Alerus Center leaders voted unanimously to approve a management contract for the Grand Forks building on Friday morning, setting a timeline the for the Philadelphia-based firm Spectra to assume operations by July 9.
The event appears to end the uncertainty the facility has seen since its top two staffers were fired in November following reports of a toxic work environment. According to Spectra, it also puts the building on pace for a better bottom line-though in the meantime, current Alerus Center employees will be left without guaranteed jobs until the transition period is over.
The leading candidate to lead the center is Anna Rosburg, the assistant general manager and marketing director at the Casper Events Center in Casper, Wyo., where she has worked since 2012.
Friday's meeting was a roughly two-hour discussion of a contract hammered out between Spectra and local leaders in recent weeks, though it still leaves questions about the future of employees at the center. Tangee Bouvette, a Grand Forks human resources official, said employees at the center will soon receive letters terminating their employment effective July 8. Whether Spectra chooses to hire them is entirely at Spectra's discretion, she said.
Spectra officials declined to elaborate on plans to retain employees, but said that decisions would be made as soon as next week.
"We're still in the process of determining that," said Tim Murphy, a regional vice president for Spectra. "There's a lot of good people here. So our intentions, certainly-hopefully most of them will want to come work with us."
Fees and payment for Spectra come to $144,000 per year, plus a tiered set of payments that give them more income as revenues at the center climb. There's also a set of "qualitative" fees, rewarding good customer service and other goals, that can pay up to an additional $25,000 per year that will be hammered out before the end of 2017.
In return, officials with Spectra promised a bright financial future. They offered a set of projections for local leaders that forecast rising revenues for the next full four calendar years. One page shows city net revenue growing from $471,830 in 2018 to $603,830 in 2021.
Gains come from both sides of the ledger. The former position of fired assistant director Bob LeBarron is not expected to be filled, among other line-item savings, and projections show higher numbers of events after Spectra assumes management.
The employees' transfer from public to private employment affects their benefits. The 21 employees Bouvette spoke of will receive full payouts for unused vacation time, and those with at least five years of service will be paid for half of their unused sick time, in accordance with city code.
Eight of the employees will be able to retain the employer investments they've received in their pension plans, but the remaining 13 will likely not, Bouvette said, which amounts to a total loss of $45,000.
City Administrator Todd Feland said that he believes departing employees have gotten the best deal available.
"They're going to get anything any other city employee that leaves city employment would," Feland said, praising Spectra's benefit package as well. "I think we've met our goal to make things as good or better."