Council discusses conference center selection process

The Jefferson City Council is continuing its efforts to try and select a developer for a proposed conference center.

At the City Council meeting Monday, council members discussed the next steps to narrow down the field of proposers and move closer to entering into a contract with one for construction of a conference center.

Late last month, the City Council voted to make public the names of developers who have submitted proposals for a conference center and the sites they selected.

Ehrhardt Hospitality Group, based in Hannibal, has proposed the facility at the West McCarty Street site; Drury Development Company, based in St. Louis, submitted a proposal for the West McCarty Street site, the old Missouri State Penitentiary site or any other site that meets city requirements; and Farmer Holding Company, a local developer, has proposed the facility at the Capital Mall.

The City Council began meeting in closed sessions in February to complete phase one of the conference center proposal process, which is mainly review.

Second Ward Councilman J. Rick Mihalevich presented a draft of a process for phase two for council consideration, though no action was taken at the meeting.

“The goal is to move this conference center discussion forward in a public venue,” Mihalevich said. “These are phase two qualifications or criteria.”

The draft details a process that would go through the end of May, when the council would either select a proposer to enter into negotiations with, authorize staff to reject one proposal and move forward with a “best and final offer” process to compare the remaining two, or reject all three proposals.

The draft also detailed the selection of a conference center review group that would act as a link between the council and developers, and help to narrow the field and make a final recommendation. Several council members expressed some hesitation with this aspect of the draft, saying they would prefer either a partial council committee of about five members or a committee of the whole, which would include all 10 council members and the mayor.

The council intends to further discuss the issue at a work session Monday.

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