Conference center decision expected by Sept. 15

Public hearings on two proposals to be held in August

Jefferson City’s efforts to build a conference center are moving forward, but a final decision is not expected until September.

In early June, two proposals were unveiled for the city’s conference center project: one from Farmer Holding Company and one from the Ehrhardt Hospitality Group. Both developers proposed smaller conference centers than the City Council had requested and neither had ruled out the potential need for an operating subsidy.

The city’s facilitator, Charles Johnson, with Johnson Consulting, has spent the past few weeks gathering answers from the developers to additional questions before he submits his evaluation of the proposals.

“I would characterize it as moving,” Johnson said of the project’s progress. “We’ve requested more information from the development options, and we’re waiting for that to come.”

City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said the staff will meet with each developer Monday to discuss the proposals. On Tuesday, he said the city will hold what is expected to be a private meeting with “stakeholders,” such as travel associations, meeting planners and hoteliers, to gather input on the proposals.

“Those people have a different sort of input than what the general public might have,” Nickolaus said.

The city will hold two public hearings on the proposals, he said, on Aug. 5 and Aug. 12, though no time has been set for those hearings. Ultimately, the city is expected to make a decision by Sept. 15,

Nickolaus said.

Mayor Eric Struemph said though the timeline laid out by Johnson has the city making a final decision by mid-September, that will be up to the council, once they’ve thoroughly looked at which proposal, and which property, would best serve the city.

“I think the final decision ... would really rest in the hands of the City Council,” Struemph said.

Nickolaus said he believes the City Council is determined to see the conference center project through this time around. The city has had several failed attempts at building a conference center in the area throughout the last few decades.

“I think that the council is very committed to seeing this thing to the end, whatever that end might be,” Nickolaus said. “I don’t think the council knows yet how it all might work out, but I think they’re determined this time to bring it to some sort of conclusion.”

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