Med school could be downtown hotel deal breaker - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Med school becomes game changer in hotel vote

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Could the chance of landing a medical school in Evansville be a deal breaker for the downtown convention hotel project? 

14 News is hearing on Wednesday night that the opportunity to land an IU medical school is a top priority among some council members.

The issue is where to potentially spend tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money. The mayor says the city can afford to do both, but in a meeting Wednesday morning he learned many on the council disagree.

"If the med school goes downtown, hotels are coming with it," Councilman John Friend said. 

A decision on one of four potential sites for an IU medical school in Evansville or Warrick County could come by the end of this year, with funding from the state in 2015.
 
But Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke says the convention hotel project is here and now.

"We can convince five people on council that we have the financial capacity to do both of these projects," Mayor Winnecke said.  

But Friend said, "When you don't know the other side of the equation and when they say you can build them both, not knowing the other side of the equation, that's not a reasonable response.

Friend says it comes down to dollars and cents. Public funding for the hotel project would be $37.5 million. City funding for the medical school is still up in the air.

"They indicated that it was all about money. If we're going to take it downtown, who knows what that number could be. It could be $30 million, $40 million. It could be $50 million.  

That's why Friend says he'll vote no for the hotel in the hopes of landing the medical school down the road. 

"You get that thing downtown, hoteliers will come in. No question about it," Friend said.  

"If the vote is no, the current project as we know it will be dead. What happens after that, I don't know yet," Mayor Winnecke said. 

Which way are the council members leaning? 

Friend says there are now enough votes, five votes, to kill the current project when the funding comes up for a vote on Monday night.

The five no votes include Dr. Dan Adams, Al Lindsey, John Friend, Connor O'Daniel and Stephanie Brinkerhoff-Riley. Read why Brinkerhoff-Riley says she'll vote no on Monday here.

Two Evansville City Council members, Missy Mosby and Jonathan Weaver, tell 14 News that they will vote yes on the city's convention hotel project.

Two remaining members Dan McGinn and Council President Connie Robinson haven't made their votes public.

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