Evansville Downtown Hotel Debacle
For the record, having a well known hotel in our downtown is needed. Yes we do have the casino hotel and a boutique hotel but as a business traveler I would pick a well known brand over those two any time of a day. Why as a business traveler I have no idea how the other two stack up (yes yes we have yelp, Travelocity, etc to read reviews but compared to what!), choosing a Marriott or Hilton brand the business traveler know what to expect.
With that being said…..
What is the big fuss we had (I say had since looks like Yes vote be passed for hotel), over having HCW developer from Branson MO build a Doubletree Hotel downtown Evansville?
According to our Mayor Winnecke and HCW the hotel would cost $70 Million, so far so good, BUT the catch is our Mayor and two city councils wanted to give HCW $37.5 Million of our hard earned tax dollars. YES you heard me GIVE, not a loan but give away in a form of issuing bonds…ok let us back it of the $37.5M some of our city officials wanted to give away about $12 Million would go towards improvements of city infrastructure for hotel to be built. So in reality the city wanted to give HCW $25.5 Million as a gift to build downtown hotel, I call it a gift since city will have ZERO equity in this hotel and the money will not be repaid by HCW by us truly the citizens of Evansville (probably by new taxes or annexations).
Out of this debacle John Friend comes to rescue the city from wasting our money, he acted like any financial institution would have acted when handing over this large sum of cash, vetting the borrower or in this case the gift recipient. Well HCW be able to operate the hotel and keep those jobs or well it fold and city be left holding this huge sum of cash in bonds asking citizens to keep paying for a failed venture. Because of Friend and going out of his way to make sure the Mayor, Mr. Waver and Ms Mosby do not waste resources he was able to convince the other city member to put a stop of it.
Guess What happened?
All of a sudden the Mayor was able to “negotiate” a reduction in hotel cost for the city and reduce the amount by $6 Million…..BUT wait there is more, Friend and Co didn’t fall for this trap, no matter how they were treated or some public opinion that fell for Mayor trap said about him and rest of council members. HE held his ground by asking for more vetting time. What you know, Mayor and Co found private investors to join in and reduce the amount of city gift by another $11 Million. BUT The private investors are no Fools like our leadership, Old National Bank and Co didn’t donate or give it as a loan, the asked to be investors. They figured probably they could use and direct future meeting and small conventions not to The Center but to the Hotel that has small convention halls. Smart move on their part.
What we learn from this debacle is that:
- If Mayor with his two city councils would like to waste our money, they should have came in and offered to pay for the full hotel to be paid $70Million and negotiate to what they originally wanted (I won’t put it past government to do this bail out)
- We still have good council members that have the city benefit at hart and would fight to make sure we are not left holding …well you know what….
- Ms Mosby seems to vote yes on issues that seem to be against common sense! Her last big stand was against the smoking ban, she did NOT want to ban smoking and now if she got her way with Mayor we would have over spent by $17 Million. Mr. Weaver please make sure we don’t over spend. But if both of you are feeling that generous I have an old F-150 with over 100K Miles I can sell it to both of you for only $20K.
While newspaper called this a compromise (ok it was), I say it was going to be a grand theft, but yes glad Mayor and Co finally woke up and realized what is best for our town.