By GARY POPP
As Charlestown continues to grow in the shadow of River Ridge and the plans of east-end bridge, it’s reached the stage to have overnight guests.
For the first time in decades, a hotel will stand in Charlestown, offering a bed and blanket to out-of-town visitors, officials say.
Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall said Cobblestone Hotels will be open for vacancy with a 44-room hotel before the end of the year. The building will sit on 1.6 acre lot off Ind. 62, just east of Ind. 3 that leads directly into central Charlestown.
Dennis Frankenberger, a partner of Charlestown Landing, the expected site of the hotel, said the building will be comparable to a Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express.
Frankenberger said the lodging will allow the bedroom community to be a bigger draw for both business and pleasure. He said the hotel could bring people into Charlestown who are conducting business associated with River Ridge and for the city’s impressive Little League baseball facility to host regional games.
“Charlestown doesn’t even have a bed and breakfast,” Frankenberger said. “Charlestown, by and large, has suffered from this.”
Charlestown City Council President Scott McKechnie said the hotel could be a boost for the city’s growth.
“I think it is great they [Cobblestone Hotels] are coming in,” he said. “We welcome the business to come into Charlestown. That property has sat empty for some time.”
Councilman Dan James said he supports virtually any business that would bring jobs to Charlestown, such as Cobblestone Hotels, but he is doubtful the hotel will be erected anytime soon.
“I will believe it when I see it,” James said, adding that the hotel franchise is not the first business plan brought before the city council for the Charlestown Landing site.
During the monthly Charlestown City Council meeting last week, council members appointed one another to the city’s boards and commissions, including the Planning and Zoning Commission, Board of Appeals and Redevelopment Commission. The appointments are voted upon annually by the five-member council.
All the appointments remained the same following the appointment process.
James made the only motion for change during the process, offering his support of Councilwoman Ruth Ann Rawlings for city council president.
With only James’ support in the 2-3 vote, Rawlings did not unseat current council president McKechnie, who has held the position for three years.
“Ruth Ann [Rawlings] is a real professional,” James said referencing her work history at St. Catherine Regional Hospital in Charlestown. “She understands, clearly, the role of delegating work and knowing how to communicate with the people who work for her. She would do an excellent job as the board president.”
James said that he feels McKechnie lacks leadership abilities.
“Scott McKechnie does not have the caliber to be president of our council,” James said. “He takes his marching orders from Bob Hall. Whatever Bob Hall tells him to do, he does.”
James pointed to McKechnie’s behavior toward Rawlings during the Jan. 5 meeting to support his claim that he is not the right person to lead the council.
During the meeting, Rawlings asked McKechnie to clarify a statement, to which he crassly responded, “Don’t get your words mixed up. You have a way of doing that.”
After the meeting adjourned, Rawlings walked over to McKechnie and asked why he always attacks her during the meetings, to which McKechnie said, “Get out of my face.”
Days later, McKechnie said the animosity between himself and Rawlings and James stems from prior incidents that he wants to let rest in the past.
“I have told Ruth Ann Rawlings that I am tying to get this council to work and to get the council to move in the right direction,” McKechnie said. “I am not here to point fingers, and everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”
He said he perceives James’ contribution to the council to be misguided.
“Dan James is always bringing a negative approach to council meetings,” McKechnie said.