JONESBORO, Ark. – Big changes to funding of the planned Hyatt Convention Center were made during the Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission meeting Wednesday – including asking for close to $70,000 back.
Illinois-based Keller Management narrowly won approval for advertising funding for their proposed Hyatt Convention Center in 2016, beating out a request from Missouri based O’Reilly Hospitality Management. As of Wednesday, April 5’s meeting, $75,000 had been paid out to the Keller group to promote their project.
However, the project has hit several large roadblocks, some of which was discussed at Wednesday’s public meeting. While no representatives from the Keller group attended the meeting, Commission Chair Jerry Morgan said he spoke with Chris Keller, representing the company and had received a letter acknowledging the project was behind.
Many problems were mentioned in the meeting, including liens against the property in question and no plans having been drawn up. In addition, patience seemed to be wearing thin in the commission with the Keller group being behind schedule. The commissioners decided to address funds already paid out and future funding separately.
With the Keller group having requested $150,000 in January, $75,000 was paid to the private company. However, it was revealed approximately $70,000 of the $75,000 already paid was in a CD, held by a local bank, Morgan said, drawing interest for the Keller group. The commission voted unanimously to request the money be returned to the A&P Commission to be held in escrow.
Not ignoring the concerning track record of events leading up to Wednesday’s meeting, the commission also voted to require to get the Keller group, in writing, to follow several guidelines if they plan to use future A&P monies.
- A letter from a bank showing funds committed to the project in a reasonable time frame
- An irrevocable letter of credit assuring A&P funds would be returned if requirements are not met
- Final plans submitted
- Full accounting of the funds received and spent
- Reasonable time frame for the project to be coming out of the ground (90-120 days)
- Vendors being paid current
- A letter from the Hyatt hotels committing to continuing their branding of the project
The Keller group will have 30 days from receiving the letter to meet the requirements.
“We’re not forgoing that commitment, at this time,” Morgan said. “We’re just delaying payment of that until they can provide us additional information.”
Morgan also said Keller told him he would not need the full $150,000 this year, due to delays, and would only need $75,000 – freeing up a substantial amount of money by the planning commission for 2017.
With that detail in mind, the Downtown Jonesboro BBQ Festival was the next subject approached. Representatives planning the event approached the commission and explained they would host the best event possible with whatever funds were devoted to its planning. They did, however, note the event was substantially behind in planning. Last year’s budget was $145,000. Bret Michaels, the headline act, cost $75,000, alone, reps said.
The commission approved $100,000 to go toward the planning of the September 30th Downtown BBQ Fest in Jonesboro. Organizers will now begin searching for a headline act, along with planning the event.