St. James contract delayed

Published 8:12pm Friday, May 2, 2014

One month ago, Selma mayor George Evans officially announced Strand Management as a company of choice to take control of the St. James hotel, but the Selma City Council has yet to approve a contract for the hotel’s operation.

The city continues to operate the St. James with a mix of paid employees and volunteers.

On April 3, Strand — with offices in Atlanta, Charlotte and Myrtle Beach, S.C. — presented its proposed contract to the city council. Strand’s and the city’s proposed contract contained multiple differences. Andrew Pace, Strand’s senior vice president, said the next step was for the city to rectify differences and draft a final contract.

One month later, Evans said the hotel’s committee — a mix of Selma residents and city council members — still hasn’t met to discuss a final contract.

“We are pretty much in the same place that we have been,” Evans said.

When first introduced to the council — during a work session — Pace said Strand could begin managing the St. James on May 1.

On Friday, Evans said city attorney Jimmy Nunn is currently reviewing Strand’s contract. Evans said he is unsure of a definitive date for Strand to begin its operations.

“Before Strand can take over, the contract will require council approval,” Evans said.

The St. James committee was scheduled to meet in early April to discuss plans for the hotel, but the meeting was cancelled because of a scheduling conflict.

One major difference in the two contracts is the length of time Strand would manage the hotel. The city proposed a one-year contract with two, one-year options to renew. Strand proposed a three-year contract, which would automatically renew for one year afterward.

Both proposals included a termination clause, which could be used if city government decides to sell the hotel before the contract term ends.

Both proposals state the city could pay $4,000 per month or 3 percent of gross revenues, excluding taxes and other customary items, for Strand’s management of the St. James Hotel.

Strand representatives expressed opposition to operating a bar and restaurant in conjunction with the hotel. Pace said the profit margin for the bar and restaurant, combined, wouldn’t provide a compelling reason for both to remain open.

Ward 2 councilwoman Susan Keith, who is a member of the St. James committee, said committee members agreed previously that the bar and restaurant are important parts of the St. James Hotel.

“When the St. James was open and flourishing, people enjoyed going to the bar and restaurant and I think they will enjoy them again, whether it’s by an independent source or a management company,” Keith said.

The suitor search for the St. James began at the end of July, when Gourmet Services LLC cut ties with the hotel six months into a five-year contract.

Keith said a methodical process is most important when finalizing a contract with Strand.

“Of course we want to finish sooner rather than later,” She said. “But, I would much rather have everything ironed out on the front end than have any kind of misunderstandings or ambiguity. We should be on the same page and in lock-step before we make that transition.”

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