Victor Summa and Steve Engler, members of the Northfield Economic Development Authority (EDA), reviewed five municipal liquor store proposals at 3 p.m. on Thursday and scored them on 28 criteria, which were devised by City Council and city staff.
Click play to listen to the EDA’s discussion on the liquor store proposals. 23 minutes.
Jody Gunderson, the authority’s director, also scored the proposals. Last week, officials expected to score seven proposals, but two ultimately did not meet the requirements listed in the request for proposals document.
Late on Thursday, Engler said he found the scoring process much simpler than he anticipated. City Councilor James Pokorney said on Friday the score sheets are just one tool the City Council expects to use in making its decision about which proposal is best.
The four members of the Economic Development Authority met at 7:30 a.m. Thursday to talk about which members would fill out the score sheets. Originally, members Rick Estenson and Marty Benson had volunteered to fill out the sheets, since they are also members of an EDA subcommittee called the infill development committee.
However, the city’s attorney determined Estenson and Benson had a conflict of interest in the matter because each works for one of the city’s banks. Those banks have a financial interest in some of the proposed liquor store sites. The proposed locations are: 618 Division Street; the property containing The Crossing residential building off State Highway 3; the “Q-Block” off Highway 3; the southwest corner of Fifth and Water Streets; and 717 South Water Street.
Three other groups are expected to fill out score sheets. There is a city staff group comprising Joel Walinski, interim city administrator; Brian O’Connell, community development director; and Steve DeLong, liquor store manager. Donnelly Development representatives form a second group and Northfield Enterprise Center representatives form a third.
During the Economic Development Authority’s morning meeting, Engler and Summa asked some questions about the proposal scoring process.
Engler asked if there would be someone present during the scoring meeting who could answer any questions he had about the criteria. He said, for example, he had little knowledge of how to judge the quality of stormwater systems.
Gunderson said he believed Joel Walinski could attend the meeting and answer questions. Engler said later Walinski did not attend but DeLong did and he provided some information.
Estenson told Engler if he felt he could not give a good opinion on any particular item, he should simply not give an opinion.
Summa asked if Donnelly Development representatives and DeLong could also present conflicts of interest.
The request for proposals document reads: “The City of Northfield has retained Donnelly Development to provide real estate services throughout the municipal liquor store development process. Accordingly, please provide for a seller-paid fee equal to three percent of the purchase price of the land and/or a $4 per square foot fee on a lease of 10 years. For lease proposals greater or less than a 10-year term, please adjust on a prorated basis.”
Victor said DeLong could also conceivably be biased since he has to work in the new liquor store. Gunderson said Walinski could have an answer to that question. However, Walinski was out of his office.
On Friday, O’Connell said staff did not ask the city’s attorney if Donnelly and DeLong could present a conflict.
“We did not see it as a problem,” he said. “The fee paid to Donnellly is to help us negotiate with the developer after we select who it is we want to go with. We’re going to do decide on a particular development project based on our criteria. As for Steve DeLong, he’s a salaried professional and he’s not going to be paid more or less based on the site we select.”
Update 12/12 1 p.m.: Here is the Request for Proposals document in PDF file format, city-liq-rfp-final-9-24-08-with-changes-1