Chamber of Commerce Questionnaire: Julie Thomas

What is your position on the expansion of the convention center? If you are supportive, how do think it should be structured and funded? 

The expansion of the convention center is a fine idea. It will be important to determine if the need for a larger center exists. A cost / benefit analysis is needed – it should include studies of the economic development impact outside of increased restaurant and hotel spending. When the county-wide food and beverage tax was proposed, we heard from a considerable number of county residents who were opposed based on their cost/benefit analysis.I believe it will be best to pursue this after first transferring ownership of the convention center to the City of Bloomington and working with the State Legislature to allow a City-wide food and beverage tax to be implemented. 

The impacts of I-69 will need to be considered and planned for accordingly in order to address expected growth and connectivity for Westside businesses. What recommendations would you make to improve Westside connectivity? 

We need to balance demands for business development with the needs of the existing residents on the westside. In addition, the existing infrastructure (roads, bridges, intersections, public safety access, etc.) must be considered. I support the planned extension of Industrial drive to Gates Drive and Profile parkway as a way to improve access to the former ABB site without overloading 3rd Street west of I-69. The expansion of regular bus service into the county will be a great service not only to area residents but also for businesses.

The ordinances outlining land use outside of the Monroe County Urbanizing Area and Designated Communities did not address businesses. How do you/would you ensure that the needs of businesses are considered during the ordinance development process?

The Plan Commission is currently developing ordinances in support of the recently-adopted Urbanizing Area Comprehensive Plan. We worked extensively with the community to finalize the plan. If you imagine the map of the county, the area around the city is the Urbanizing Area. This portion of the county – which is larger than the City of Bloomington – is the area of focus for additional development, including higher density housing and business development. In the Urbanizing area, adequate infrastructure currently exists to support more intense development (including sewer and road infrastructure). In the future, with the extension of sanitary sewer service, business development can expand into the county.  It’s also important to remember that agriculture is a form of economic development.

We have noticed the county has trouble finding residents willing to fill vacancies on county boards and commissions. If there is a vacancy on the board or commission, how do you recruit and attract interested residents and how will you ensure the most qualified person is selected for the position?

We appreciate the dedicated county residents who are willing to devote their time, energy and experience to help make Monroe County a better place. At this time, nearly all of our Boards and Commissions are fully staffed. Openings on Boards and Commissions are advertised widely. We utilize the County website, make announcements at public meetings, and work with the local media to announce open seats. We also reach out to organizations like the Chamber and BEDC and local civic groups. In addition, the Commissioners and the County Council actively share application information. 

In recent years, the county has been under scrutiny about financial records. How will you ensure transparency and fiscal responsibility within county operations? 

The procedure we have in place works. After the Commissioners responded to the first incident with tighter controls on the credit cards, the second incident was caught by our office precisely because of these controls. We will be securing the credit cards of those departments which only use them occasionally (conferences and trainings). However, there are a handful of departments that cannot operate effectively without credit cards. For example, the Youth Service Bureau purchases food and supplies for shelter residents. The County is developing an Internal Control Policy with staff trainings, per Indiana Code 5-11-1-27.

How do you think the County can work with the City to better serve business and residents?

The Commissioners look forward to continuing to build on our strong relationship with the City as well as the Towns of Ellettsville and Stinesville. For example, we are currently working with the City of Bloomington in the Monroe County Energy Challenge and we cooperatively fund Central Dispatch and the Animal Shelter. Stinesville is part of the County’s planning jurisdiction. Each of these initiatives provide essential services for residents and businesses. I look forward to pursuing additional cooperative opportunities where taxpayer savings and / or improved services can be achieved.