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Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 

David Rachie, of Gatehouse Capital, speaks at the Nov. 27 council meeting.

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Gatehouse Capital responds to ‘malicious accusations,’ still interested in building Mason City hotel

MASON CITY | An executive of Dallas-based Gatehouse Capital says his company is still interested in building a hotel in downtown Mason City and disputes what he considers "malicious accusations" made against its representative, David Rachie.

The City Council on Thursday is expected to vote on a development agreement with San Diego-based G8 Development, a rival bidder on the hotel project.

In an apparent last-minute lobbying effort, Colin McDonald, vice president of development for Gatehouse-Dallas, emailed Councilman John Lee on Sunday touting his company's credentials and setting the record straight on misinformation he said is being spread.

It is not known if the email was sent to anyone else.

After an unusual series of events, the City Council on Nov. 27 voted 5-0 to go with G8 Development over Gatehouse to build the hotel, despite having cast G8 aside twice and having negotiated with Gatehouse for the past several months.

McDonald said Rachie's reputation has been questioned by some despite his work in presenting a plan and creating "a consensus and a vision among and for the people of Mason City culminating in a total endorsement of the Gatehouse plan for the hotel and conference center along with the associated facilities of The Music Man Square."

At the Nov. 27 council meeting, Mayor Eric Bookmeyer questioned Gatehouse corporate's commitment to Mason City's project.

"There's no money from Texas in it," he said. "I'm tired of hearing about Texas. There's no money from Texas in it. Texas has built a bunch of hotels, a billion dollars worth, but they're not in on this deal.

Eric Bookmeyer

"It's a Minnesota LLC formed by a guy by the name of Mr. Kaiser. It's just one little office. They both have the same address up in Minnesota."

In his email, McDonald said Marty Collins, Gatehouse CEO, Dallas, has signed several documents related to the project that he assumed were included in materials former City Administrator Brent Trout provided to city officials.

"Let me assure you that Gatehouse Mason City LLC is as much a part of 'Gatehouse Capital-Dallas' as any of our other projects," he wrote.

Also, according to McDonald, "the day-to-day management of preconstruction and moving into construction, including all financial controls will fall fully on the Dallas office and David's role will be of liaison for the city of Mason City, The Music Man Square and our own professional teams."

At the Nov. 27 meeting, the council first voted 4-2 against the G8 plan. Then, when the Gatehouse plan came up for a vote, Councilman Bill Schickel, sensing a 3-3 vote which would have killed it — and the entire downtown project — asked G8's plan be brought back to the table for another vote. 

Letter to John Lee from Gatehouse Capital

This time Schickel voted yes on G8, saying he still favored Gatehouse but thought it was more important to move the project forward. The rest of the council followed his lead, except for Lee, who abstained, saying he could not bring himself to support G8.

Lee confirmed Tuesday he had received McDonald's email but chose not to comment further.

Efforts to reach McDonald via email, office phone and cell phone were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Bookmeyer did not respond to a request for comment via email Tuesday. Schickel could not be reached by email or cell phone Tuesday. 

The city has had an on-again, off-again relationship with G8 and its owner Philip Chodur over the past several years. Four years ago, Chodur proposed building a Hilton hotel in the parking lot next to City Hall but could not secure a franchise agreement with Hilton.

He then came back to the council with a proposal to build a Marriott in the same location. After requesting and receiving two extensions on construction starting dates, the council found him in default of the development agreement.

By terms of that agreement, he had 30 days to comply. When he failed to do so, the city put out another request for prospective developers.

G8 put in a new proposal. Gatehouse also answered the call and in March, the council decided to go with Gatehouse.

Negotiations with Gatehouse went slowly and, by a quirk in the law, the city was obligated to open up the process once again for bidders in October. G8 submitted a new bid which the council considered competitive to Gatehouse's bid. 

A bid-off was held Nov. 27 in which G8 and Gatehouse were given chances to change their proposals in an effort to gain the City Council's approval.

In a three-hour session, Gatehouse did not change any of its figures. That allowed G8 to undercut Gatehouse and offer considerable savings to the city. That night, the council voted 5-0 to go with G8, with Lee abstaining.

Lee defended Gatehouse standing pat on its bid, saying it had already presented the council with what it considered was its best offer. To change its bid later, said Lee, would have discredited its earlier claim of "best offer."

Many Gatehouse supporters pointed out that on Nov. 7, voters gave roughly 75 percent approval to two public measures related to the Renaissance project.

At that time, Gatehouse was the only developer in the picture so supporters say the vote, in effect, was a vote for Gatehouse.

Approving G8 over Gatehouse after the public vote was a "bait and switch" maneuver, said Elizabeth Allison, executive director of The Music Man Square.

Cities sue Defense Department over gun-check system failures

NEW YORK — Three large U.S. cities filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Department of Defense, arguing that many service members who are disqualified from gun ownership weren't reported to the national background check system.

New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia said in court papers that the military's broken system for relaying such information helped spur the massacre of 26 people inside a Texas church last month.

"This failure on behalf of the Department of Defense has led to the loss of innocent lives by putting guns in the hands of criminals and those who wish to cause immeasurable harm," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "New York City is joining Philadelphia and San Francisco to stand up to the Department of Defense and demand they comply with the law and repair their drastically flawed system."

Local law enforcement officials rely on the FBI's database to conduct background checks on gun permit applications and to monitor purchases. It must be up-to-date in order to prevent people from wrongly getting guns, the cities' attorneys wrote.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, seeks an injunction and judicial oversight to ensure ongoing compliance with the Defense Department's obligation to submit records.

Military officials previously acknowledged problems with their reporting.

A Pentagon spokesman on Tuesday said he couldn't comment specifically on the lawsuit.

"The department continues to work with the services as they review and refine their policies and procedures to ensure qualifying criminal history information is submitted to the FBI," said Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Defense Department's failure to report "significant numbers" of disqualifying records to the FBI's national background check system allowed former U.S. Air Force member Devin P. Kelley to buy a rifle and shoot 26 people to death Nov. 5 in a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church, the lawsuit said. Kelley had been convicted of assaulting family members in a 2012 court martial and should not have been allowed to purchase a gun.

Air Force leaders already acknowledged that the service failed to alert the FBI to Kelley's criminal history and that they discovered "several dozen" other such reporting omissions. They said that while policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.

And Army leaders have said their service also has similar gaps.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon's watchdog agency found a "troubling" number of failures this year by the military services to alert the FBI to criminal history information. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a far-ranging review of the FBI database.

Philadelphia, in particular, has been plagued by gun violence and "relies on this reporting when making the crucial decision whether a license-to-carry applicant should be permitted to carry a firearm," said Mayor Jim Kenney, who is a Democrat like the mayors of New York and San Francisco. "We're joining in this suit because reporting these records is absolutely critical to those decisions. The background check system only works if it contains the proper records."

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement that the Department of Defense's failure to accurately report criminal convictions puts Americans at risk.

"We cannot accept the level of gun violence in our country as 'just the way it is,'" he said.

The lawsuit names the armed forces individually, as well as the Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and several other officials.

According to the lawsuit, the U.S. Air Force failed to submit records in about 14 percent of cases, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps failed to submit records in 36 percent of cases, and the U.S. Army didn't submit records in about 41 percent of cases.

The Air Force said it has already made changes designed to prevent such failures in the future. For example, it is now requiring that leaders up the chain of command verify that criminal history reporting requirements have been met in every case. And, additional training on these procedures is being conducted.

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Mother Nature gives North Iowa the cold shoulder: Subzero temps to stick around

MASON CITY | Subzero temperatures and snow are expected for the remainder of the week, forecasters say.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued wind chill advisory for North Iowa, running through 10 a.m. Wednesday. Forecasters warn the conditions can cause frostbite to exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.

Temperatures are expected to improve slightly on Wednesday, with a predicted high near 7 degrees and a wind chill of minus 25. 

Snow is possible after midnight Wednesday into Thursday, with possible accumulation of 1 to 3 inches Thursday.

“The National Weather Service forecast keeps northern Iowa in very cold air throughout their seven-day forecast with the lowest temperatures expected on Saturday and Sunday,” State Climatologist Harry Hillaker said Tuesday. “Some moderation in temperatures is expected toward the middle of next week with temperatures close to normal by the end of next week, normal highs around 25 and lows around 8.”

There is a 40 percent chance of snow Friday afternoon into Saturday, with a high around 8 degrees and a low of minus 9. Temperatures are expected to stay below zero for the weekend.

Hillaker said a cold spell like the one predicted for this week should occur about once per winter. The coldest day last year, Dec. 18, brought a high of minus 1 and a low of minus 23, according to Hillaker. 

Winters in 1963 and 1966 brought subzero temperatures for nearly three weeks. 

“Daily low temperatures have been zero or lower for as many as 20 consecutive days, Jan. 12 to Jan. 31, 1963, and Jan. 16 to Feb. 4, 1966,” Hillaker said.

In 1970, Hillaker said the Mason City Airport recorded five consecutive days — Jan. 17 through Jan. 21 —with daily high temperatures of zero or lower.

Mason City woman seeks assistance from Cheer Fund for daughters' gifts (with Dec. 26 donations)

A Mason City woman who recently separated from her husband is hoping the Christmas Cheer Fund could help her buy gifts for their children.

The woman, who has two daughters between 10 and 18 years old, said she moved out in early December “due to it not working with the kids.”

“Times are very hard right now,” she wrote in her application.

If the woman is granted Cheer Fund assistance, as in the past, she said she’d use it to buy Christmas presents for the children.

Since the Cheer Fund began in 1927, more than $3 million has been raised.

This year’s goal is $125,000.

The Christmas Cheer Fund was established by Globe Gazette Publisher Lee Loomis in 1927 so every child could have a present on Christmas morning. In the years since it has come to mean a little help at Christmastime to people of all ages.

Donations may be dropped off or mailed to the Globe Gazette office, 300 N. Washington Ave., Mason City, IA 50402-0271.

Any remaining funds not distributed for the holidays will be given to local nonprofits. The Christmas Cheer Fund balance will return to $100 in January to maintain the checking account.

Cheer Fund Donations: Tuesday, Dec. 26


TO-DATE TOTAL: $117,842.75

TO REACH GOAL: $7,157.25

Harold and Joyce Hopp, in honor of Hopp daughters, $25

Anonymous, $2,000

Laurie Boehmer, in memory of Merle Boehmer, $25

Mike and Tracey Fossey, in memory of our parents Bud Bowers, Donna Bowers, Oliver and Shirley Fossey and brother Rich Fossey, $50

Mona Lundstrom, in memory of my son Jay Hamilton, $40

Steve and Vicki Wolfe, $100

Don and Florence Johnson, in loving memory of our son Wayne, our parents, brothers and sisters, $50

James and Terri Patchen, in memory of Allison, $30

Anonymous, in memory of my guardian angel, $50

Anonymous, $100

Jane Heilskov, in memory of Laura, "Ole," Paul and Joe, $50

Jim Rasmussen, in memory of my wife Winifred Rasmussen and daughter Caroline Dyer, $20

Elizabeth and Wayne Allison, $50

Homer and June Van Oort, $50

Mercy Medical Center North Iowa, $50

Nadine and William Drennan, $100

B & K Neal, with thanks for good deeds done by our neighbor Leon Caspersen, $25

J E, in memory of N E, $50

Dale and Ilene Timmerman, $50

Joyce Mills, in memory of Andrew, $40

Anonymous, $20

Anonymous, $100

John Haller, $25

Lori and William Broghammer, $200

Mason City — River City Sunrise Rotary, $500

Glendon Losen, $50