Posted 10/13/15 (Tue)
By Traci Papineau
Ray City Commissioners on Monday named several conditions to be met in order for the Sky Watch Inn project to move forward.
Three project representatives attended the meeting to update the commission on the project. Presenter John Seibert assured commissioners the men in attendance are “people who will be able to move this project forward.”
Seibert said the main reason the project stalled is because of the default of their main funding source, North Star Finance, LLC, which occurred at “no fault of our organization.”
He said a couple of the principal players in that finance company have been arrested, leaving the SkyWatch group to clean up any lien rights on work done so far so that other lenders will look at investing in the project.
Seibert said verbal commitments from two new investors require a franchise agreement with a national chain.
Major concerns on the city commission have been a lack of communication and progress on the project, especially in opening up nearby streets. Seibert acknowledged there has been a “disconnect in responding” in the past. He introduced Ryan Whitefield, who will be the primary contact for the group going forward.
A third representative, Gilbert Odonker, said the original construction plan had a cast-in place design but was later changed to a pre-cast design; therefore all new drawings must be created and submitted to further the project.
However, the project cannot continue until a funding source is back in place.
Michael Sizemore of the Williams County building department as well as two other Williams County zoning board members were also in attendance and shed more light on the delays.
Sizemore said nothing beyond the improvements already in the ground have been approved by the county. He said work ceased in July 2015 and the building permit for the site expires Feb. 1, 2016.
“We haven’t seen or heard from Sky Watch in a while,” said Sizemore. He said repeated attempts to contact land owner Randy Semingson have failed.
Sizemore suggested the building permit be extended, but all drawings would have to be approved before the current permit expires.
Mayor Ken Munson asked the group if the engineering designs for the project are complete. Odonker said no, but they could be done by Feb. 1.
Munson pressed the group to get designs in a month or more before the deadline so the county has time to review them before an extension is granted.
The biggest topic of contention is the opening of the road to traffic around the project and the condition of those roads. Odonker estimates the roads could be opened, some dirt work completed and the fence moved back on South Park Road by the end of October.
Commissioners were unhappy with the answer and there was considerable discussion about road conditions and concerns about impending freezing weather. The commission wants class 5 gravel used on the road in addition to the dirt work, within the next two weeks.
Commissioners voted to require the group to do the dirt work as agreed upon, move the fences to open the road and use the gravel by the end of October or the city will do the work and charge it to the Sky Watch Inn group. Ray commissioners also want monthly updates on the progress.
City Attorney Bryan Van Grinsven pushed the Sky Watch Inn group to set specific benchmarks to meet. Three agreed upon are: first, to complete engineering designs to be turned into Williams County by early Jan. 2016; second, obtain an agreement with a national franchise by Jan. 2016; and three, lock up the financing once the franchise is in place.
In the meantime, the group has a local person who is checking on the property from time to time. Commissioners had some concerns with sections of the fence around the construction site being blown over and kids playing near the site. Before the Sky Watch Inn group left they were asked to leave detailed contact information for both the City of Ray and Williams County so communication and correspondence with the group can continue.
(Editor’s Note: Traci Papineau, a local freelance writer, is resuming part time work with the Tioga Tribune, primarily covering the Ray City Commission and local school boards.)