Bloomington: Big Construction Planned, Community Center Without YMCA

Stack_of_Dollar_Bills.jpgThe City of Bloomington hosted a series of Town Hall meetings in October, giving a "heads up" regarding major construction projects planned, both for significant repairs to existing structures, some replacement of current structures and the new (proposed) Community Center. Get ready to open your wallets, Bloomington tax payers! This is going to be expensive! We’ll all learn just how expensive at the Dec. 3 Council Meeting, where the preliminary city budget will be presented.

Cropped_CityofBloomington_Logo_2.jpgA new Community Center in Bloomington has been studied since 2016. An initiative earlier this year to use Bloomington School District property did not gain School Board approval. A new location for the proposed community center was presented during last month’s Town Halls. The city is now looking at the west side of Bloomington's Civic Plaza.

Although not mentioned at the early-October Town Hall meetings (but shown on the diagrams), the city announced plans to acquire the apartment buildings across the street west of the Civic Plaza to make room for the Community Center, plus parking facilities.

Then the Council announced on Nov. 2  the Oct 29 decision that the YMCA will no longer be partnering with the city for the Community Center. It’s unclear how the design will change and where the construction might proceed now.

A few side notes for context: 2019 is a mayoral and council election year. Bloomington’s current Mayor, Gene Winstead has lead city government for more than 20 years, since his appointment in 1995 as a Council Member-At-Large, beginning his current position as Mayor in 2000. Councilmen Tim Busse and Jack Baloga began serving in 2011/2012, all others joined the Council more recently. The $38 million Bloomington Civic Plaza construction began in 2001 and completed in 2003. Bloomington’s population is aging, and 40% of those attending the Oct. 18 Town Hall had lived in Bloomington more than 35 years.

Significant maintenance and construction that was deferred during the 2002-2015 economic downturn is past-due, and the city is trying to play catch-up.

The Town Hall presentations summarized a number of the deferred projects. The chart of failing infrastructure / buildings is on page 43.

Today, five out of Bloomington's 6 fire stations, most of which were built in the 1960's, need updating and modernization to provide space for today's larger equipment, restroom facilities for both genders, and firefighter training meetings. And the insulation, heating, cooling and water systems for these buildings also need replacement.

The city's equipment maintenance bays, public health and license Motor Vehicle/Deputy Registrar Office services buildings similarly require major repair or outright replacement. The Bloomington Ice Garden's uni-sex changing facilities need separation, and core systems need updates.

The Creekside building that serves as Bloomington’s Senior Center/Community Center continues to deteriorate. Staff routinely place buckets under leaks from the failing roof.