In a 5-2 decision, the Vigo County Capital Improvement Board on Thursday voted to have its attorney prepare an agreement with Nations Group to be the board’s project management representative.

That agreement would then be brought to the CIB for final approval.

The idea, however, brought disagreement from Indiana State University President Daniel Bradley and Greg Goode, executive director of government relations at ISU, both of whom are board members.

“I think it is not an expenditure that we need to encumber. The description looks more like an executive director of the CIB. We have got a financial adviser, we have got an architect. We have got a process that will get us a facility management firm. We are going to hire a construction manager. I don’t think we have a job that is worth $2 million to do,” Bradley said.

“And we surely don’t have $2 million” to spare, he added.

The board is tasked with overseeing renovation of the Hulman Center, construction of the new convention center and hiring management companies to operate the $75 million endeavor.

Board member Steve Witt made the motion for the agreement, seconded by Vigo County Commissioner Judith Anderson.

Witt said he thinks Chris Nation, president of the professional services firm, can provide experience in helping to find funding to bridge a $12.5 million funding gap in the project. Some ideas under consideration including working with the Indiana General Assembly on passage of a local food and beverage tax.

Goode said Chris Nation is not a registered lobbyist in Indiana. “What concerns me is this is too much money for too much duplication of effort,” Goode said.

However, Goode said Nations Group could help identify an operations manager “but we floated that several months ago, but I don’t think he is interested in that,” Goode said.

Bradley said if the CIB wants an executive director, he would support that “at $100,000 salary. I am not supportive as a salary that would probably be $800,000” unless he has “an army behind him,” Bradley said, referring to a having a large professional staff.

“What is the effective hourly rate that we are talking about here for one person with $2 million. When we pay that kind of money to architects, we know they have an army behind them that is doing work,” the university president said.

“If we are hiring an executive director, let’s hire an executive director that gets a salary that we understand and has skills that we understand; $2 million is a lot of money,” Bradley said, adding Nations Group does not have expertise in running construction projects nor expertise regarding architecture.

“I guess there is probably some advantage to have somebody to go to the County Council ... to talk from a non-political point of view,” Bradley said. “The money we are talking about here is out of sight,” Bradley said.

Commissioner Anderson said the CIB understands there is a $12.5 million funding gap. That gap may end up at $15 million with interest payments over 20 years, Anderson said.

“The way I understood, that at the very first, when Chris Nations presented this to the county and was asking for a buy-in, I thought that was his job to figure out all these parts and pieces,” Anderson said.

CIB attorney Richard Hill, of Faegre Bakers Daniels law firm in Indianapolis, said a study is under way to look at costs to operate other comparable sports/convention center facilities on the revenue and expense sides.

“This is the information that we felt would be appropriate to put in the (request for proposals) for a facility manager,” Hill said.

Board member Greg Gibson asked what is the project’s timeline need to get state funding.

Bradley said the CIB will likely need negotiated agreements between the CIB and ISU, as well as ISU and a facilities management firm to take to the State Budget Committee, in order to gain approval of a release of $37.5 million in state funding.

That now likely will not happen until May, Bradley said.

Witt, prior to making his motion, said the issue has been debated for months and the board needs to move forward on the project.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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