Green Bay Common Council gets heated over Hotel Northland discussions

Request for audit quote sent to Finance Committee
Posted at 10:59 PM, Apr 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-06 01:16:48-04

The future of the $44 million Hotel Northland project was the center of another heated Green Bay Common Council meeting Wednesday. 

Before the council meeting was adjourned, aldermen approved a request to reach out to an auditor for a quote on how much an audit of hotel Northland would cost, to be reviewed by the Finance Committee.

But the confusion surrounding this project seems to only be growing.

The Redevelopment Authority says completion of the project could come as early as September, that is, if the city is able to secure a new senior lender by May. The previous senior lender dropped out of the project, pulling off the shelf a $12 million loan.

However, such a long-awaited resolution is not shaping up to be that simple.

Just hours before Wednesday's meeting, Mayor Schmitt's office sent an e-mail to all aldermen allegedly disclosing the name of a new senior lender, which he and the alleged lender are requesting remain confidential for now. Schmitt assured the Council the news should be public by the end of April.

However, some aldermen are upset, saying they didn't even see the e-mail on time, and feel ill-prepared to comment on the project's future.

"We need to know what's going on. One of my complaints--longstanding complaints--is that we're not involved enough in the nitty-gritty of what's going on in the city," says alderman Guy Zima, "and then things get turned upside-down, and we're kind of stuck sucking our thumbs to often." 

The question of who specifically owns this project is still being settled in civil court, and the owners at the center of the dispute were not present at Wednesday's meeting.

Legendary Hotels, LLC principal partner Dennis Doucette was present, however, and claims the Common Council "doesn't know the half of" the alleged issues with the project. 

Court files have recently been unsealed as part of a civil suit between warring project partners Mike Frantz and Keith Harenda. The two men are in a dispute over ownership of the historic Hotel Northland, and some are accusing Mayor Schmitt and the City of securing a $4 million loan to help "buy out" Frantz from the project.

In a press release Tuesday, Mayor Schmitt said he was disappointed the court documents "mischaracterized the nature of the role City staff and (the mayor) played in facilitating the settlement negotiations between two parties."

But Doucette, who says he's been involved with the Hotel Northland project for 3 1/2 years now, says Harenda's behavior is the reason the initial loan defaulted, claiming Schmitt allegedly helped that happen. 
Aldreman across the board are struggling to ingest and comprehend the latest flood of information.
At one point, alderman Bill Galvin suggested the issue of who owns the Hotel Northland project isn't the top priority as much as ensuring it moves forward is. 
Alderman Randy Scannell reminded the Council just before casting a vote on the audit request that nothing is possible without the acquisition of a new senior lender. 

There is always the possibility, if the city acquires the new senior lender by May, it could be voted down by the Common Council.

But Mayor Schmitt says finding another lender anytime soon would be bleak.

Other aldermen feel confident that by the time an audit quote is back from Finance Committee, city leaders should also know by then who officially owns the hotel, as it should be settled in civil court.

Mayor Schmitt says, if all goes well, they hope to have contractors on site by May.