Owensboro City Commission to vote Tuesday on Executive Inn purchase

The Owensboro City Commission will be meeting Tuesday to vote on whether to move ahead with the city’s plans to purchase the closed Executive Inn Rivermont property. 

Mayor Ron Payne announced Friday that the hotel’s owners, Marshall Investments, have accepted a $5 million offer for the property on the city’s riverfront. That offer is contingent upon the commission’s approval, which the body is expected to give at Tuesday’s meeting. 

The commission will also have the first reading of a budget amendment related in part to appropriating money for downtown development. The amendment “will establish the Downtown Development and Revitalization Fund for the purchase of implementing the Downtown Master Plan,” according to the meeting’s agenda.

The noon meeting will be held in the commission’s chambers at City Hall.

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City of Owensboro to buy Executive Inn property

Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne announced this morning that the city of Owensboro is prepared to purchase the closed Executive Inn Rivermont for $5 million and raze the property to make way for future development. 

Payne said during a press conference just outside the hotel’s front doors that the city is considering opening the Executive Inn’s convention center on the east side of the 17-acre property for the next three years until a new one can be built. 

The money to purchase the hotel property and demolish the 600-room hotel will come from $7.5 million that the city and county had been prepared to spend to build a new parking garage in downtown under the recently adopted downtown master plan. 

The 17 acres around the hotel can be used for surface parking for now and the county is trying to secure funding to add more floors to the new Green River Intra County Transit System parking garage across Second Street, Payne said. 

Fred Reeves, downtown development director, said the Gateway Planning Group of Fort Worth, Texas, which did the city’s downtown master plan, will work with the community on possible uses for the property.

Read Saturday’s Messenger-Inquirer for more information. 

Executive Inn – in Paducah – reportedly sold

Although Owensboro’s own Executive Inn Rivermont still sits on the riverfront vacant and on the market, Paducah’s Executive Inn has reportedly been sold. 

The Paducah Sun is reporting that the sale went through on Tuesday, with Paducah Riverfront Hospitality taking over. 

Here’s the Associated Press story – 

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) _ The head of a group buying the Executive Inn in Paducah says the deal has been signed.

The Paducah Sun quoted Bill Parsons saying the contract was inked on Tuesday, transferring ownership from Bhupinder Singh to Paducah Riverfront Hospitality.

Parsons said the $9 million purchase should close within 10 days and renovations should begin within 20 days.

The renovation is key to keeping the American Quilter’s Society annual spring quilt show in Paducah. It draws more than 25,000 people to the city in April.

American Quilter’s Society president Meredith Schroeder held off commitment to keeping the show in Paducah, saying she thinks the sale is going to happen, but will wait until renovations begin to decide.

The sale of Owensboro’s Executive Inn is being brokered by CB Richard Ellis, which has posted the sale on its Web site and is open to receiving bids through mid-November, with the expectation of a sale being completed by the end of the year. 

Despite earlier interest, the city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court have said through Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves they don’t anticipate submitting a bid on the 17-acre property.

A closer look at the AG’s open meetings ruling

On Monday, the Messenger-Inquirer learned that Attorney General Jack Conway’s office had ruled that discussions held by the city and county that included the decision to submit an offer for the Executive Inn Rivermont were not in violation of the state open meetings law.

The newspaper filed a complaint with the city and the county after comments by Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves on July 18 that the decision had been made to submit the offer, and what that offer should be, “in consultation with me and the elected officials through various individual conversations.”

Under state law, public bodies can only take action at an official meeting, and it did not appear that a meeting had been called to reach the decision to submit a purchase offer on the hotel. City and county officials argued that the offer was preliminary, and was therefore not an official action that would have required calling a formal meeting to take.

In his written opinion mailed last week, Attorney James Ringo with the attorney general’s office said he was “unable to resolve the question of whether final action was taken” because both the city and the county refuted Reeves’s statement, which was made to myself and reporter Jim Mayse and can be heard here.

Without resolving that question, the core of the complaint by the Messenger-Inquirer remains unresolved.

Ringo argued that public bodies have the right to hold informal discussions to educate themselves about issues, which was not in dispute. Ringo also wrote that “because there is no evidence in the record” that members of both commissions engaged in a series of unofficial, smaller meetings, or conversations, to reach their decision, there is no violation.

Ringo failed to address the newspaper’s contention that the law was broken when the city commission and fiscal court decided to make an offer on the Executive Inn Rivermont without calling an official meeting to make that decision. Ringo instead focused solely on the discussions that led up to that decision, without addressing the decision itself.

Ringo did reaffirm that using smaller, unofficial meetings to discuss public business “should constitute the rare exception to the general rule of public discussion.”

Hopefully this process has helped all involved become more aware of what the open meetings law requires and why it is important so such disputes can be avoided in the future.

GO-EDC board pushes for city, county to buy Executive Inn Rivermont

The Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. board issued a position statement Wednesday morning in support of the city and county governments making a move to purchase the Executive Inn Rivermont property.

The statement comes after city and county officials put forth a bid for the property more than two weeks ago. That bid expired after Marshall Investments, the owner of the 17-acre hotel property, failed to respond.

Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves, who is handling any negotiations between local government and Marshall, said last week that a second bid is possible, but there were no firm plans to make another offer. Continue reading

City, county reject Messenger-Inquirer’s open meetings law complaint

The city and county have rejected a complaint by the Messenger-Inquirer filed last week accusing the two government bodies of breaking Kentucky’s open meetings law with their recent decision to try to buy the Executive Inn Rivermont.

The gist of the response from the city and county is that neither body took “final action” in agreeing on a price to offer for the closed, 600-room hotel and submitting what they call a preliminary purchase offer to hotel owners Marshall Investments.

That decision was reached not at an official meeting but during several conversations among elected officials, according to Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves and Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire. However, since the city and county don’t view the decision as a” final action,” they maintain that no official meeting was required.

To learn more about what the open meetings law says and when violations occur, check out my earlier post here.

The newspaper submitted an appeal of the rejected complaint on Wednesday to state Attorney General Jack Conway’s office, which will make a ruling in 10 business days.

Read the full story in the Messenger-Inquirer.

Open records, closed meetings – What’s all the fuss?

In his foreword to the “Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records Laws” handbook that sits on the desks of most reporters around the state, former Legislative Research Commission Director Vic Hellard Jr. explains that the state passed an Open Meetings law 34 years ago “to provide the people with greater access to government.”

The law gives the average citizen and the press the opportunity to see how decisions are made by the governments that represent them, along with granting those public bodies protections when deciding certain potentially sensitive issues such as personnel matters and property purchases.

Those two competing rights were at the root of a complaint filed by the Messenger-Inquirer last week over a decision by the city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court.

Continue reading