The Davenport Community Improvement Corp. voted Thursday to expand its board from seven to nine members, with hopes of recruiting more “number crunchers” to serve.
The corporation would run a city-owned casino, and chairwoman Kelli Grubbs, who was elected to the post at the meeting, thinks financial experience is important. She raised the issue of expanding the board at its first meeting last month.
“It is better to do this up front rather than after it is out of the barn,” she said. “This is a huge commitment we’re asking of taxpayers, so we need someone with financial experience.”
Board member Rory Washburn agreed.
“We have all the confidence in the world in city staff, but we want to make sure the horse we pick can finish the race,” he said.
The city is working to acquire the Rhythm City casino from the Isle of Capri for $46 million and develop a land-based casino.
Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin said he already had possible nominees provided to him by aldermen. Grubbs and Mary Ellen Chamberlin will serve as a nominating committee to consider possible board members.
Board members would be appointed by the Davenport City Council at its Jan. 23 meeting. The next casino board meeting is scheduled for the next day.
The board also learned that the Riverboat Development Authority could meet in mid-January to vote on an operating agreement with the city and the corporation. RDA president Chamberlin, who also serves on the corporation, provided the update, noting comments by some RDA board members questioning a city-owned casino.
“This is the fourth time I’ve negotiated an operating contract, and this is the most generous we’ve ever had,” she said. “We asked to be on this board, and be involved in the (developer) interview process, so from the perspective of the RDA, it is a very generous proposal.
“The questions are more of ‘should we do it,’ rather than what is in the contract,” Chamberlin said. “If there is a schism, it is not over the terms of the contract. I’m not sure what it is.”
The operating agreement would increase the RDA’s share of the adjusted gross revenue from 4 to 4.5 percent once the casino goes land-based, then to 5 percent after 50 percent of the bond debt has been retired.
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After the meeting, Malin said he understood the hesitation of the RDA board members.
“The city had months and months — over a year — of due dilligence on this,” he said. “Some people are just coming up to speed.”
Chamberlin agreed with Malin’s assessment.
“The board is a reflection of the community,” she said. “They also have the stewardship of the license to be concerned about.”
The city is hosting a bus trip to Dubuque on Tuesday for aldermen, RDA and corporation board members to see how the city-owned Mystique casino operates. Chamberlin reported that six or seven members of the RDA board have committed to going.
Alderman Jeff Justin, 6th Ward, who serves on the corporation board, offered to help the RDA in any way he could, including bringing back information from Dubuque that might assist them with their vote.