Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said Monday a final development agreement has been reached on a convention hotel Downtown, but a City Council leader called for more analysis of the project’s financing and a period of public review.
The total project cost of a Hilton Doubletree hotel, apartment tower, retail space and surrounding parking and infrastructure is to be about $74 million. That includes a public investment of about $37.5 million.
Winnecke said the final development agreement between the city and HCW is “significantly the same” as the preliminary plan unveiled earlier this year. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to reach this point. The job’s not over, and in many ways it’s just beginning ... We are ready to move forward.”
The Evansville Redevelopment Commission will vote on the final agreement during a special meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday. HCW will present the plan in detail during an Aug. 12 Evansville City Council meeting, and Winnecke said “it is our intention” to seek final approval of bond funding from the council on Aug. 26. That would allow for a late 2013 groundbreaking.So the unelected Redevelopment Commission will vote on the final agreement only three days after it is unveiled. The city council will be asked to approve the bond funding for the project three weeks later. Mayor Winnecke is upset that city council members are asking for more time to consider the proposal. He boasts that the project will receive no tax abatements; however, because it's located in TIF district, all of the additional revenues will flow back into a slush fund used to finance future such projects rather than basic city services. But the additional hotel rooms will increase revenues from the hotel and food and beverage tax we're told. You know the old song and dance.
Meanwhile, up in Carmel where the city's council recently had to bail out its Redevelopment Commission after Mayor Brainard's appointees recklessly ran up hundreds of millions of dollars in debt it was unable to repay, the city council has slashed funding for the $120,000 a year executive director, Les Olds, a retired architect from CSO who managed taxpayers money so wisely over the past decade. Mayor Brainard reacted angrily according to the Star, saying the move effectively puts the Redevelopment Commission out of business. We can only hope.
An angry Mayor Jim Brainard said the vote effectively puts a stop to everything the CRC is currently doing — a list that includes selling the Shapiro’s building on Rangeline Road; redeveloping the Party Tree building, also on Rangeline; and a number of other small projects.
“This vote today effectively shuts down the CRC,” said Brainard, addressing the council, “which is what you promised over and over would not happen.”
Olds has already been paid $60,000 for a half-year’s work.
The contact extension to pay for the rest of the year was placed before the City Council because it was valued at more than $25,000 — part of a sweeping refinance agreement that gave the council an element of control over a CRC that was deep in debt.
Brainard said the CRC, as a state-empowered commission, has certain rights granted by the legislature. He hinted that elements of the refinance ordinance might not stand up to a legal review.
No legal review has ever been sought on the agreement, in part, according to Brainard, because council members had said they would not use their new oversight powers to “micro-manage” the commission.
Councilwoman Luci Snyder led the charge against Olds, saying she would not vote for the contract because of the many problems seen with contracts that were to be given to city’s clerk-treasurer.
Many of the contracts, that were supposed to be original documents to be kept by the city and scanned into the city’s website, were turned over haphazardly — some were missing pages, others were missing signatures.
“Anyone who is an executive director has to know these documents are important,” Snyder said. “It’s the least you can expect from someone running a department.”
Brainard took issue with that, painting Olds as a brilliant architect who may be fuzzy when it comes to keeping records.
“I work with him on a day-to-day basis and see the careful work he does,” Brainard said. “He many times over pays for his salary by saving us money.” . . .So now Brainard is threatening to take the council to court after it bailed out his beloved RDC because he doesn't like their meddling in its affairs? Unbelievable.