Union to resolve Hilton contract details

Matt Kuhns

Iowa State Memorial Union administrators will be making a last-minute effort to complete agreements with the City of Ames before the city council votes tonight on a plan to fund renovations for Hilton Coliseum.

The council will be voting on an ordinance to raise the Ames hotel-motel tax from 5 to 7 percent, which, if approved, would then be put to a public vote.

The specifics of the plan, which would add 1,465 seats to Hilton, require agreements between the Ames city government, ISU, the Memorial Union and the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau.

However, it is uncertain if the agreement with the Memorial Union will be finalized before this evening’s city council meeting, said Jim Huss, chairman of the Memorial Union Board of Directors. He said he returned to his office Monday after being away for a few days.

“Waiting for me was a fax with a contract written by the city,” Huss said.

Huss said the contract was worded differently than he had expected.

He said his concern stems from the Union’s agreement to voluntarily contribute the equivalent of a 2 percent tax increase to the Hilton renovations, even though the Union is tax-exempt.

Huss said the Union board approved giving an amount equivalent to the tax increase but was advised by its attorney to “not in any way jeopardize our tax-exempt status.”

But Huss said the wording of the contract they received could do just that.

“This is not what the Union agreed to,” Huss said. “We don’t want to sign anything that says it’s a tax.”

Warren Madden, vice president for Business and Finance, said the agreement between ISU and the city has been approved, and he believes the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau agreement also is ready.

“I’m hopeful that we will get this” resolved in time, he said.

University administrators have pushed to get the renovation plan approved by tonight’s city council meeting so ISU students can vote on the proposal before spring classes end.

According to city code, the public vote can occur no sooner than 32 days after the council approves the plan. If it is not approved tonight, Madden said the vote could be pushed to finals week or later, which he hopes can be avoided.

Huss said he is going to try to iron out the details of the agreement with the city in time for the meeting.

“We’re still willing to do this,” Huss said, as long as the wording of the contract is correct.

Huss said as soon as the contract is reworded acceptably, he will contact all the Union board members who should be able to approve it immediately.