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Transcript of city council discussion of hotel project

Terry Jones, economic development director: Last week I received a couple phone calls from a few businesses I’ve been working with on the hotel project. They were not very happy. The developer himself called me and let me know that they are no longer interested in building in Marion due to the article that was written last week.

I did my best to calm it, the damage has been done, there is nothing that can be done to fix the situation. So that opportunity has passed. The feasibility study still has usefulness to us, as me and Roger have talked about in the past. So we will be moving forward with that information. We’re a great town, we can find something else to fill that need. I’m still working on that.

Chad Adkins, councilor: This was the hotel project?

Jones: Yes. The feasibility study company as well as BriMark Builders called me. Cobblestone had directly called BriMark and effectively yelled at them about it, then he called me, and, not yelled, but he wasn’t yelling, he’s just upset. So, that’s not the right word to use.

He was upset. They’re out of Wisconsin, I believe. So they would travel here to Marion to do work on this project and the project has been pulled, so it was a waste of a lot of time on his end. My end as well. Not to mention the cost of the feasibility study that could have been returned but now it won’t be.

Adkins: I guess some concern moving forward as well, you know, those developers. They talk. It can have future ramifications for other projects not wanting to come here.

Jones: That was due to the article. The feasibility study company was the most concerned about that. As mentioned in the article, I did research on the company. With just a Google search, you can find articles and stuff. So, other towns, anybody looking at their company to see if they want to use them will now find an article that doesn’t speak very highly of their company which could sway future decisions, whether that information is true or not.

That’s out there, it’s on the Internet, it’s gonna stay on the Internet, so that’s what I mean by there’s nothing that can be done to remedy it for them. So that’s the way the world works, it’s the way the Internet goes.

Todd Heitschmidt, mayor: Did they indicate they would try to rebut any of the inaccurate information in the article? Or are they just done with Marion.

Jones: The developer? He said — no. He said that he was told by his company as well as Cobblestone, just get out. Community support is major, major, major, when you’re asking for investment from the citizens themselves, it’s big. But he did mention that — he recommended that I call him in a year and a half to two years to see if they were still interested. So maybe the project is still possible, but that’s two years from now.

And then we’re gonna have to start all over again, because all the work that’s been completed at this point is gonna be different at that point, so. Disappointing, but such is life. In Marion.

Heitschmidt: At the time this article was written had we shared the feasibility study with the press?

Jones: Yes.

Heitschmidt: Was that requested under open meetings act or was that just given?

Roger Holter, city administrator: It was requested in a conversation, it was not a written form filled out.

Heitschmidt: Since we paid for it is that our personal property? Does that become a public document once we accepted it, Susan?

Susan Robson, city attorney: Yeah.

Heitschmidt: So before the council even had the chance to review and study it, we had a non-expert write an article about it before we had the chance to review it in detail?

Holter: It was released to council in the June 8 packet.

Heitschmidt: We hadn’t spent much time in that meeting going over that, pros and cons and details. So we allowed basically the newspaper to get ahead of any analysis, criticism that we had on the release of this document.

Jones: Some of it, in doing the research in selecting this company, had been done. For example, the comment that they couldn’t find feasibility studies that came back with a negative result, through my research, it’s because you go halfway through the feasibility study. You give them half the payment, they do half the research, they get to a point where they know if it’s going to come back recommending a hotel or not, and at that point you get the choice: You can either continue the feasibility study and pay the other half, or you can, you know, cut your losses. Well if it’s gonna come back as not helping you, you’re not gonna wanna finish it, so then there won’t be very many negative-result feasibility studies out there.

Adkins: There’s a point where you can stop and you don’t have to finish?

Jones: That’s what happened with us. They came back and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna recommend 31 bedrooms,’ so I said, ‘OK. Let’s continue.’ Then we submitted the second payment. Things like that were, months ago, reviewed.

Jones: Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for me on stuff like this going forward?

Heitschmidt: I think we need to sit with Susan on that and make sure we follow all what we’re required to do for KOMA (Kansas Open Meetings Act) and KORA (Kansas Open Records Act) and don’t get surprised by our newspaper in a totally opposite-type negative position on our route, so maybe there’s a different way we can approach other projects in the future that give us a better handle on it and allowing a newspaper to take the lead rather than the leadership of the community to make a decision.

If there’s a letter that I need to send or a phone call, I’d be happy to do that to send my apologies for the less-than-warm welcome.

Jones: They understand that the city was supporting them, we were working with them, we purchased their services. There was no ill-will between us and them. I’m sure they would appreciate it, but yeah, they’re not upset with us.

Adkins: Thanks for your work on the project. It’s not what you did.

Jones: It’s not done. We’re still going.

Later in the meeting…

Heitschmidt: (Speaking about town’s debt load, and how the city needs a higher tax base, and then…)

We will have to find ways to combat folks that wanna come do business in our community and, through Eliot’s reporting, get thrown out. But it’s our job to fight our way through that for the long-term benefit of the town, not one private business dictating who comes and who doesn’t.

Not having a 2 million dollar hotel in town, well there’s no extra tax revenue coming through, so. We have to find ways to do it. ...

Adkins: They’ve gotta believe in the product they’re buying. It’s tough living in a small town, and there’s so many positive things about this place and about other places like this.

Heitschmidt: Except for this (picks up newspaper, slaps it down on the table).

Adkins: Yep. And the most frustrating part about that, the most frustrating part about that is I really think there’s a concerted effort by a lot of people in the town trying to get the word out about how awesome this place is. And I can get the view of an editor at a paper that says ‘We’re supposed to give a dissenting view’ or ‘we’re supposed to do this, or we’re supposed to do that,’ but the bottom line is, in a bigger place, that may work. In Marion, Kansas, that destroys things. And that’s just the real bottom line of the whole situation. Whether we would’ve gotten the hotel or not, we’re not gonna get it now, and we really could have used it. There are gonna be projects going on in the future. It’s just frustrating to sit here and look at the work we know is being done by tons of people in the community. Not only the people in government, or that even work for the city, but just in the city in general, that really care about this place. Then we look at the options we have available to us to fund moving forward, and man, that’s a tough gig to try to sell. And then just road blocks. You know.

Last modified June 25, 2015

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