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City Council approves conference center facilitator

The Jefferson City Council approved a contract Monday with a facilitator for a conference center.

The council voted Monday to suspend the rules and allow for both the introduction and approval of the contract with Johnson Consulting, a firm out of Chicago, for $28,750. The money for the contract will come from lodging tax funds reserved for a conference center.

Interim Finance Director Bill Betts said the lodging tax has collected $1.1 million for the conference center so far and is averaging about $47,000 in collections per month, which he said meets projections to allow the city to do a $9 million bond for the project.

In April, the council directed staff to issue a request for proposals, or RFP, to seek a facilitator to help advise them during the evaluation phase of the conference center selection. The scope of services includes facilitating staff evaluations, public evaluations and evaluations by experts in the field and invited stakeholders, as well as providing a presentation of proposals, recommending methods of evaluation for the council and facilitating the council to a final decision.

City attorney Drew Hilpert said the suspension of the rules would allow the facilitator to be prepared for a June 6 public meeting where the developers’ proposals are expected to be made public.

“This person will be the liaison to the community,” Hilpert said.

Hilpert said the facilitator would begin assisting in the project immediately.

In late February, 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 council hopes to make a final decision on the proposals by July 1.

In other business, the council also approved a bill to extend the residency requirements of certain department directors, though more discussion is anticipated on what positions should be included, or taken out, in the future.

The bill approved Monday would extend residency requirements to a 15-mile radius around Jefferson City for most department heads. The city administrator, city clerk, fire chief, police chief and director of public works would be the only department heads who need to live within city limits.

The city also would not cover moving expenses for any new department heads unless they moved within city limits.

The City Charter only specifies the city clerk needs to live in the city.

Two council members offered amendments to the bill, which both failed to get majority approval. Second Ward Councilman Rick Mihalevich offered an amendment to add the director of planning and protective services to the list of those required to live within city limits. Third Ward Councilman Ken Hussey offered an amendment to delete the director of public works from the list.

Both amendments received a tie vote and, because Mayor Eric Struemph was not present Monday to break the ties, both amendments failed.

The discussion originally came about because of issues in the city’s searches for a new finance director earlier this year and late last year. In the last national search, city officials said several good candidates were eliminated simply because they lived just outside city limits and were unwilling to move.

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