West Point mulls loan application by council hopeful

Published 7:05 pm Friday, October 11, 2019

It’s still unclear if a candidate for West Point City Council will be approved to receive funding from the city’s revolving loan fund to help start a business.

The council discussed the issue at length at Thursday night’s work session, with council members debating whether Kesha and Michael Coniglio’s application was a conflict of interest. Kesha Coniglio is one of five candidates running for three spots on the West Point City Council.

West Point Mayor Steve Tramell said when the fund started, applicants went before a committee that decided how the money would be spent.  

He said Coniglio’s application had been given to the city council for approval because of the possible conflict of interest.

If approved, the $170,000 loan would be financed at 2 percent for 15 years. 

The Coniglios want to use the revolving loan fund to convert the former Chattabrewchee Southern Brewhouse space on North 12th Street into a wedding and event venue and prop rental space. 

Kesha Coniglio said they intend to replace the commercial glass doors at Chattabrewchee with wooden doors, along with other measures to further beautify the space. Kesha said the couple plans to keep the alley as an overflow space.  

West Point has already missed the deadline from the Department of Community Affairs and if the funds aren’t awarded they will go back to the DCA. 

Tramell said the city has been given a second notice from the DCA about the funds.  

Councilwoman Deedee Williams asked if the city could get an extension and whether late distribution of the funds would result in fees. 

She suggested it might be better to wait until the council had that information before taking an official vote. 

Williams suggested tabling the vote because of how information had been dispersed to the council. She also noted the timing of the vote.  

“Timing is two things — unanswered questions and letting the election play out,” she said on Friday. 

Williams said it would be a conflict of interest if Coniglio is awarded the loan and then is elected to the West Point City Council. Coniglio disagrees, pointing to a statement from DCA on Aug. 28, which said there is no current conflict of interest. 

“At this time, there is no conflict of interest if the loan is approved before the election,” the statement said. 

“If the loan is approved after the election and Ms.Coniglio has won a council seat, the city will need to hold a public meeting informing the city of the conflict of interest.  

At the meeting, Ms. Coniglio must verbally agree to abstain from any involvement in respect to her business. Any other conflict of interest will probably arise if Ms. Coniglio’s business defaults on the loan.”

Coniglio said the only conflict of interest would be if her firm takes on the marketing of The Depot. She said if elected she could not be part of any decisions there.  

“I don’t really see a conflict,” Tramell said Friday. “We’re all private business people on the council.  It’s not a small project — at least $50,000 has to be put up by the individual.”   

The vote is on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting.