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Public hearings start Monday on conference center plans

Public hearings start Monday on conference center plans

Developers may tweak their proposals

September 15th, 2013 in News

Proposals for a conference center in Jefferson City will see further changes this month after a recently released market study detailed specific needs of the area.

Charles Johnson, of Johnson Consulting, recently revealed the results of a $17,000 market study the City Council requested in July. The market study detailed the area and made recommendations for a conference center and hotel facility, three months after two developers revealed proposals of their own for the project.

Now those developers - the Jefferson City-based Farmer Development and the Hannibal-based Ehrhardt Hospitality Group - have the opportunity to tweak and change their proposals based on the findings of the market study.

City Attorney Drew Hilpert said Johnson was planning on fixing a few minor issues with the study, such as any typos, then sending the final copy to each of the developers with instructions on how he believes they should use the study to alter their proposals.

"I wouldn't call it totally revamping, but I would call it tightening up their proposals," Hilpert said.

Hilpert said Johnson will be meeting with both developers near the end of the month to go through the market study and his recommendations, though Hilpert noted one developer has requested a meeting with the City Council. Hilpert did not specify which developer had requested the meeting, but said the opportunity to meet with the council also would be extended to the other developer and the meeting likely would take place in closed session for contract negotiations.

Hilpert said the developers hopefully will be able to submit more detailed proposals, giving exact estimates on the amount of business, revenues and expenditures the facility could expect at each location and the size of any gap in operating revenues.

He said the final proposals should be submitted by the end of September, but noted that timeline could be changed.

How will public hearings work?

Last week, the City Council discussed specific dates and times for public hearings, announcing comments would be limited to specific topics concerning the conference center proposals. 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. Comments will be limited to 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. There 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, but no such policy was announced as of Friday.

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 573-634-6311.

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. A city 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,

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