JC Council to discuss next phase for conference center plans

The proposed conference center once again likely will dominate discussion at Tuesday night’s Jefferson City Council meeting.

Interim City Administrator Drew Hilpert is slated to talk about the need for additional consultants, stipends and possibly the assistance of an attorney to help officials through the process.

“Drew is going to give us his idea that we probably need expert advice to evaluate these requests for tax-increment financing,” board member Bob Scrivner explained.

In mid-November, the City Council voted 6-4 to move conference center proposals from both Jefferson City-based Farmer Holding Co. and Hannibal-based Ehrhardt Hospitality Group forward into the contract negotiation phase. There is no timeline for completing the next phase, with Hilpert saying it could take from two months to two years before contracts are ready to be presented.

Farmer Holding Co. has proposed a $36 million hotel and conference center at the Capital Mall, while Ehrhardt Hospitality has proposed a $24.6 million hotel and conference center at the West McCarty Street site, which is owned by the state.

But City Council members have said they want to see more specifics to come out of the next phase in order to make a decision, especially when it comes to the proposal from Ehrhardt Hospitality Group.

Scrivner said Hilpert will pose two questions to council members: Does the city need to hire a consultant to do additional work? And, if it does, would it make more sense to go forward with the current facilitator, Charles Johnson, or have a new set of eyes examine the situation?

By moving both companies’ proposals forward, Scrivner said it means that both Ehrhardt Hospitality Group and Farmer Holding Company are going to incur more costs. Scrivner said that raises a question for council members: “Would we offer a stipend to compensate” the firms for the expenses?

Scrivner said council members will, at some point, have to evaluate how much each group plans to spend on actual space for meeting rooms.

Scrivner said while more legal expertise might be needed, he’s hopeful that kind of help might be included in the scope of work the next consultant will be able to offer.

Also on Tuesday the council is poised to authorize a contract with Butler and Associates to complete a traffic study project for the West Edgewood corridor. Once completed, the study will give decision-makers more information about improving connectivity in the vicinity of Creek Trail Drive, Frog Hollow Road and Mission Drive. As envisioned, the project calls for adding two roundabouts — one not far from the Brick House Deli and another along Stadium Boulevard near Satinwood Drive.

Scrivner said he’s hopeful the new study will allow the city to improve traffic flow in the area without impacting the residents along Frog Hollow Road, who have said they don’t want to see their quiet residential area become a busy thoroughfare.

“It really is a huge improvement to traffic flow in the area,” Scrivner said. “We need the study to confirm what we believe to be true.”

In other business Tuesday, the council could:

• Amend the code pertaining to warrant fees.

• Authorize an emergency 911 communication services agreement.

• Approve a supplemental appropriation within the general fund for the ALPLA settlement.

• Authorize an airport hangar lease agreement with the state of Missouri.

• Hear a presentation from Ashley Varner on poverty in Cole County.

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