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Conference center plan moves forward

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Jefferson City officials are moving forward with reviews of conference center proposals, but details remain unavailable to the public.

Last week, the city announced it had received three responses to the request for proposals for a conference center, but no details have been released on who made the proposals.

At Monday’s council meeting, City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said the council would meet twice this month to complete what he called “phase one” of the review process.

“The only thing we’ll be doing in phase one is deciding which proposers are qualified to move into phase two,” Nickolaus said. “That phase traditionally would be closed.”

Nickolaus said at some point in phase two, the process would be opened to the public to gather input on the proposals. Phase two, he said, would consist of negotiations and design work.

The council unanimously passed an impromptu resolution to keep the review process closed until the council, as a whole, votes to make it public.

In late May, the City Council directed staff to begin drafting an RFP for the conference center concept detailed by Mayor Eric Struemph during the city’s town hall meetings last spring. The RFP outlined a partnership between the city and hotelier, or developer, to construct an exhibit or banquet hall. The city would provide funding for the construction, set at $9 million, which would come from the lodging tax contributions.

The RFP specified a minimum of 30,000 square feet of ballroom/exhibit space must be provided, plus 10,000 square feet of space for back-of-the-house operations. The city also asked the hotelier to indicate how much additional meeting space they would provide, asking for a minimum of 10,000 square feet.

In other business, Lincoln University indicated a financial commitment to JCTV could be on the table.

The station’s future remains a question as the city looks at whether it will terminate its contract with the station in the next month.

JCTV has been tasked with raising $55,000 to keep the station operating until November, when the city’s new fiscal year begins. Nickolaus has said Lincoln University should come up with half of the needed amount and the other half should come from station fundraising.

Lincoln University interim president Connie Hamacher said the university is currently in the budgetary process and they are going to see if any additional funds can be committed to JCTV.

“Lincoln University is committed to the future of JCTV,” she said. “We will take a serious look at this.”

Hamacher said in the last three years the university has spent more than $280,000 on remodeling, utilities, maintenance and other normal operating expenses. The university also spent $135,000 on new equipment, she said.

“I don’t want you to think that Lincoln has not been partnering adequately,” Hamacher said. “Our partnership is very important.”

JCTV Station Manager Gloria Enloe also presented an update on station fundraising to the council, stating the station has raised about $3,300 so far.

The station is planning a fundraiser for Feb. 28 to continue their efforts to make up the needed money and also is planning a phone-a-thon to solicit donations. Enloe, who will give the presentation Monday, also has created station memberships, available to both individuals and businesses, as well as sponsorship opportunities to help bring in donations.

In October, Nickolaus told members of the JCTV steering committee that the City Council would need to see a financial show of support for the station from the community and Lincoln University or the city would terminate its contract with JCTV in March.

In September, the council approved $110,000 in funding for JCTV, representing a $55,000 cut to its normal operating budget. That money was meant to keep the station operating through June 2013 to enable Lincoln University to discuss whether it will fund the station at some level before the university’s fiscal year starts July 1.

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