St. James process detailed

Published 7:44 pm Thursday, January 9, 2014

The future of the historic St. James hotel could be decided by the end of February.

The request for proposals process ended on Jan. 3 and Selma Mayor George Evans outlined the process for deciding the ultimate suitor at Thursday’s city council work session.

“Some of the things we will look at has to do with the number of years they have been in operation and what they are offering or requiring to be a manager,” Evans said. “There are a lot of things that go into it and we will consider everything before making a decision. We will hope and try to get all of this finalized in the month of February.”

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Evans said approximately eight proposals were received by the deadline, but declined to provide the names of the potential suitors until the city reviews each proposal.

Five of the proposals were revealed at a Dec. 11 meeting and include: RevPar Management, which proposed to locate a management team; Roberts Hotels, a hotel management group owned by self-made millionaire Michael Roberts; Strand Management, a third party management company; Taylor Baxter, a student at Auburn University—Montgomery; and Christopher Peirera, who wants $50 per hour for marketing management strategy and crisis management. Two of the other eight proposals were to purchase the hotel, according to Evans.

He said a committee would narrow down the list of candidates from eight to three. Once three finalists are named, Evans said he would recommend one final proposal to the city council for approval and draft a contract.

During the Dec. 11 meeting, Ward 2 Councilwoman Susan Keith said Roberts Hotels and Strand Management presented excellent proposals and were top candidates, focusing specifically on Roberts Hotels.

“The group invests not just in the hotel, but the community that he goes into, that’s the impression I get,” Keith said during the meeting. “That’s the one I’m leaning toward.

Ward 1 Councilman Cecil Williamson said he would prefer if the entire city council review the eight proposals, rather than a small committee. He also recommended that the city sell the St. James rather than continue leasing it.

“I definitely think it should be sold; I have not changed my opinion about that,” he said. “The city should not be in the hotel business, competing with private hotel owners. We tax them, we take their tax dollars and run a business that competes, that is unfair.”

Once the city decides on a suitor to purchase or lease the hotel, it would end several months of city management after Gourmet Services LLC abandoned the hotel six months into a five-year contract. After the company’s departure, city officials examined the hotel and found damages caused by a lack of maintenance.

Since Gourmet Services left in August, volunteer general managers Nancy Smith and Patty Sexton have operated the hotel. The hotel has generated more than $14,000 in revenue during Smith’s and Sexton’s tenure. Expenses in that time total more than $39,000.

The city also transferred $25,000 to the hotel earlier in the year to help balance its budget.