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This is an illustration of the proposed Waterloo Convention Center at Sullivan Brothers Plaza.

Courtesy illustration

WATERLOO — The full City Council is now behind the sale and renovation of the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center.

Waterloo City Council members voted 6-0 Monday to approve selling the city-owned building for a second time to Leslie Hospitality Co. of Omaha, Neb., which is planning a $6 million upgrade.

Councilman Bruce Jacobs abstained from voting because his employer does business with Leslie Hospitality.

This week’s action was in sharp contrast to a similar vote July 17, when councilmen Tom Lind and Steve Schmitt abstained from voting after saying they had not received enough information about Leslie Hospitality’s finances, business dealings or its owner.

Follow-up questions led company president Edwin Leslie to complain about unfair treatment from the councilmen, leading to a contentious public airing of grievances from both sides.

Schmitt and Lind both said they’d received the information they requested before this week’s vote, which was necessary because an incorrect legal description was included in the originally approved development agreement.

“I would like to … thank Mr. Leslie for apparently providing the information we have been asking for for about four weeks,” Schmitt said. “It’s just too bad that things ever got to the level that they did and we had to hear about people’s personal lives that I really have no interest in and really don’t want to hear about.”

Leslie Hospitality is the holding company for LK Waterloo, which will buy the 42-year-old convention center for $1; get a $1.05 million city grant to use toward the renovation; and receive 15 years of 34 percent tax rebates on the new taxable value created by the renovation.

A separate development agreement approved July 17 provides tax incentives for LK Waterloo’s $14 million acquisition and renovation of the adjacent Ramada Hotel into a Hotel RL. That agreement did not require another vote.

LK Waterloo must still provide additional financing information before the parties can close on the sale of the building, which will be renamed the Waterloo Convention Center at Sullivan Brothers Plaza.

There was no opposition to the sale during a public hearing this week. But several regular council meeting attendees, including Forest Dillavou and Todd Obadal, questioned how the city could have continued operating the building in the last three years with fire code and sewer issues.

Leslie noted last week the building needed $1.6 million in immediate work to correct fire code issues, underground sewer problems, a broken heating and cooling system and other problems.

Fire Chief Pat Treloar acknowledged there was a punch list of more than 40 “nonessential” fire code issues, which the city was working to address when the Leslie Hospitality opportunity arose.

“We wouldn’t allow the convention center to be occupied if it wasn’t safe,” Treloar said.


Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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