Plans for a forthcoming hotel were the central topic at Fairfield Bay’s City Council meeting Monday night, Sept. 11.
The meeting opened with a public hearing regarding the need for the city to issue a bond in order to finance the infrastructure needed for the hotel, such as parking. The bond issue, as proposed, was for an amount “not to exceed” $600,000 in the ordinance title, although the actual amount would be $525,000 in a bid accepted later that night.
City of Fairfield Bay Mayor Paul Wellenberger reported to the packed gathering his reasons for supporting the bond issue, and why it was a good fit for the city. Over a series of slides Wellenberger explained, first, the relationship between Cobblestone and the city, which he described as a “good fit,” and then the revenue lost to the city by there not being a hotel in place - an estimated loss of 27,624 room nights for the community.
The revenue loss was centered on the city having a conference center, but no hotel to provide lodging for conference center guests. Guests current used condos in the area, but those had restrictions which made them not always attractive to groups considering the conference center for events.
The numbers, Wellenberger presented, were viable, with a $50,000 a year requirement for bond service which should be more than met based on revenue projections - most notably the franchise fee which will directly support the bond issue. In addition to this was the jobs the hotel would bring with an estimated yearly payroll of $300,000.
After the mayor completed his presentation the floor was opened for questions. What public statements made were all in favor of the hotel and the city’s bond issue in support of the hotel. First to speak was council member Doyle Scroggins, who declared the growing possibility of a hotel “the most exciting times” he’s experience in his four years on the council.
Others spoke up in an orderly fashion, included pointing out that this was a much more viable, and exciting, prospect than the 2009 effort by the Community Club to finance a $6.4 million hotel. This 2009 effort failed when financing was not available.
An informal survey of those in attendance indicated favor for the bond issue.
Later in the meeting, under new business, the council passed an ordinance authorizing the bond issue, and in turn passed a resolution to accept the bid from Regions Bank for the bond, one of four banks which bid.
It was emphasized several times through the proceedings that the bond would not be issued prior to the hotel’s commitment to building at Fairfield Bay. Wellenberger, who during the council meeting said his expectation from the hotel being built had gone from “cautiously optimistic” to “optimistic” said a recent conversation with a principal indicated they were very close to completing the steps to initiate commitment to a hotel.
Representatives of Stephens, Inc. were on hand to marshall the bond process, including the reading of the ordinance, a 15 page document, read by Wellenberger - a required step for a ordinance to be created. Melissa Walsh with Stephens said it was striking that the city had several financial institutions as bidders willing to take on the bond. This was due to the city’s stability, the council was told.
A hard date for bond issuance was not established, as it is pending commitment by Cobblestone.
Other matters during the council meeting:
Wellenberger announced the city’s financial position “continues to improve. Budget committee is due to present at the Nov. 13 council meeting.
Police department is training additional officers at the state Criminal Investigations Division as Investigators.
The Fire Department now has a parade fire truck, a 1938 truck purchased for $4,500. The department funded the purchase by its firefighters buying their own t-shirts for the past two years.
EMS is now a training site and has a waiting list on those who wish to be trained. Interview for the next class of trainees is starting shortly.
Eric Ekhoff presented to the council the multi-department response to Hurricane Havey and what the teams had to contend with on the trip to Texas (reported in last week’s Van Buren County Democrat).