Tuesday night, after delays from the pandemic, changes in plans and developers and stretches of having no permanent financing locked in, the Mason City Council codified a new timeframe for construction of a downtown hotel and conference center that comes in the form of an amendment to an agreement with developer Gatehouse Mason City (now MCCCH).
In the most-up-to-date agreement, the developer has until July 1 to close on financing for the hotel which has previously been announced as a Hyatt.
During discussion on the item, Third Ward Councilmember Joshua Masson asked Mason City Administrator Aaron Burnett why the name change for the developer occurred if some of the principles, including David Rachie of Gatehouse, are staying the same.
"With the investors being identified and brought forth for securing the debt is why the name change occurred," Burnett said. However, MCCCH has not yet closed out on financing though projections from the city are that construction will start by the summer time and could take about two years in full.
"This addresses timelines that are due to the COVID pandemic that have expired and need to be amended to reflect the pandemic," Burnett told council members during the meeting.
Later in the discussion on the item, First Ward Councilmember John Lee asked Burnett a version of a question that is not uncommon in online discussions about the timeline for the Mason City hotel plan versus the Clear Lake hotel plan. Burnett said that the Mason City project is a complicated matter with more than one partner working in a space that is not just a greenfield site.
Almost in tandem with the agreement plan, the council acknowledged a bid of $1,648,000 from Henkel Construction to do work on the River City Renaissance Skywalk project, which will connect the forthcoming hotel complex to The Music Man Square.
The bid was one of three and, per Burnett in the packet, is within the budgeted amount for the overall project work. According to Burnett, the bid date was first scheduled for March 4 but got pushed back in order for officials to better coordinate with the hotel project. However, Burnett made clear that the bid award will come forward at the next meeting to allow even more time for coordination.
Council approved awarding a bid of $200,401.77 from Weikert Contracting out of Cedar Falls to add new pavement markings across town, including identification for on-street bicycle routes, and refreshing existing designations elsewhere.
Along with the bike route work, the council signed off on a bid for construction on the South Monroe Avenue Pedestrian Trail project which would extend between Sixth and Seventh Street Southwest near a Casey's convenience store.
Per Rahm, the winning bid of $45,617 came from Larry Elwood Concrete and was under the probably cost estimate by about $8,000. In total, the project received four bids, and like the marking job, it will be funded through the local option sales tax.
The first item that sparked discussion during the meeting involved approval of a recommendation for the Mason City Police Department to hire two new officers. In the past week, the department has had to respond to a murder case as well as a downtown shooting, a stabbing and the continued investigation of remains found along the Winnebago River.
Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley told the council that the police department is attempting to respond to all of that while operating on a worker deficit. "We’re running short on officers. We’re experiencing the same recruiting crisis that’s happening across the country," he said.
Brinkley then continued: "We’re doing that, the last eight or nine days, with reduced staff... I’m really proud of the work our people have done," before Mason City Mayor Bill Schickel responded: "I would echo those comments."
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Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Jared.McNett@globegazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.