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Aldermen Nix VenuWorks As BCPA Managers; Library Tax Levy To Rise

Baylee Steelman
Steve Rasmussen at his first Bloomington City Council meeting as interim city manager on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

The Bloomington City Council will not allow VenuWorks to manage the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

Aldermen voted down the idea Monday night. Several public comments advised the council Monday to keep community members in charge. They said they believe VenuWorks doesn’t have residents’ best interest in mind.

Mayor Tari Renner asked VenuWorks if they could assist in promotions and event planning without managing the facility. Grossinger Motors Arena Executive Director Lynn Cannon said business deals with organizations like Ticketmaster only allow collaboration if VenuWorks manages the facility in question.

Alderman Karen Schmidt said VenuWorks completely taking over isn't ideal.

"I think there's some real opportunities for us to work together for the (betterment) of both those venues," said Schmidt. "But I don't necessarily think the proposal that sat before us tonight was the answer to the questions that were raised.”

During public comment, resident Mike Kerber said the BCPA needs to find another Tina Salamone. She served as the BCPA's arts director until passing away suddenly.

Jim Waldorf from the Friends of the BCPA board raised concerns about why key revenue-generating positions, such as executive director and fundraising, have been left vacant.

Speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas, Renner said Tuesday that "those positions need to be filled." Renner said he thought the city intentionally delayed filled those positions because Bloomington was considering the VenuWorks management contract.

"The BCPA has had the noose around its neck, and I think that's been very harmful," Renner said.

Schmidt said she's unsure when and how the council will discuss possible collaboration with VenuWorks.

VenuWorks currently manages the city-owned Grossinger Motors Arena. The company said it could save the city around $200,000 annually in personnel costs by managing both the arena and the BCPA, but Renner says the BCPA was never about the money. 

"Remember what former Mayor Jesse Smart said: This was never supposed to be a money-producing venue," Renner said. "This was supposed to be a community contribution to quality of life and to arts and culture in our community."

The BCPA will continue to be managed directly by the city for the time being. 

Library Levy

In other action, aldermen voted 7-2 to approve an estimated property tax levy increase of around $140,000 for the Bloomington Public Library. That's less than a 4 percent hike from last year's levy.

Library Executive Director Jeanne Hamilton said funds are needed to continue preparing for the library's potential expansion. She said the library needs the money even if expansion does not happen.

"There are still repairs and replacements that need to happen in our existing building that total about $2 million over the course of about five years,” Hamilton said.

Some of those fixes include replacing the roof, air ducts, carpet, broken furniture and lighting.

The levy increase would add $4.17 to the tax bill for the owner of a $165,000 home. The library’s portion is typically around 3 percent of a homeowner’s total property tax bill.

Aldermen David Sage and Joni Painter voted against the estimated levy. Final approval will come during a meeting in December.

GLT's full interview with Renner.

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Baylee Steelman joined us in November 2016. She is a journalism major graduating in May 2018. She mainly covers Bloomington City and Normal Town Council meetings, Unit 5 School Board meetings, produces the weekend News In Review, and helps run GLT events. Baylee also produces and anchors at TV-10, Illinois State University's student TV news station.
Ryan Denham is the content director for WGLT and WCBU.
Dania is a reporter at GLT, as well as a student at Illinois State University.