A Peoria City Councilman says he'd like to see more oversight when it comes to the management of a pair of downtown hotels after learning that their owner is dealing with serious financial problems.
Councilman Chuck Weaver wants to see a three person advisory board formed to keep tabs on the Pere Marquette and adjacent Courtyard by Marriott. His suggestion comes after the news broke that Gary Matthews, whose EM Properties owns the hotels, is facing foreclosure on several of his Tazewell County properties. While those issues don't directly affect the hotels in which the city invested $37 million, they seem to be somewhat of a red flag for city officials.
Weaver says the advisory board, which would include Matthews, may help the city avoid being blindsided by any future problems.
"[In this case], things came at us very quickly, with very little information. It would be good to have some city person that was closer to the project all the time that could represent our interests," said Weaver.
He says, until recently, the city has been kept in the dark about the Pere Marquette's performance since it opened nearly a year ago.
"The first time I had a chance to see numbers was probably three to four weeks ago, when City Manager [Patrick] Urich said he had access to them," Weaver said.
Weaver says his proposed panel isn't a punishment for Matthews; rather, it's a way of making sure the Pere Marquette and Courtyard realize their full potentials.
"I didn't vote for the hotel when it happened because I thought it was way too much public money. But the day after that vote, I've been supportive of it, and I'm going to continue to be supportive. This is an important part of our city," Weaver said.
The news of Matthews' money woes comes at an awkward time for the city, which is considering whether to approve a change of management for the hotels. EM Properties has requested that Illinois-based FHG take over the day to day operations from Marriott, which would still fly its flag over the buildings. Weaver says without the formation of an advisory panel, he would have a hard time voting for the management switch.