Public should know more about hotel partner

Published 5:15pm Thursday, March 27, 2014

The city of Selma failed when it chose Gourmet Services to run the historic St. James Hotel. The shape the hotel was left in, the alleged missing items and unpaid invoices show a hotel in disarray.

Since that poisoned marriage between Gourmet Services and the city came to an end last year, the city has been working tirelessly to undo the damage left by years of mismanagement.

But, the failure does not just lie with the officials with Gourmet Services, there’s plenty to blame.

City of Selma leaders were all too happy to just have someone running the hotel and did little to oversee what this apparently inexperienced hotel management company was doing with the iconic downtown hotel.

Now, as the city continues to boast about filing suit against Gourmet Services for breaking their management contract early and other failures, the city is preparing to join hands with another hotel management company.

It is expected Selma Mayor George Evans will recommend to the Selma City Council that the city enter into a contract with Strand Management to run the St. James Hotel.

But, the details of the agreement have not been revealed and there is little information as to the vetting process used to make sure this agreement — this relationship — doesn’t fail and that our St. James Hotel is left in even worse condition.

Throughout the process, Evans and his committee have met behind closed doors to discuss the proposed companies and requests for information from The Selma Times-Journal were all but ignored until after a decision was reached.

We have said repeatedly that we applaud Evans and the city council for getting rid of Gourmet Services and it is our hope that a lawsuit long threatened by Evans proves successful in recouping some of the losses.

But, we have also said the city is ill equipped to run the St. James Hotel. The city is not able to successfully run a business and has shown that before.

Since the St. James Hotel is such an important part of downtown Selma — and Selma overall — the discussion as to who would manage the company, or even want to buy the hotel, should have been done in public. Not doing so does little to build the trust of the community who has seen what terrible management and ownership can do to an icon.

We urge the council to not simply rubber-stamp this suggestion. We urge the council to scrutinize the contract, the promises and the commitment. Selma — and the St. James Hotel — cannot endure another failed partnership.

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