VANDERBURGH COUNTY COUNCILSPECIAL MEETING

MARCH 30, 2005

 

The Vanderburgh County Council held a special meeting on March 30, 2005 in room 301 of the Civic Center Complex. The meeting was called to order at 3:15 p.m. by County Council President Lloyd Winnecke.


President Winnecke: Good afternoon. I’d like to welcome everyone to the special meeting of the Vanderburgh County Council. We’ll begin with attendance roll call please.

                                                                               

COUNCILMEMBER

PRESENT

ABSENT

Councilmember Tornatta

X

 

Councilmember Sutton

X

 

Councilmember Abell

X

 

Councilmember Goebel

X

 

Councilmember Raben

 

X

Councilmember Wortman

X

 

President Winnecke

X

 


President Winnecke: Would you please stand and join in the Pledge of Allegiance, please?


(Pledge of Allegiance was given)


TOURISM CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT FUND APPROPRIATION


President Winnecke: Good afternoon. Its nice to see such a large crowd turn out to see local government in action. We have several people who have indicated a willingness to speak to the issue of approving the Convention & Visitors Bureau request for 1.2 million dollars in funding for the LST Project. I would like to ask each speaker to be as succinct as possible as we do have a regularly scheduled meeting to follow and it has a full agenda as well. So at this time I would entertain a motion to approve the 1.2 million dollar request from the Convention & Visitors Bureau.


Councilmember Wortman: I make a motion for approval.


Councilmember Sutton: Second.


President Winnecke: We have a motion and a second. At this time I’d like to open it up for discussion. I know Mr. Davis is in the crowd. Would you like to come forward? Good afternoon. If you would, state your name for the record.


Steve Davis: Good afternoon, my name is Steve Davis. I live at 1327 E. Illinois Street. I came here today to express my support for this project. I think its going to be a great project but, as with every project of this size, its not without some questions that I would like to bring to you that some of you probably don’t even know this. I spoke with Greg Lamar at length yesterday in regards to the funding of this project, at which time he gave me the draft for review purposes only of the construction cost that the Visitors Bureau used – this is the information they used to decide to put this to a vote. The estimated costs were done by Ron Riecken, the president of Inland Marina. He is the one that actually drew up these costs, he is the one that came up with this information and, as far as I know, with the exception of one barge that’s 60 by 20, another barge that’s 300 by 50, a ramp that’s 100 by 8 and two dolphins that float, everything other than that has not been done by an independent source. Its been done by the property owner himself. Another question I have in regards to this is, when we do build this down there, which I think will happen, the property owner is going to be Inland Marina, who Ron Riecken is the president of, the property assesses for $417,000 and the county is looking at – the city is asking that the investment of 1.8 million dollars go on this property, to which I say for a $417,000 price tag, why don’t we just buy it, own it, and forget the lease of $50,000 a year for a ten year – the proposed lease now is for ten years at $50,000 a year with two ten-year extensions, which if we took the full 30 years, it would be a 1.5 million dollar lease agreement for mooring rights. Again, this is on property that’s only worth $413,000 or $417,000. I’ve got the paperwork here to confirm that through the Assessor’s Office. If and when this boat dock gets built, I want to say right now, I think this should happen. I really do. I think its great. My kids went down there. We loved it. I loved it. It’s a great thing. If the city does this right, which very rarely happens, but if the city does this right, this could possibly and potentially be the greatest thing that its ever done. Its just, I think we need to re-evaluate who is the property owner, how much this property is really worth, how much money are we going to give to this property owner when we vacate the premises, if we do, or would it be just simply, just as simple to eminent domain the property, buy it, let the city annex it in, fix up Waterworks Road, which the county is going to have to now try to figure out an influx of traffic problems once this gets going, so that would become the city’s headache and that would be great, because its their project, its their boat, and they’re going to reap the benefits of this. I’m not asking that you don’t vote...I guess, I don’t want you to vote against it, I just don’t want anybody to vote today. If we could just have everybody hold off on the votes until some of these things can be done and we could confirm some of these prices for the construction projects. I mean, we’re looking at one million dollars of taxpayer dollars going to be down there at – that’s Ron Riecken’s estimate. And last I heard he owned Inland Marina, I didn’t know he was an engineer. Some of those are site work for $250,000 a year, or $250,000. The land lease is $250,000 for five years. Maintenance, I mean, who did the maintenance study? He says for maintenance for five years, its going to be $150,000. I’d like to know who that is because that’s cheap. Insurance for the property and miscellaneous dredging, drift removal is going to be $146,000. As well as installation of cranes and tow boats, engineering, I didn’t know he was an engineer, and electrical services. And unless he’s got an electrical company that I don’t know about, we’re taking his word for everything here. We need to say to the city of Evansville, come back with some real numbers from real people other than the person that owns the property that’s going to monetarily gain from this proposal, and we’ll vote. That’s all I’m asking you to do. Thank you.


President Winnecke: Any questions of Mr. Davis? Thank you, sir.


Steve Davis: Thank you.


President Winnecke: Appreciate it. Mr. Barnhart, would you like to come forward? Please state your name for the record.


Richard Barnhart: My name is Richard Barnhart and I live at 4400 Stringtown Road here in Evansville. And I commend Mr. Davis for doing a spectacular job there. My question is, has anyone on the Council ever seen a plan for the expenditure of this money you’re about to vote on?


President Winnecke: We have.


Richard Barnhart: There is a plan?


President Winnecke: Its before us, yeah.


Richard Barnhart: When did you receive it?


President Winnecke: It was emailed to all the Councilmembers last week or the week before by the Mayor’s office, which was part of the city’s application to the Convention & Visitors Bureau.


Richard Barnhart: I guess my problem then is that this plan has not been, in my estimation, properly put out through the media to the general public. I don’t think they know what’s happening. And I think if they did know, you’d probably have a bigger audience than you do.


President Winnecke: Okay. Any other questions of Mr. Barnhart? Thank you, sir. Any other folks that would like to speak opposing this action today or the consideration thereof today? In that case, I’d like to invite Mr. George Rehnquist from the LST committee to step forward.


George Rehnquist: My name is George Rehnquist, I’m a retired lawyer from Princeton, Indiana. I’m president of and chairman of the local LST committee. I’m also president of the tourism bureau in Princeton/Gibson County, Indiana, so I do understand some of the issues that are before you today as to the relevance and the importance of what you’re about to do here. I might give you just a little bit of background. I’m going to have other people speak more to the technicalities of what we’re talking about today. I realize an issue certainly in hearing Mr. Davis’ concerns that there may be some potential conflict because of the location of where this ship and the dockage might go. I want to explain a couple of things: one, we’re talking about the LST a lot today but we’re really talking about a dock that is not only going to benefit the LST but is going to benefit other ships and boats that will come into Evansville. So don’t lose sight of the fact that we’re talking about a bigger picture than just the LST. The other thing that I think that is important to also understand is, I think Evansville has an opportunity to create a real niche in tourism, something that every community, I know my community is always looking for, and I think certainly Evansville/Vanderburgh County has an opportunity here to do that. We all want to try to find unique things that no other community has, and I certainly think that would be a marvelous opportunity, not only just for the LST, but to, once again, be able to call Evansville River City and make it really effective in this part of the country. Let me address a little bit about the property and the location. Two years ago when the boat came here on a very temporary basis, I was one of many that went to the Corps of Engineers and I was the spokesman for the group, to talk about where that location might be. And at the time, we really were talking about possibly putting it somewhere near the gambling boat, at the Aztar boat, because they had provided some space not along side it, but near it, that could be used possibly as a dockage place. When we made that presentation to the Corps, the Corps absolutely said that was not available to us. In the course of making that presentation, we also talked about other sites that either had been discussed with us or we had even tried to do some engineering work on. One of those sites was Bristol-Myers, and early on when we first started to talk about the possibility of the LST coming two years ago, Bristol-Myers came to us, they were a part of our committee and indicated that they would like for us to at least look at that site because that’s where the ships were manufactured. Not this particular one, but ships generally were manufactured there. They even did some engineering work on a possible site, and again, this is a temporary site. Because of the elevations of that parking lot to where the water line is there, and the cost of actually preparing the site, it was going to cost in, literally, in the amount of millions of dollars to do it, somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three million dollars, so we ruled out that site at that point. And to the best of my knowledge, a site there has never been offered to us at any time. But we also know that the Corps of Engineers told us at my meeting two years ago, that that was the worst site for us to come into. I have some maps. Let me – Pat, you want to hand me those maps -- and you have a map, I think, in front of you right here, that talks in terms of what this looks like. This is a map of the river itself to give you some idea of where the channel is. The channel is basically –


President Winnecke: George, would you take the microphone with you?


George Rehnquist: Sure. The channel of the river – let me put this up on this – actually runs where you see the white part of the river here and as you see the blue, this is where it gets close to the property line. And the only place that there is enough distance is right here at point N on your map, at point N on your map. And that’s why the Corps of Engineers told us that at that time that the only location on the river that they would allow for that ship to be docked temporarily, this was two years ago, was point N, which is Marina Pointe. Now I’ll be very honest with you, that when we started talking about a permanent location of the ship, that we recognized that Marina Pointe was going to raise some eyebrows because it was going to appear to be somewhat of a conflict of interest. And had we had another site to go to, we probably would have considered it stronger simply to try to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest. But we did not have that choice, nor do we have it now once we talked to the Corps of Engineers one more time. And they have indicated to us that if that ship is going to stay in the water, that it can only go at Marina Pointe. I might also point out, and you’re going to hear in a few minutes when Mr. Greg Lamar talks to you about this that any use of that area is first going to have to be appraised so that its not just arbitrarily assigned a dollar value, that’s going to be required by the city and he will go into more detail about that. So I guess to explain in summary very quickly because I want him to add in more details, but I think, a couple of things, one, the choice of a location was not our choice of a location, it was the Corps of Engineers, and they are the ones that control if its in the water, where its going to go on the river. And that has to be at Marina Pointe. We have not been given the opportunity to locate it anywhere else on the river and even if we had, the Corps of Engineers has already told us that the only location that we can put that ship at this point, if its in the water, is at Marina Pointe. And lastly, and not insignificantly because you’re talking about tourism dollars here, its extremely important, I think, to invest money that comes from your tourism and your convention bureau in a project that will, in fact, increase the use of your hotels and motels in this community. And I am firmly convinced that providing this dock, not only for the LST but for other pleasure ships that can come in here, will, in fact, do that. I think the investment of 1.2 million dollars has the possibility of being a win-win situation in that not only will it increase tourism and find a niche for Evansville and Vanderburgh County, it will also return money on that investment. Thank you.


President Winnecke: Any questions for Mr. Rehnquist? Mr. Geobel and then we’ll come all the way around.


Councilmember Goebel: Mr. Rehnquist, did anyone from your group actually contact Bristol-Myers about that location or is this mainly hearsay to your group?


George Rehnquist: When you say contact about, we worked with them very closely when we first started to talk about bringing in the ship on a temporary basis. And some of their engineers actually designed a portable dock or a temporary dock and a walkway down to that dock for us and we worked with them extensively for, I would say, a period of probably six weeks. Tom Lonnberg and I met with them on many occasions to look at their plans and to walk through those plans with them. So yes, we did talk to them about it.


President Winnecke: Mr. Wortman?


Councilmember Wortman: Yeah, the people that you’re talking to about the property, they would possibly file a conflict of interest statement, wouldn’t they?


George Rehnquist: I think they would. I can’t speak for them, but I would think they would, yes.


Councilmember Wortman: And then, you’re from Princeton, Gibson County?


George Rehnquist: Yes, I’m from Princeton, Gibson County.


Councilmember Wortman: Well, you’ve done pretty good with Toyota up there.


George Rehnquist: Thank you, sir. We’re pretty proud of that.


President Winnecke: Ms. Abell?


Councilmember Abell: Mr. Rehnquist, I do have some questions.


George Rehnquist: Yes, ma’am.


Councilmember Abell: Does your figure of 1.2 or 1.7 million, whatever, depending on the 650,000 from the city, does that include the cost that its going to cost the taxpayers to upgrade Waterworks Road to make sure that there is safe transportation to this facility?


George Rehnquist: No, ma’am, it does not.


Councilmember Abell: Have you gotten any estimates that you know how much its going to cost our taxpayers to upgrade that road?


George Rehnquist: We have not.


Councilmember Abell: Okay. You said that the Army Corps of Engineers actually looked at the Bristol-Myers site a few years ago. Have they looked at it since?


George Rehnquist: I don’t know that they have. They were so definite at the time that we talked to them that my guess is that it wasn’t necessary to, but I can’t say that for them.


Councilmember Abell: Weren’t they definite that since we didn’t have any money to make that property safe that they couldn’t grant a temporary, but now that we’re talking about spending a tremendous amount of money to upgrade something, we certainly could have the opportunity to talk to them again and see if the investment -- if you’ve got enough money you can do just about anything you want to do.


George Rehnquist: No, ma’am, that was not the problem. The problem was that this is an extremely dangerous part of the river right here, according to the Corps of Engineers. Their great fear is that if a ship comes into this bend, and if it ever loses its engines or its direction, this is exactly where it goes is right in here, and that was their main reason for not wanting us to go there is because of the danger of the river at that point. It had nothing to do at all with the construction or the appearance of the dockage at that point. It was simply the location on the river of that bend.


Councilmember Abell: And cutting back into the area where Pigeon Creek empties into the Ohio River was never considered for dredging purposes and putting it there?


George Rehnquist: We did not talk to them about that.


Councilmember Abell: I didn’t think so. You mention a conflict of interest – I just want you to know that I have no problem with any conflict of interest. I think its pretty well known that this property is owned by the Mayor’s Parks Director, and that’s not a secret, so there’s no problem with a conflict of interest. You say that the property must first be appraised and that someone else is going to address that. I haven’t been a councilman very long, but I’ve been in elected office for a long time, and I, in fact, put in a multi-million dollar project in the courts building for computers and I put in the voter system, new electronic, and I was never allowed nor did I ever approach anyone to make a vote on anything that they didn’t have the figures tied down yet, so I think we’re being very premature to vote on anything when you’re telling us that it hasn’t been appraised yet. My only other question is, do you pay property taxes in Vanderburgh County, Mr, Rehnquist?


George Rehnquist: No, ma’am, I don’t.


Councilmember Abell: Thank you.


President Winnecke: Councilman Sutton, did you have any questions?


Councilmember Sutton: Yes, I do. Really, I’ve just got basically one question, as you were beginning to talk about the location, the Marina Pointe location, if you could give us maybe a little bit more information to the best of your ability about your discussions with the Corps and why that particular site is deemed to be more safe than say any other points. I know you had just mentioned earlier about the bend there, but talk about that particular site there and why that it poses maybe no issue for the Corps.


George Rehnquist: Well, let me talk about that side and other parts of the river. If you sat in the museum offices, for instance, and you watched ships enter into this bend, you’d almost feel like that ship was going to come right into your front door, because when they come into that bend, they absolutely hug the shore line because that’s the deepest part of the river right there. Although this down in here, which is point N, doesn’t appear to be very large, where that ship will rest is right in here, right where it says 350 on your map, and that is the widest part of the river where its away from the bank and between the bank and the channel, and that’s why that location is the very best. Now at the same time, the other thing about that, that is the best on part of it is, that you’re not in the bend at that point. You’re in a straight point. You’ve either cleared the bend if you’re coming this direction and then you haven’t started the bend yet at that point, so that’s the reason. If you look at the river, this absolutely is the largest part right here that is between the channel and the shoreline.


Councilmember Sutton: I can recall, I had the fortune of serving on the Mayor’s riverboat gaming committee that poured through all the different applications, and one of the last pieces of that process when we were approved for our riverboat license down here in Evansville, was the Army Corps of Engineers giving their approval to the site that was selected. And that process came very, very late and made a lot of people quite nervous about when they were actually going to get that approval. But what was very clear was that the Army Corps did make the decision on anything related to locations of anything along that river and no decision was going to be made about anything until the Army Corps made their decision on it. I guess the other thing that I was interested in with this particular site, if the cost that we have before us today, is it to be my assumption that these are on the high side or we’re looking at this, because if the costs come in lower or higher, have you given some consideration on how that would be addressed?


George Rehnquist: I haven’t personally, and again, these costs are the best estimate that can be obtained. Mr. Davis talked a little bit about the fact that he felt that Mr. Riecken went out and got, he came up with these costs. In fact, Mr. Riecken went out and got bids from various people that he works with to find out whether the costs would be – now, when I say works with, I don’t mean somebody that’s in business with him, but this man works on the river, obviously, and has one of the best knowledges of what it costs to do work on the river. And so the costs that he put together were not his estimate. He didn’t pull these out of the top of his head. He went out and talked to people to find out what an estimate would be from them if they put this together or if they provided material for it.


Councilmember Sutton: Thank you.


President Winnecke: Mr. Tornatta?


George Rehnquist: I have just one comment. I can appreciate Mrs. Abell’s concern that I am not a resident of this county. The thing is, I think the value to this operation is that its going to be something that its going to impact a lot of counties, not just Vanderburgh County. Folks, you want something, if you’re looking for a piece of tourism in this county, you don’t want to just attract people that live in Vanderburgh County. They already have a place to stay. They don’t need to stay in your hotels and your motels. You want people to come in from outside that aren’t residents, that aren’t paying taxes in your county because that’s what’s going to benefit the investment that you make of 1.2 million dollars. That’s the opportunity you’re going to have to get a return on that. Mr. Tornatta?


Councilmember Tornatta: I guess I have a couple of comments and my one comment is, as long as I have dealt with and known people to do deal with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Army Corps runs their own agenda and they run on their own time, and they run on their own ideas. And they don’t allow anybody else’s ideas to come and cross between theirs. So I really don’t have a problem with where the Army Corps has put this project because if they said it should go in the middle of Dress Plaza, we’d be talking about Dress Plaza right now. I don’t necessarily buy the idea that a business owner must sell his or her business and/or property because a position has come up and to say that in this case, although some call it a conflict of interest, a person that’s in a position that they have a piece of property that is wanted more now than it was in the past, should be taken away from them because they would get financial gain on this. So I really don’t buy into that. And the third point I’d like to make is I think it is the duty of the Mayor and his administration to try and make sure that this project does come in under budget. That’s what we all try and do here on the Council and the City Council, and I believe that it will be up to him at that point to make sure that that does come in under budget and I put my faith that those things will be taken care of in a time and manner that will positively affect everybody in this area. No questions, I apologize, but a few comments as we went around the room.


President Winnecke: One last question from Mr. Wortman and then we’re going to move on. We have two other speakers.


Councilmember Wortman: Two things. We’ve got two events staged on the river: the boat races and them jets. Will they interfere with the boat?


George Rehnquist: No, they won’t. You might recollect that when the jets come in, there is a segment of the community that has to be kind of cleared at that point and obviously, that misses this boat, this ship. The other thing is, in the contract that we have negotiated with the LST, part of when they must stay here in the community is during that time that you have Thunder. So that is an important time for them to stay.


Councilmember Wortman: Thank you. You answered my question.


President Winnecke: Mr. Geobel, and then we’ll go on.


Councilmember Goebel: I was just hoping, President Winnecke, you might, once again, emphasize where this 1.2 million dollars, from what source its going to come so we can maybe let the property taxpayers in Vanderburgh County understand where this 1.2 is coming from.


President Winnecke: The Tourism Capital Development Fund, which is funded through the Innkeeper Tax. Okay, next we’ll go on to Mr. Vezzoso, who represents the Convention & Visitors for today.


Joe Vezzoso: Mr. Winnecke and the County Councilmembers, it’s a pleasure to appear before you. Laura is passing out some information. I know that we’ve already went over our time that you’ve allotted, but I’ll be as quick as possible. A little bit about the tourism industry in Vanderburgh County: Certec did a report for us, it’s the second report that we commissioned them to do. The first report was done in 2001. You have an excerpt from that report. Most of you have a full copy of that report. I will provide the new Councilmembers with those copies. I didn’t realize how many new members we have, but I’ll make sure that you all have a copy of that report. The tourism and travel industry contributed nearly 432 million dollars to our 2003 economy in Vanderburgh County. Direct expenditures by tourists, people that come in town and they stay in hotel rooms or they spend money for gasoline, eat in our restaurants and all other types of activities amounted to about 313 million dollars. If you take Aztar out of that picture, it still amounted to about 189 million dollars in revenues to our community. The tourism industry accounts for about 6,000 jobs in Vanderburgh County. The tourism industry generated 90.6 million dollars in wages in 2003. We had a little over 4 million visitors to our community in the year 2003. The per person expenditure per day, and remember this is per person, if they’re here and staying in lodging, its about 80 dollars per person, so if it’s a husband and wife, that would be about 160 dollars a day. If they’re going to one of our attractions, the Reitz Home, Burdette Park or some other attraction in Vanderburgh County, you’re looking at about 20 dollars a day. If they’re coming in just to visit family, they’re going to spend around 55 or 56 dollars a day. If they’re passing through, if they’re just driving through our community, its estimated that they spend somewhere around 32 dollars per person. And if they’re staying in one of our campgrounds, such as at Burdette Park, they’re spending around 47 dollars. As you can see, the addition of the LST to our existing attractions, like the museum, Burdette Park, golf courses, the zoo, the new Central Library, the Reitz Home, the soccer complex, the ice skating arena, The Centre, the Victory, and the many others, would be a great asset to our ability to attract additional conventions and additional tourism to Vanderburgh County. When the LST was here in July of 2003, we had 11 military groups that had called to pre-book their conventions knowing that the LST was coming to Evansville. We estimate very conservatively that that generated about $413,000 in direct economic development to our community. Over 35,000 people toured the LST, resulting in an additional $300,000 in boarding fees, sales for the ship, and an impact of probably around 1.1 million dollars. We have made inquiries, the convention bureau has made inquiries to the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, the RiverBarge Excursions, and we have received interest from those folks in coming back to our community. The Delta Queen currently docks in Henderson, Kentucky because the Corps will not allow her to dock at Dress Plaza because she sticks too far out into our channel. With this docking facility, we could again maybe attract the Delta Queen to come back to our community, offload those passengers, they could see the LST, they could go to the casino, they could shop, they could visit our museums, and other activities in the downtown area. I’m going to try to skip over some of this because I know you all can read it and I know we’re in a hurry. There are certain cultural things I think we need to look at, the educational venue with the LST here. There’s a lot of students out there that didn’t know anything about the second World War and this certainly would be a great activity for them to be able to go to the LST and see it firsthand. I have been to other communities, Mobile, Alabama, where the USS Alabama is docked, that’s where the current LST is for repairs. Charleston, South Carolina where they have an aircraft carrier, they have a submarine and they also have a Coast Guard tender, and all those communities and the impact numbers are in your packet, see significant increases in tourism because of those types of activities in their community. Just for your information for some of you new Councilmembers, just so you know the funding mechanism here, the Tourism Capital Improvement fund is funded in the following manner: collection is made by the lodging industry on every room night in Vanderburgh County. Currently, the total Innkeeper’s Tax for Vanderburgh County is six percent and is divided in the following way: two and a half percent is for the operation of the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau and the promotion of Vanderburgh County tourism and convention business. Two percent goes to offset the operating deficit at The Centre, at about 750,000 per year. And the one and a half percent that’s left goes into the Tourist Capital Improvement Fund for other tourism related capital projects. Just for example, we have done the rehab on the Pagoda, which was a building that was in very deplorable shape on our river front and now with the Greenway there, it is a beautiful facility and is used extensively by the residents of Vanderburgh County and also the visitors into our community. We relocated the museum train, we built the construction, we did the construction of the transportation center for the Evansville Museum. We renovated the Reitz Home carriage house and repainted the exterior of the home. We made a contribution to the Signature School for additional meeting space that was needed at the time. We made a contribution of a million and a half dollars to Vanderburgh County Convention Center for construction. We have done roads and repaving at the 4-H Center. We have made a contribution, a major contribution to the Goebel Soccer Complex, we have made numerous contributions to Burdette Park and we have done funding assistance for the African/American Museum, which is currently on the tables. The total income to this fund, the Tourism Capital Development Fund, since its inception in 1994 has been about $6,900,000. Total amount of projects funded through the bureau and with the authority of the County Council has been about six and a half million dollars. These amounts do not include the over three and a half million dollars that is being contributed to the operation of The Centre. The Evansville Convention and Visitors Commission is made up of seven appointed members from all three governmental bodies of Vanderburgh County. The two members appointed by the County Council are Mr. David Dunn and Miss Gloria Altman. The two members appointed by the County Commissioners are myself and Mr. Jeff Korb. And three members appointed by the Mayor’s office, Mr. Jim Brown, Mr. Mike Belwood, and the president of our commission, Ms. Bev Oswald. The commission must be made up of three persons from the hotel industry, and the rest from the general population. Each of the appointed bodies is required to appoint one hotelier to the commission. The Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau met on Tuesday, March 22nd, at a public meeting, and received public input on the matter before you. All appointed commissioners were present and upon motion, unanimous approval was given to the request of the city of Evansville for the funding of the LST docking facilities with a recommendation that we bring this decision to you, the County Council, with a recommendation for your approval. The request, the appropriation, in the amount of $1,200,000, to be paid to the city of Evansville over the next five years. A copy of the Tourism Capital Improvement fund analysis and projections is at the back of the packet I just gave you. There are a couple of years where that fund is very slim. We have shown growth in the money coming in. And I will tell you that we have experienced growth in the hotel industry in Vanderburgh County over the last four years. Each year we see a little increase in the number of room accommodations. We have also seen an increase in the average daily rate which is the rate that hotels get on an average basis. So we, as hoteliers, feel that we are going to continue to see growth in our community because of our Centre, and the activities between the Convention Bureau and The Centre and the downtown hotels and other hotels attracting conventions to our community. We feel, Sir and Councilmembers, that this is a tremendous project. It improves our river front. Once again, we will be able to go from Aztar all the way down and past the museum and that camp, as we expand that, its just great and beautiful. I would like to address one thing about the traffic. I know that when Royce sat on the committee for the riverboat there was concern that when the riverboats were talking about bringing all these people in on busses, that these busses were going to end up in our historic preservation area and our downtown streets, and I can tell you that none of that ever occurred. I lived in the downtown area at that time and unless you really are coming into Evansville and going to the casino, I don’t think the residents of Vanderburgh County really realized the casino is there. You don’t see the influx of traffic into that facility and I think the same is true with this. You know, is it going to bring people? Yes. But I don’t think you’re going to see hundreds of thousands of cars going down into that facility all at one time. So we would recommend that you all look upon this recommendation favorably, and if you have any questions, I’d be glad to try to answer them.


President Winnecke: Any questions for Mr. Vezzoso? Mr. Sutton?


Councilmember Sutton: One question. Mr. Vezzoso, you mentioned that when the LST was here two years ago that during that ten day period, it had 35,000 visitors. Have we had another event here locally that’s produced those kind of numbers for any activity that’s supported by the tourism board or just on its own?


Joe Vezzoso: Other than the casino? No. You know, our closest one would be the Frog Follies. That attracts the most tourism related visitors into our community. Of course, it fills our city and it fills outside of our city. It fills up into the Princeton area and into the Henderson County area and even into the Owensboro area, so the Frog Follies is truly our largest hotel producing event in the community. This particular thing created a lot of tourism, that’s counting the local people that went in, the people from the Henderson, you know, the day drive people that can drive here in a day. Its not necessarily all overnight.


Councilmember Sutton: So the answer to the question being, outside of the Frog Follies –


Joe Vezzoso: This would be the top event, yes.


President Winnecke: Other questions of Mr. Vezzoso? Thank you, sir. Last speaker, Mr. Greg Lamar, representing the city.


Greg Lamar: Good afternoon. I’m Greg Lamar, the Executive Director of the Department of Metropolitan Development. I did pass out a little packet with information by your desks. Again, what I’ll try to do is quickly move through a number of points that I think people have raised concerns about. On the question of the location of the dock, I think its been talked about quite a bit. The real key is the Corps makes the choice, and they have made it very plain to us on a number of occasions that where we are putting it, that is the Inland Marina area, is the place for it to be. I think one point that should be pointed out here in all of this, is that, again, when we signed the first basic understanding of having the LST actually locate here in Evansville, that was December 28th, actually, we have to have a dock ready for the LST to dock here in Evansville in July of 2005. I mean, that’s the drop dead date, if you will. So that’s one location, again, the shipping channel issue is really what has a major impact on where we can locate. The municipal dock design, again, what we’re doing is going through a permitting process with the Corps. It has included the Coast Guard, the Department of Natural Resources and the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources, to get the permits required as we do this. In fact, what we are doing, and this makes the most difficult part to understand is, we’re doing what’s called a design build program. While we’re doing the design, we’re trying to do some of the building and that’s, again, because of the short time frame and deadline of July. I wish we had all the answers right now because I would feel a lot more comfortable because we would have everything all designed and everything was all done. Unfortunately, that’s not the case because of the various parties that we have to have involved in our decision making process. The application that you have that the city submitted to the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau had a draft design or, if you will, a draft budget on the thing. What we did was, before we went any place with that, we did get some confirmation from Stanley Consultants out of Iowa, who are our consultants now, to make sure that the numbers were somewhat in line. Secondly, we have, in fact, hired Stanley Consultants, who are also engaged by Aztar, to do the flood wall and actually did the design for putting the Aztar boat there. That’s who we’ve engaged to work with us to get the municipal dock done. Part of the whole design issue, of course, is not only the location, but how we meet other requirements including, for example, ADA and most importantly, of course, is making sure that the Corps in happy with the design because they have the ultimate approval of what the design is that’s in the river. The permit, itself, is actually a construction permit for five years. I know there’s been a question about it’s a five year permit. Basically, the permit allows us five years to do the work. Once the work is done, it can be there for as long as you want. Its only when there’s additional facilities added and/or you have to do additional dredging that you have to go for an additional permit. In other words, once its done, although it’s a five year permit for the construction, its an indefinite period of time for the actual use of the municipal dock once its accomplished. As indicated earlier, the municipal dock is just that, a municipal dock. We’ve talked about the LST and that’s really been the springboard to really make us think about those things. But it will be a temporary docking facility for the other, the riverboats like the Mississippi Queen and other river cruise and excursion boats. The budget, again, when it was done was the budget was prepared by the LST committee. We had it confirmed and so forth. If you look through there you will see what the 1.2 million dollars is actually requested for is about $700,000 for the barges, the ramps, the dolphins. The dolphins are the pilings out in the river. In addition to that, there is additional dollars for the pinning of the barges, the engineering of that, the electrical service and site improvements that will be needed in accordance with what the Corps wants such as the rip rap around the area itself.


President Winnecke: Mr. Lamar, we need to change the tape.


(Tape changed)


President Winnecke: Okay, please proceed.


Greg Lamar: – which ends up being about 1.2 million dollars is what you were asking for out of the Tourism Capital Development Fund. In addition to that, the Redevelopment Commission did, on March 15th, approve $646,000 from our capital development fund to be used also as, if you will, our match or whatever you want to call it, for the riverboat as well. And that includes any dollars for the land lease, the actual maintenance, insurance, and miscellaneous things such as the dredging of the river, again, to get the proper depth in it, drift removal, and this type of thing. So that’s where the two numbers come from or what they actually used. The LST contract itself, that is the contract between the city and the LST Memorial Group is basically a ten-year lease with two ten-year options. The LST Memorial Group, and in the back of your packet you’ll see information that they provided to us, they’re solely responsible for the LST, on the maintenance and operation. In other words, our responsibility ends at the dock. Everything else is the responsibility of the LST Memorial Group. In fact, that’s why, as part of the contract, that they’ll be allowed to sail, if you will, two to four to six weeks around going to other ports because that is how they raise their money. That’s why they came here is to raise money and in order to keep that money flowing, they were required to get out there and go to other ports. The dock will be provided at a mutually agreeable spot and it happens to be Marina Pointe, for a dollar a year. That’s our docking fee. That is a dollar a year. The city is responsible for providing water, restroom facilities, electrical, telephone, parking, walkways, signage, and obviously a dock. In terms of the mooring rights lease, and this is the lease with Inland Marina, what we’re talking about there is, again, we’re in negotiations with Inland Marina to finalize a lease. We’ve sat down with them. Based on that lease, we will then turn it over to David Matthews who, I think, many of you know as an appraiser to value the lease agreement and what’s required by the leases. Based on what David Matthews comes up with, that will be, in fact, what will proceed in terms of the negotiations and the offer. The items itself, as part of the lease or they have to have the road easements, provide the road, the parking lot, restrooms, maintenance on those facilities and obviously, allowing the easements to attach the dock and/or the other utilities. I think one thing that’s very important, because people think we’re going to be improving Inland Marina, there seems to be a misconception that we’re going to build the road, pave the parking lot, do something to the restaurant out there. That is not the case. The only difference that you will see in terms of what we will be paying for is there will be some walkways that we’ll have to put in. There will be a walkway or a dock pad where the dock connects to the land and to the walkway and then the dock itself, plus the dolphins out in the river. That is what we’re going to be responsible for and, in fact, if for some reason after ten years something happened, the only thing that you would see is the walkway and where the docks connect to the Inland Marina area. That’s all that would actually be left would be our capital improvements. The dolphins would still be in place because those are the pilings that go into the river. I think overall, there will be additional rip rap work and dredging obviously, as we talked about, but for the most part, those are the improvements that would be responsible for Inland Marina and what we would be responsible for.


President Winnecke: Any questions of Mr. Lamar? Mr. Sutton?


Councilmember Sutton: I haven’t heard anyone speak about parking. What type of accommodations are being made because I can recall a couple of years ago when the LST was here, it was a tremendous event, much larger than maybe people had anticipated, how many parking spaces are being planned for, and does the present parking facility accommodate that or will there be some adjustments made?

Greg Lamar: We believe the current facilities probably do accommodate the amount of parking that would be required. Again, we would not be expanding the parking, but rather using the parking as it is currently.


Councilmember Sutton: And then the last question I had was related to at certain times of the year the water does get quite high over in the area and restricts the traffic flow and the road is actually blocked off, what thoughts or accommodations will be made to deal with those type of issues?


Greg Lamar: One of the things, there’s obviously the – I know one of the gates is just on the other side of the Inland Marina inlet or the road there, and then if, in fact, it gets really, really high, there’s, I guess, a second set of gates up the road. There are easements that we would also have that Inland Marina has that allows for people to go around the boat dealer’s area so that even in the, I guess unless the flood really got super, super bad, we would have access at all times to the facility there.

President Winnecke: Mr. Wortman?


Councilmember Wortman: In the contract, would there be a legal clause in there that if either side was wanting to abandon the project, would there be like a 90 day notice or six months, that either one could –


Greg Lamar: With the LST or with Inland Marina? Which one or –


Councilmember Wortman: Both. Both sides.


Greg Lamar: With the LST its basically by mutual agreement. With Inland Marina, if because of the nature of the lease, I’m sure that there will be, if we want to break the lease after five years, as with any other lease, there would probably be some sort of buy-out clause.


President Winnecke: Ms. Abell?


Councilmember Abell: Mr. Lamar, you indicate that there was an agreement signed in December of 2004?


Greg Lamar: 2004, yeah.


Councilmember Abell: Last year, December 28th, if I’m correct. And you indicate that you’re in negotiations with Inland Marina and after that, David Matthews is going to do an appraisal and then he’s going to report the appraisal, I presume, to you?


Greg Lamar: To the Redevelopment Commission.


Councilmember Abell: Then I guess my question for you is, why are we voting on this today when you don’t have all the information available for us? It seems to me this is very premature. We should be voting on this after we get the appraisal from Mr. Matthews, after we know what the lease is for. I’m concerned that after ten years, if Inland Marina decides that they don’t want to renew the lease, that’s when this money that everyone seems to talk about coming out of the Visitor’s money, gets on the back of our taxpayers, besides the fact that it will already be on their backs because they’re going to have to improve Waterworks Road because there’s no way it will hold the traffic. I don’t care how many cars you’re talking about, I was just down it Monday and it has no shoulder left on it right now from the water. So its going to have to be improved. I’m concerned about the taxpayers and I want to know why we’re rushing to vote on this today. Why can’t we put this off? You obviously have already gone ahead. You’ve signed agreements and hired a consultant, so you’ve already gone ahead without our approval of this money, so why can’t we wait until we get some answers that we can give to the constituents that have called me and asked these questions?


Greg Lamar: To try to answer, I think I got all your questions. Number one, –


Councilmember Abell: Its just one question, why can’t we wait?


Greg Lamar: Well, the agreement we’re talking about on December 28th was the Letter of Intent signed by the city and the LST Memorial Group to actually bring the LST here and it was basically outlining some of the things that are part of the negotiations. To answer specifically your question of why do we have to do it now: as I indicated, we’re talking about a, almost a build/design type of process where as we’re moving along, because of the July deadline, and it is a deadline, if we don’t meet the deadline, the LST can, in fact, pull out because it is their intent from what I understand, they’re going to be going to Boston in June to go up around for something in Boston, and then come back, and then they’ll be in Mobile on July 4th, and then it is their intent to come up river and, in fact, dock. The reason for that is that they have to have people to crew the ship and therefore, they have a very limited time frame as to given that they’re going to Boston and then come back around to get up here, and that’s why, again, the July deadline is very, very critical. I wish we did have more time. Again, I don’t know how else to – we’re trying to put it all together. I think Stanley Consultants is working with us very diligently. I think the Corps is working with us very diligently and I think that we’re trying to do the best we can given the circumstances to, in fact, get the LST as a major attraction here in Evansville.


Councilmember Abell: What if Matthews appraises this at a $25,000 a year lease and Inland Marina says nothing less than a $75,000 lease, then you still can’t meet your July deadline because you can’t get this thing negotiated. I think we’re giving up our leverage to even get the thing negotiated if we’re going to fund it before we even know what we’re funding.


Greg Lamar: Well, again, I guess if whatever David Matthews comes back with, that will be our appraisal for what we will work with and if its all of the sudden $75,000 is what Inland Marina wants, I doubt if that’s going to happen.


Councilmember Abell: I have to vote on something that may or not happen, not your doubt. I am concerned that we don’t have this tied down and we are committing funds we don’t understand.


President Winnecke: Mr. Tornatta?


Councilmember Tornatta: Yeah, when is Thunder this year? Is it –


President Winnecke: June 25th.


Councilmember Tornatta: Okay, so it will not be here this year.


Greg Lamar: It will be after Thunder. Well, I don’t know when it ends, but normally, with the agreement we have, they have to remain at dock in our dock the whole period of Thunder, but they can go on either side in terms of the voyages depending on what they can crew at.


Councilmember Tornatta: Okay, but as we have it right now, in 2005, they won’t be here for Thunder?


Greg Lamar: That’s correct.


Councilmember Tornatta: Okay.


President Winnecke: Thank you, Mr. Lamar. Oh, I’m sorry. Mr. Geobel?


Councilmember Goebel: Yes, Mr. Lamar, how long would it take the Matthews group to come up with their appraisal? It seems like this is nearly an emergency situation. I don’t know how long that it would take for them to come up with their appraisal –


Greg Lamar: We’re in the final stages of drafting the actual lease itself and then what will happen is we’ll turn that lease over to Mr. Matthews and I’m saying, I’m guessing three weeks. Again, it depends on his work schedule as well, but about three weeks. And the comparables, the one thing, in talking with Mr. Matthews was to – we indicated that we’d like to see comparables from around, so that there’s some basis for particularly the question of the mooring rights. In other words, its one thing if it was a simple ground lease, I mean, that’s fairly straight forward, but the real issue is the mooring rights of the dock. In other words, putting in the dock and mooring it on land, that’s the key question.


Councilmember Goebel: And Mr. Matthews is working on this project at the moment?


Greg Lamar: Yes, he is, gathering information.


Joe Vezzoso: Joe Vezzoso with the Convention Bureau, I might remind all of you that this fund is only bricks and mortar funding through the state. It cannot be used for anything other than capital type projects. So its for the funding of the building of the dock and those related activities and has nothing at all to do with leasing of anything.


Greg Lamar: Right, the lease and so forth will be the responsibility of the city through the Redevelopment Commission and the maintenance and operation of the dock.

Councilmember Abell: But if you can’t lease the land where are you going to build the dock if you don’t have anywhere to build it? I mean, it may just be mortar and bricks, but you’ve got to have somewhere to build it on so if you don’t get the lease –


Greg Lamar: It would not be our intent to then build a dock.


Joe Vezzoso: We’ll come back to you with another project.


Councilmember Abell: Why don’t we put this off until you don’t have to come back? Let’s do this when we know everything.


Greg Lamar: Because unfortunately, we are against a July deadline.


Councilmember Abell: You’ve been working on this without our approval up to this point. What difference does three more weeks make?


Greg Lamar: Because you’re talking about the bulk of the funding of the docking facility.


Councilmember Abell: You’re sitting on five million dollars left over from the ballpark if you really needed the money, aren’t you?


Greg Lamar: Again, what we’re looking at is applying for the Tourism Capital Development fund, which is what this is exactly is used for.


President Winnecke: One more comment and –


Councilmember Abell: But its going to be on the back of the taxpayers after ten years, that’s the problem. And these taxpayers – you don’t have a guarantee that in ten years, if you can even get the lease now for ten years – you don’t have a guarantee that in ten years you can renew the lease. That price could double, it could go up to something these people can’t afford. Vanderburgh County is taxed out right now. We can’t put this on the back of the taxpayers later.


Greg Lamar: If I may, what we’re talking about with, on the land lease, would be parallel to the LST which would be a ten year lease with two-ten year options with built-in inflators in there already.


President Winnecke: Just before we vote, and we are going to vote, I’d like to thank everyone for their input this afternoon and their patience not just this afternoon, but over the last several months as well. I think in an ideal world I don’t believe any of us would support making these improvements on private property but clearly, the location is driven by the Army Corps of Engineers. We either accept the ruling that the LST be docked at Inland Marina or, as a community, we understand that Evansville will not be home to the LST. I think its also important to note that a positive vote today solidifies our Innkeeper tax and its current funding formula through 2009. This compromise is a result of a lot of hard work between the Convention & Visitors Bureau staff and board, members of this body, members of the County Commission, the Mayor, our local legislative delegation, and this is a very important piece to our local budget. Without this collaborative effort, taxpayers will be forced to carry a much greater burden to keep The Centre open going forward and frankly, I don’t think that is an option. At this point, I call for the vote.


Teri Lukeman: Councilmember Tornatta?


Councilmember Tornatta: I’d like to welcome the LST and I vote yes.


Teri Lukeman: Councilmember Sutton?


Councilmember Sutton: That’s what the Tourism Development Fund is for. I think this is a great use for it. I vote yes.


Teri Lukeman: Councilmember Abell?


Councilmember Abell: I don’t think we know as much as we need to know, I vote no.


Teri Lukeman: Councilmember Goebel?


Councilmember Goebel: I think we owe a great debt to the men and women who served in that generation, World War II. I think we owe a great debt to the people and the greatness of this community during that era, and I think we’d be missing the boat, so to speak, if we do not support this group for ourselves, our generation, and all the future generations of children coming through Evansville to know what a great community this was and is, and I vote yes.


Teri Lukeman: Councilmember Wortman?


Councilmember Wortman: Yes.


Teri Lukeman: President Winnecke?


President Winnecke: Yes.


TOURISM CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT                  REQUESTED       APPROVED

3600-4072

LST Project

1,218,000.00

1,200,000.00

Total

 

1,218,000.00

1,200,000.00

(Motion carried 5-1/Councilmember Abell opposed)


President Winnecke: The motion passes five to one. At this point I would move that this special meeting be adjourned.


Councilmember Wortman: So moved.


Councilmember Sutton: Second.


President Winnecke: We stand adjourned.


(Meeting adjourned at 4:15 p.m.)


























VANDERBURGH COUNTY COUNCIL





                                                                                                                                             President Lloyd Winnecke                 Vice President Marsha Abell



 

       Councilmember Jim Raben           Councilmember Mike Goebel




                                                                                                                                         Councilmember Curt Wortman       Councilmember Royce Sutton




                                                                    

Councilmember Troy Tornatta


Recorded and transcribed by Teri Lukeman.