe all individual bills were less than that.

When COVID began the City created a walk up window at the Coliseum. That was mentioned at a Council meeting, it was never voted on. The cost of that is unknown. That “window” led to the creation of the “Hub” at the Government Center. It was never discussed or voted on either, just announced.

The relocation of City offices and related expenses deserved at least a Committee of the Whole meeting. The City states below they saved over $2 million by not buying other buildings and furnishing them. That’s great news nobody knew about. Meanwhile the County is now being squeezed by Bloomington moving in. Did the City pay for space at the Government Center for years they never used? That should have been mentioned.

Transparency in this relocation has been nonexistent.

Citizens deserve better.

It shouldn’t be this difficult to know what your government is doing with your money. Big plans deserve BIG discussions.

The statement below was included with the FOIA. Tim Gleason mentioned the same at Monday’s Council meeting:

The Deputy City Manager also wanted to share the following with you:

City offices are being moved to solve long standing space needs and better utilize existing buildings at what we hope will be significantly less than original cost estimates. Just as important was for the City to make it easier for residents to do business with the City which we are doing the HUB, a one-stop shop where residents can have all of their needs addressed at one location.  

Original plans had the city spending more than $2 million to actually buy buildings, a cost that did not include furnishings or make things better for residents. While there will still be other costs to finish the project, at this point we have spent $481,265.60 which is roughly a quarter of the original $2 million estimate.

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