UPDATE: At Tuesday night's regular Searcy City Council meeting, City Attorney Will Moore said even though a resolution was not prepared, a motion could still be made for the City Council to allow Councilman Rodger Cargile to enter into negotiations for the city to purchase 107 acres using $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Mayor Mat Faulkner said a verbal authorization was needed "for the process to continue. Councilman Don Raney and David Morris said they were to the understanding that this would be presented in "resolution form."
Moore said "I encourage the council to remember that the resolution is just the written reflection of a motion made." He said if a council member wanted to make a resolution, "it was just as valid as a written resolution and a written resolution can follow with the same details."
Raney moved that the city purchase the Rodgers' property for $2 million and authorize Mr. [Rodger] Cargile to negotiate that and obtain a contract and then whatever else we need to do, we can do."
The motion also gives Faulkner the authority to sign any documents necessary to secure the contract. Morris seconded Raney's motion and it was passed unanimously.
Cargile said "I appreciate the opportunity to represent the city and I also wanted to say in either print or on a verbal resolution tonight, there won't be any broker's fees. I'm not collecting a fee from the seller or from the buyer, I am just representing the city."
The Searcy City Council is considering spending most of its remaining federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to purchase four parcels of land totaling nearly 107 acres for future development.
The land on South Main Street across the street from and adjacent to the youth soccer fields and next to the Black House on Race Avenue would cost the city $2 million. It would be purchased from Dr. Porter Rodgers Jr., according to Councilman Rodger Cargile.
“We would like to see an impact purchase with this money that would touch a lot of people,” Cargile said at Thursday’s agenda meeting, saying he was quoting what Councilman Don Raney previously has said, “a purchase that we perhaps couldn’t make without these ARPA funds. For years and years we’ve all driven past this ground [on South Main Street], and I have ... I drive by it every day on my way to work. I look at it and I think about the possibilities of what could happen to that ground. Then I started thinking about the possibilities of what the city can do with that ground and there are endless possibilities we can do with this ground.”
With the city in the process of developing a 20-year master plan with the Crafton Tull engineering firm, Cargile said he believes this purchase would be an asset to the city. He said he believes the city should buy it now. He said he is excited about this opportunity “because cities don’t get a chance to purchase 100-plus-acre tracks in the city limits of their city very often and I see this as an opportunity that is more than worthy of a look.”
Tract 1 is between South Main Street and Pioneer Road across the street from the soccer fields. Cargile said DataScout shows it being about 100 acres but he said “we actually believe it’s 94, 95 acres.” Tract 2 and 3 are 12.5 “contiguous” acres on the east side of Main Street that match up almost perfectly with the city’s existing soccer fields, he said. Tract 4 is “the old Porter Rodgers home [at the junction of North Oak Street and Race Avenue], where the home was before it was torn down several years ago.”
Cargile said since the city of Searcy owns the historic Black House, which houses the Searcy Art Gallery, tract 4 would give the city the entire block. “It’s a package deal,” Cargile said of the four parcels.
“In visiting with Dr. Rodgers about this purchase, one of the things that he would like to see with this particular parcel downtown next to the Black House is a park, like a pocket park in honor of his family, which I think we would be more than happy to do,” he said. “It’s a great location next to a facility we already have. Again, it would give us the whole city block next to Walgreens [200 E. Race Ave].”
Cargile said he and Searcy Planning and Development Director Richard Stafford visited with Dave Roberts of Crafton Tull, primarily on the biggest tract. Stafford said he told Crafton Tull that the potential was there for this land.
“They drove by the property on one of their visits and did a brief assessment,” Stafford said. “They had good things to say. The obvious thing is accessibility from the highway down Main Street is a big plus to them. One of the big selling points on it for them was just the continuous nature of connecting all of the existing sports park that we have, the soccer fields and how it lines up just perfectly with that. There are multiple opportunities.”
Stafford said Crafton Tull representatives brought up this area for a possible location for a recreation and community center or some ballfields. “They even said something about potentially a mixed-use development with recreation.”
Cargile said, “I think it’s a blank canvas that we over time can do a lot of things with.”
Councilman Chris Howell asked Cargile if the deal was “an all or nothing” or if the city could “piecemeal” the properties. Cargile said it really wasn’t discussed like that, but only as a package.
Cargile said the 12 1/2 acres, because it matches up with the soccer fields, would give access off Main Street if there was a need to expand soccer or parking. “It made sense to include that 12 1/2 acres,” Cargile said.
The cost works out to around $18,800 an acre for the Main Street land, he said, “and that is not including the downtown. It’s just tract 1, 2 and 3, which would be about 106 or 104 acres.” He called the sale price a very fair opportunity for the city.
Mayor Mat Faulkner asked what the balance of the ARPA funds was. City Clerk-Treasurer Jerry Morris said, “As of Feb. 28th, $2,606,912.”
Raney said he always talked about having something permanent and lasting and “when has a city ever been able to buy about a hundred acres right in the middle of town. And the potential is endless in my opinion, and if Crafton Tull agrees with that and they can wrap it into this thing they’re doing right now, I think we need to do it.”
Cargile stressed that the purchase would be done without using city or county tax revenue. “This is done with federal government money that was given to us. I think it is that impact purchase that we’ve been looking for.”
Raney said, “I want to buy something that 25 years from now, people say, ‘Boy that’s really a neat thing you did.’”
Councilman David Morris asked Cargile if that $2 million price included closing costs. “No sir,” he said. “We would have a little bit of closing costs as buyers. The bulk of the closing costs would be on the seller because the seller provides us title insurance, a guaranteed clear title for the property. Our closing costs would be the deed stamps and the closing company fee to package it up, but not much.”
Faulkner asked if there was any concern about the land’s location near the airport. Cargile said he talked to Searcy Municipal Airport Manager Roger Pearson a while back and he did not believe there would be any problems.
The council meets for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the chambers of City Hall.
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