Ex-director employed by firm seeking to operate city center

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 11, 2000

One of two private companies vying to run Vicksburg’s convention center employs the center’s first director, Larry Gawronski.

Gawronski, representing Compass Facility Management of Ames, Iowa, was present at Tuesday’s city board meeting, where officials accepted proposals from Compass and SMG Corp. of Philadelphia.

The proposals, each numbering several hundred pages, detail the services each company could provide, including management, training and possibly catering, along with their proposed fees.

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The board referred the proposals to the legal and purchasing departments for review. No timetable was given for how long a review might take or when a contract could be awarded.

Last year, when city leaders were first discussing the idea of a private management company for the convention center, Gawronski helped set up a meeting between officials and representatives from Compass, although he was not working for Compass at the time.

Gawronski helped oversee the construction of Vicksburg’s convention center as its first director, but left two months after its 1997 grand opening to run a larger center in Nebraska.

South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb, who has had mixed feelings about privatization, said that just because the city accepted proposals doesn’t mean there has been a final decision to turn the convention center over to private management.

North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, who oversees the convention center and has advocated private management, agreed.

“The only reason we’re doing this is simply to see whether or not it’s feasible,” Young said.

The center’s second director, Patricia Cato, resigned earlier this year. The $13 million facility built with city funds and supported by a 2 percent bed tax has not performed near expectations and has required larger-than-expected annual supplements.

After Cato left, the city’s advisory committee suggested that elected officials contract out center operations.

In other business, the city:

Resolved that Halloween will be celebrated on Tuesday, Oct. 31, and trick-or-treating may take place between 5:30 and 7:30 that night.

“It’s still a little light at that time,” said Police Chief Mitchell Dent. “And 7:30 is a good time for kids to get home so they can study for school the next day.”

Received bids for recreation furniture and playground safety surface material.

Awarded a contract for a half-ton pickup truck, for use by the street department, to Blackburn Motor Company of Vicksburg for $25,095.

Awarded the contract for cleaning the dump site at Rigby and Pearl streets to Clark and Son of Vicksburg for $2,450.

Awarded contracts for building materials to Rental Service Corp., MMC Materials Inc., Mississippi Lumber Co. and MidSouth Lumber Co., all of Vicksburg.

Accepted a petition to relocate a sewer easement in Cottonwood subdivision.

Executed a lease with Triumph Missionary Baptist Church.

Re-established the $2,000 petty cash fund for the Vicksburg Police Department. The department uses the cash for drug buys and other sting operations.

Executed the federal grant agreement for the victim assistance program. The city receives $24,094 from the federal government for the program, which is matched by $8,032 of city funds.

Approved the request of The Initiative for their annual funding allocation of $35,000. Begun 12 years ago, the public-private group’s main program is an all-in-one housing center on Hope Street. If offers lodging, day care, counseling, education and job placement services to single parents.