Post of­fice dis­cus­sion gets heated

■ The sale price for the down­town build­ing was ap­proved Tues­day.

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Hunter McFer­rin Staff Writer hm­c­fer­rin@nwadg.com ■

The city board ap­proved a sale price of $260,000 for the old post of­fice down­town dur­ing its meet­ing Tues­day night.

The sale price was the ap­praised value on Oct. 19 and is higher than what was first sug­gested, ac­cord­ing to a city staff re­port. Orig­i­nally, due to this ap­praised amount, city staff rec­om­mended a sale price of $239,980, as that fig­ure is pro­por­tional to the city’s net in­vest­ment (92.3 per­cent) in the prop­erty, the re­port states.

The idea to set a sale price for the build­ing was brought forth by city staff be­cause the cur­rent ten­ants of the prop­erty, Phat Tire Bike Shop, could de­cide to pur­chase the prop­erty when their lease ex­pires in Jan­uary 2020. At that time, Phat Tire can ei­ther re­new the lease for one year or pur­chase the build­ing, so long as they pro­vide a 90-day ad­vance no­tice.

The de­ci­sion wasn’t made hastily and dis­cus­sion among the board was pre­ceded by con­sid­er­able pub­lic in­put. The first to ad­dress the board was for­mer city board mem­ber and mayor David Allen, who ques­tioned the le­gal­ity of the con­tract be­tween the city and Phat Tire and in­sin­u­ated that the city co­erced the his­tory mu­seum’s board into pub­licly stat­ing they no longer wished to oc­cupy the prop­erty. Allen also was a Ward 1 can­di­date in Tues­day’s elec­tion and was de­feated by Mindy Hunt.

“A lit­tle his­tory, the li­brary couldn’t raise funds to get a new li­brary, and the city com­pletely funded the li­brary,” Allen said. “The soc­cer group could not raise enough funds to build soc­cer fields and the city fully built and paid for all the soc­cer fields. The mu­seum could not raise half the funds for ren­o­vat­ing the old post of­fice, but in­stead of be­ing given the same treat­ment as these non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, we had city staff tell the mu­seum board that they wouldn’t get the build­ing.

“It wasn’t treated the same as these other or­ga­ni­za­tions, and in fact, they al­luded to the mu­seum board that they needed to come tell this city board that they didn’t want the build­ing. And if they did not they would risk get­ting their $50,000 re­moved from their bud­get, that’s not right. Right is right and wrong is wrong.”

Af­ter a brief ex­change be­tween Allen and Siloam Springs

Mayor John Mark Turner, City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Phillip Pat­ter­son ad­dressed Allen’s com­ments. He said city at­tor­ney, Jay Wil­liams, re­viewed the lease con­tract with Phat Tire when it was pre­sented to the board in 2017 and re­futed the no­tion that the city pres­sured the mu­seum board into back­ing away from their orig­i­nal in­ten­tions. In a later com­ment, Turner also took a mo­ment to ad­dress this.

“I was ap­proached at the post of­fice yes­ter­day by some­one who speaks for the mu­seum, Katie Ren­nard,” Turner said. “She was so ex­cited about what is hap­pen­ing (and) so ap­pre­cia­tive of what the city did. I think that had some­one from staff gone and told them ‘It’s ei­ther this way or the high­way,’ — you don’t tell Katie that. If you know Katie you know you don’t tell her some­thing like that.

“I per­son­ally had a con­ver­sa­tion with Katie back be­fore we signed the agree­ment to do what the city agreed to do and she was ex­cited about it. She said the board got to­gether and said they didn’t think that they could fill the post of­fice. It was too big of a build­ing, had too many prob­lems, and it was go­ing to be too ex­pen­sive for the city to be able to do what they needed to do and they felt it was in their best in­ter­est, of the mu­seum and the city. … They wanted to move with the ren­o­va­tion of the ex­ist­ing build­ing and they’re ex­cited about it.”

Allen wasn’t alone in his con­cerns, as oth­ers came for­ward to ex­press sen­ti­ments per­tain­ing to the mu­seum’s past in­ter­est in the prop­erty. One of these in­cluded Marla Sap­ping­ton, who was elected Tues­day to Ward 3 of the city board.

Sap­ping­ton agreed with Allen’s com­ments and said some­one from city staff did con­tact the mu­seum board to de­ter their in­ter­est in the prop­erty and that she “has that in­for­ma­tion.” She added that only a por­tion of the build­ing was eval­u­ated dur­ing the ap­praisal process and that she is con­cerned that Phat Tire may have a con­flict of in­ter­est with Lane Shift and the Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion — two key en­ti­ties that fa­cil­i­tated the ap­proval process of the bike lane pi­lot project.

The dis­cus­sion shifted to board mem­bers shortly there­after, who asked ques­tions and did their best to ad­dress all of the pub­lic com­ments. Di­rec­tor Bob Cole­man’s com­ments drew a no­tice­able amount of sup­port from board mem­bers, per­haps best sum­ming up the board’s feel­ing on the is­sue.

“I’m con­vinced, af­ter be­ing in Siloam for 12 or 13 years, that re­gard­less of what we do on the old post of­fice build­ing, it’s not go­ing to be right,” Cole­man said. “It’s a fes­ter­ing sore. It was a mess when I got here and there’s been a lot of money put into it. One of the things that I do know hav­ing been here as many years as I have and for know­ing as many peo­ple as I know in this city, many of them fa­mil­iar with and on mu­seum boards, if they had had some of the prob­lems that are al­leged here, they would have been in our face and they would not have al­lowed staff to in­tim­i­date them at all. I’ve heard noth­ing and I don’t know that any mem­ber of this board has. The ma­jor prob­lem I had with rent­ing that build­ing to any­one was the city be­com­ing a land­lord.

“If we go back to my com­ment when we voted on this lease, that was my only ap­pre­hen­sion. Not that it was Phat Tire, but that we were a land­lord and I hoped that we would get out of that po­si­tion as quickly and as eco­nom­i­cally as we could. It looks like there’s a pro­posal be­fore us — maybe, that’s no sure sign that they’re go­ing to take this of­fer — that does al­low us to get out of the po­si­tion of com­pet­ing with other peo­ple in real es­tate in­vest­ment. I don’t think we should be there, I don’t think we should’ve been then and I don’t think we should be con­tin­u­ing on. If there’s an ad­just­ment to the price, based on the num­bers that we have be­fore us, with an ap­praisal of $260,000, I would say that if we in­tend to … ad­just any price, that would be the top price that I would look for.”

In other busi­ness, the board took the fol­low­ing ac­tions:

• Unan­i­mous ap­proval to adopt an or­di­nance that will cre­ate a new sec­tion of the city code and amend the city’s zon­ing codes for the pur­pose of im­pos­ing stricter guide­lines upon prop­erty de­vel­op­ers out of an ef­fort to in­crease the preser­va­tion of green space.

• Unan­i­mous ap­proval of a res­o­lu­tion that will es­tab­lish a deed re­stric­tion on 2.72 acres of prop­erty be­tween Lin­coln Street and Coun­try Club Road for the pur­pose of com­plet­ing a stream mit­i­ga­tion project on Sager Creek.

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