Conference center public hearings set

The Jefferson City Council will take public comments on the proposed conference center at the regular council meeting Monday.

At the Brown Bagel meeting Thursday, council members discussed specific dates and times for public hearings, announcing comments would be limited to specific topics concerning conference center proposals. Later Thursday afternoon, the city issued a news release with finalized details on the public hearings.

The City Council is considering two proposals for a conference center from the Jefferson City-based Farmer Development, which would place the facility at the Capital Mall site, and the Hannibal-based Ehrhardt Hospitality Group, which would place it on West McCarty Street.

City Attorney Drew Hilpert said the first public hearing would be held at the regular council meeting Monday, which begins at 6 p.m.

At that hearing, comments will be limited to three minutes per person, with an overall time limit on the hearing of 45 minutes.

The release states comments would be limited to four topics related to the conference center: the desirability of one proposal over the other, including location; facilities the public would like to have in a conference center; the amount of subsidy, if any, to be provided for a conference center beyond the $9 million contribution; and the desirability of having the city finance and provide parking at either location.

The second public hearing is scheduled for noon Thursday at City Hall, where comments will be limited to five minutes per person. Though no overall time limit has been set, some council members voiced support for establishing one. There also may be a policy set to give preference to speakers who have not yet taken part in a previous public hearing on the conference center proposals.

A third public hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at City Hall, where comments will be limited to five minutes per person.

The release encourages people wishing to speak at any public hearing to sign up in advance by contacting the city clerk at 634-6311.

A second phase of public hearings also will be scheduled after the developers submit their final proposals, which is expected around the end of the month, but no date has been set for those. The release states the “second phase will focus on which proposal, if any, the council should select.” An earlier, unofficial draft of the release described the second phase of hearings as being an opportunity to receive comments on a proposal selected by the council as well as “the issue of whether a conference center is desirable overall.”

Those who want to “present extended remarks” at the public hearings are encouraged to submit them in writing to the city administrator or through a form found on the city’s website.

The release encourages those submitting more than five pages to include an executive summary.

In other business, the City Council is scheduled to take up a resolution Monday concerning a non-binding agreement to allow a group of property owners just outside the city limits to annex more than 200 acres into Jefferson City.

In August, a bill, which would have provided a memorandum of understanding for the voluntary annexation in exchange for nearly $5 million in infrastructure improvements, was moved to the informal calendar after several council members indicated they wanted more time to consider the agreement. The bill is scheduled to die on the informal calendar Oct. 7.

At the council meeting Monday, a resolution will be offered to “provide a greater comfort level to all parties,” and recommend to the “City Council seated at the time the next sales tax is proposed to the voters that consideration be given to a project agreement for the development of Mission Drive.”

“This is an alternative way of doing the contract,” Hilpert said. “It’s just a different format to accomplish the same type of thing.”

The agreement details that several landowners near Missouri 179 would voluntarily annex into the city and provide right-of-way in exchange for the city to provide needed infrastructure for commercial and residential development.

The property owners named in the agreement are: Arthur Brown, Daisy Brown, Charles Brown, Shirley Brown, Donald Webb, Joyce Webb, Larry Rademan, Janet B. Rademan, Ed Rackers and Mary M. Rackers.

The properties are just off Missouri 179 and would require the extension of Mission Drive that spans Missouri 179 and will serve the new St. Mary’s Health Center.

It also would require an extension of Wildwood Drive, a project that’s been talked about for several years, but never high on the city’s priority list.

The agreement stipulates that the county would have to agree to a cost-share for the project to move forward.

Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner, who sponsored the original bill, said he plans to oppose the resolution, as he would have the bill, because he does not want to commit a future council to a project of this magnitude.

“It’s not good public policy,” Scrivner said.

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