Monroe County officials are hosting a meeting Wednesday to give community members a chance to voice their views about the county’s pending Showers building purchase, but some governmental leaders are concerned about questions, attached to some rather large dollar amounts, that seem to have unclear answers.
The Showers purchase is intended to give the county more room allowing county offices to transfer into the new building during the upcoming court house renovations, and letting offices that are currently in other leased space move into county owned space. It’s a plan the county commissioners say will cut spending in the long run while bringing in revenue.
But other county officials have voiced concerns that the purchase won’t actually do all of the things the commissioners have said it will. Some county council members worry the new building won’t take care of the county’s real space needs, namely space for criminal justice purposes.
Meanwhile council member Marty Hawk worries the building might not come with all the revenue commissioners are hoping it will, an income she said the county would need to depend on to safely make the purchase.
“The financial presentation given to us by the county commissioners showed a positive cash flow with revenue that would include, a large amount of revenue, more than 60% of what they projected, was from IU. So it’s important that if we rely on those numbers that we have some leases to back that up,” Hawk said.
But Hawk said she’s not been allowed to see a copy of those lease agreements.
“I believe that that information should be shared with us. There are many that have been saying that some of these leases are private and confidential and we can’t share that information, but when you’re talking about public dollars we have an obligation to the public that we’re telling them we want you to pay for a building then we have an obligation to present that actual revenue dollars that would be coming in and what the expenses might be that the public would have to pick up to cover,” Hawk said.
Right now Indiana University is renting a lump space in the building and “guaranteeing” rent on that space—meaning that even if some of the space is vacant IU will still pay the same total price. Indiana University Capital Projects and Facilities Vice President Tom Morrison said that’s something the university would probably like to change if the building’s ownership changes hands.
“We will probably look toward individual space leases and go with a more market rate lease payment on that as opposed to the bigger chunk and one thing we haven’t talked about is a lot of that activity is moving to 10th and bypass and so some of those areas as they do scale down or scale up and need additional space we may look to that at the Innovation location at 10th and the bypass,” Morrison said.
Morrison is careful, however, to say that university officials have not made any final decisions, as real discussions won’t be held until the building’s change-over is complete. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if some offices are kept in the building for an extended period. But Hawk said she’d still like some assurances—perhaps in the form of a four-year minimum commitment to help the county better budget.