Davenport aldermen favoring a modified agreement with Ingenus Management and Consulting to develop a land-based casino will offer a velvet-glove invitation to the Riverboat Development Authority to discuss the proposal's merits alongside two others.
The new resolution the City Council will consider Wednesday is different from the clinched-fist approach Alderman Bill Edmond, 2nd Ward, took last week in an email with City Administrator Craig Malin. Edmond asked Malin for a resolution demanding to meet with the RDA or else they would be bypassed, with the city taking a memorandum of understanding with Ingenus directly to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
On Friday, the alderman was less strident. A resolution is on the City Council's agenda for Wednesday's Committee-of-the-Whole meeting.
"The main thing I want to do is get a dialogue with the RDA — sit down and go over the proposals we have," Edmond said. "Right now, everything is in secret. There are some things we won’t be able to discuss because of confidentiality with the IOC (Isle of Capri), but there are things we can discuss."
Edmond, along with Aldermen Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward, Bill Boom, 3rd Ward, Nathan Brown, 1st Ward, and Sheilia Burrage, 5th Ward, signed on to get the resolution placed on Wednesday's agenda.
Aldermen aren't the only ones who want to know what is going on with the RDA. Resident Sally Ellis expressed her frustration at Wednesday's City Council meeting.
"We ought to be getting something more than we are getting," Ellis said. "We need to push this and get it over with. Time is wasting."
Edmond said Ellis' comment is a good reason to bring the RDA to the table.
"If there is one person who thinks that, there are probably more who think that," the alderman said. "I just want to start a dialogue."
The two sides must remain partners, Burrage said despite the bumps that were brought on by members of the RDA board who oppose city ownership of the casino.
"This is the city continuing the partnership we’ve had all these years," she said. "We were still in the discovery mode when things were stopped by the city. This signals that we still want to work with you."
The city announced last fall that it was seeking to acquire the Rhythm City casino for at least $46 million from the Isle of Capri, but it was met with opposition from the business community.
In March, the RDA announced it would take on finding a buyer willing to develop a land-based casino. The RDA has offered no details as to its process. A meeting of the RDA task force is scheduled for today. Along with the modified Ingenus proposal, the city and RDA have received proposals from Pacific Peninsula and Pollina Corporate Real Estate.
The Ingenus memorandum of understanding, received March 19, reduces casino lease and management expenses by more than $70 million and commits up to $95 million of private investment to the project, according to a City Council information sheet. The proposed casino at the intersection of Interstates 80 and 280 would have a total acquisition and construction cost of $143 million. Modeling for the development and its returns was done with conservative estimates, using a higher than likely interest rate on any borrowing and lower than historical average growth of Iowa gaming properties.
The new proposal could provide complete RDA oversight of the casino similar to the system set up with the Dubuque Racing Association and Mystique casino, according to the information sheet.
The new tone toward the RDA doesn't mean aldermen are any less frustrated with the process of finding a buyer for the Rhythm City that will develop a land-based casino.
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"We’ve got to keep plugging away at this and get it resolved," Ambrose said. "We’ve worked too hard to get where we’re at, and hopefully, the RDA can step up to the plate and get things resolved and move forward.
"If things don’t work out, I think it the state will have to step in and work with the RDA and city to get this thing resolved. I don’t know how to read the RDA. The council, we’re all pretty open and transparent."
RDA President Mary Ellen Chamberlin warned that she isn't ready to release any more information despite the offer from the city. She said the RDA can't provide much information because of its contract with the Isle of Capri.
"Until we have something positive to report, it doesn’t change anything," she said. "I’ve been working on drafting a letter to the mayor to lay out why we’re not ready to be in a public setting.
"It is a case that we really don’t have much to say right now. There isn’t much we can put on the table."
Boom thinks putting the RDA and City Council together would be helpful in evaluating the proposals.
"I think cooler heads will prevail," he said. "We’ve let a lot of water slip down the river in posturing.
"My evaluation of the numbers I’ve seen show some pretty stark distinctions. Maybe we can eliminate some stuff and move something."