Aldermen express frustration at why and how city is helping pay for housing, hotel studies

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Alderman Jeff Bergman, R-2, expresses his frustration about the expenditure of city money to fund a housing study and a hotel study while speaking with City Planner Chuck Bevelheimer during Monday's City Council meeting. | David Adam

QUINCY — Near the end of a relatively benign meeting of the Quincy City Council on Monday night, Jeff Bergman, R-2, expressed dissatisfaction for how a comprehensive housing study, rejected three weeks ago by alderman, is going to be paid for. 

Aldermen rejected by an 11-2 vote on Oct. 3 a resolution to spend no more than $12,500 on a hotel market feasibility study. Most aldermen believed another entity like the Great River Economic Development Foundation (GREDF) or the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau should foot the bill for the study.

Aldermen then tabled last week spending $25,000 on a separate comprehensive housing study after learning from City Planner Chuck Bevelheimer that GREDF received a $54,000 state grant to pay for the bulk of a study. Instead, the city will spend $7,000 and Adams County will spend $7,500 to fully fund the GREDF study.

Bevelheimer sent a memo to aldermen last week explaining the hotel market feasibility study was to be paid for by the city, the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Oakley-Lindsay Center, with each chipping in $4,000.

The City Council does not vote on expenditures of more than $7,500. Regardless, Bergman still wasn’t happy.

“I guess my frustration here is none of the parties listed included the City Council,” Bergman said. He then admitted the expenditure “was done the proper way.”

“That’s why we sent the memo, to make sure you guys were informed on what we were doing,” Bevelheimer said. 

“It kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth after the discussion and vote previously on the housing study from the council on how the rest of the council feels about this,” Bergman replied. “I’m not comfortable with this. I don’t appreciate it. It seems underhanded against the council. I understand the administration and your department has every right to do this, according to the way the spending structure is set up. 

“But it basically feels like you’re circumventing the City Council.”

“I’m sorry. Did you say it was done improper?” Bevelheimer asked.

“Yes, it was done properly … but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” Bergman said.

Patty Maples, D-6, asked if aldermen could vote to lower the amount of money to be spent without the council’s approval. She was told that could happen.

Mayor Mike Troup then defended the study. He said three hotel operators have been looking for property in Quincy to build hotels that would each be an investment of approximately $20 million. He said each operator asked if an independent market study had been done, and Troup said one hadn’t been done for years but he was interested in getting one done.

“We checked with groups that can perform that kind of work, and we got a price of $12,000 from a group out of Wisconsin,” he said. “There’s a lot of good benefits that come out of another $40 million to $60 million of investment in our community, so I thought it was a prudent thing to do, because we’ve been talking about the need for mobile, more hotel rooms, since I got sworn.”

When the hotel market feasibility study was rejected, Troup said one of the aldermen asked about teaming up with GREDF, the hotel-motel association or the visitors bureau to share the cost.

“I told Chuck, ‘Can you go off and talk to visitors and tourists? Can you talk to the other groups to see what support we can get to perform the studies?’” Troup said. “We found groups that are willing to participate both on the hotel market study and on the housing study, and it was within the parameters of what this council has authorized administration to work for. … Nothing was done to keep the information away from the council.”

Mike Farha, R-4, then supported Bergman’s concern about the city paying for either study.

“I was one who said it’s not our responsibility, and I still believe it’s not our responsibility,” he said. “Look, if you’ve got $10 million to put into a hotel investment, you don’t need us or some outfit in Wisconsin to tell you what the return is. If you’re smart enough that you’ve accumulated that kind of capital, you don’t need our help.

“I think GREDF can afford to do it. They’re charged with economic development. I’ve seen over my lifetime, we’re not looking for jobs. We’re not looking for industrial jobs. We’re not looking for head of household jobs or whatever the hell you want to call it … to now some idea that we can be an adult daycare for people. I’m sorry, we’re on the wrong track.”

Aldermen eventually approved a proposal for the finance committee to review the $7,500 spending limit at its next meeting.

“It’s not so much a problem with the study and hopefully the results that can come out of the study as much as it is the funding mechanism and the way it was done,” Bergman said after the meeting.

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