Post office discussion gets heated
■ The sale price for the downtown building was approved Tuesday.
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.