Marked Tree Council makes decision on Awesome contract

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The city of Marked Tree has been working for months on a contract both the council and Awesome Products can agree on regarding the company's obligations to the city. With Monday's city council meeting, an agreement may have been reached, but it will not mean any new jobs created for the city.

Mayor Mary Ann Arnold told the council at this week's meeting she had been going back and forth with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Awesome Products regarding the situation.

Mayor Arnold said the latest contract stated Awesome had fulfilled its obligation to create 15 jobs and was ready to reimburse Marked Tree in a lump sum for $232,000 the city spent putting in the rail spur to the Awesome Products facility. Arnold said she could not sign the contract because, "I know there have not been 15 new jobs open in Marked Tree. They have created 15 new jobs in West Memphis."

Arnold also said she had spoken to Becky Thompson with AEDC several times, and Thompson indicated to her the city would receive the money but there would be no new jobs created at the Awesome Products facility. "The only thing I can do is sign this, send it back, and hope we get the money," Mayor Arnold said. "If I don't sign this, we get no money and no jobs."

City Attorney Jobi Teague said the contract he had drafted a few months ago had the city getting the money back in payments of $12,000 per year. "This will give you a lump sum, but I've never trusted them," Teague said.

At Alderman Shane Glenn's suggestion, the council voted to authorize the mayor to tell Awesome Products they would sign the contract either after the check clears the bank or after receiving a cashier's check. The motion passed with a 6-1 vote with Cleo Johnson dissenting.

"We've learned a lesson in this situation," Mayor Arnold said. "I feel there was a lack of research on the background of this and the gentleman involved. Let's don't learn this lesson a second time."

In 2010, when Marked Tree originally received the AEDC grant to build the rail spur, the city had expected Awesome would create between 90-120 jobs at the facility. Construction of the spur took longer than expected. The spur was not finished until 2012, and Awesome claimed it lost a strategic partner as a result of the delays. Mayor Arnold assured the council the rail spur is owned by the city.

In other business, the council:

*approved a resolution to apply for a GIF funded Community Enhancement Grant in the amount of $98,500 to remodel the armory. The plan is to use the armory as a community facility available for lease. Mayor Arnold said people are already calling wishing to rent the armory, but fees and regulations need to be worked out first, along with the remodeling.

*passed an ordinance allowing conditional use of a module in an R-2 residential zone located between 1002 and 1008 Elm Street. Alderman Shane Glenn voiced concern the ordinance may start a domino effect for requests to put trailers on property trailers are not allowed on. The ordinance passed with a 6-1 vote with Glenn dissenting.

*approved hiring a radio dispatcher.

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