story by Ryan Saylor
The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority meeting Thursday (Jan. 23) saw its board of directors approve an extension of Executive Director Ivy Owen's contract as well as approval of a budget that would pay Owen a higher annual salary, therefore eliminating annual performance bonuses that have brought attention to the FCRA.
Owen, whose contract will now run through Aug. 31, 2016, had previously been awarded a bonus of $25,000 in both December 2013 and December 2012. During the Dec. 18, 2013, meeting, which marked Owen's sixth year with the FCRA, he had requested not only the bonus but also a pay raise of 5%, which would have bumped his annual salary from $136,500 to $143,325. The item was tabled by the board until it had completed its annual budget, which passed unanimously Thursday.
Included in the budget was funding for Owen's salary of $161,000, which represents a 17.95% salary bump. But Owen said following the meeting that the increase in salary was not what it initially appeared to be.
"What they talked about doing was instead of giving me a bonus which raises so much public (interest)…it was really a part of my salary, I just deferred it until the end of the year. They put that in my salary now, so I won't get a bonus at the end of the year."
The amount his salary was bumped equals $24,500, an amount just shy of his bonuses for the previous two years.
While Owen did not receive the 5% raise he had requested, he said he is happy with his compensation package provided by FCRA.
"Yes, I'm very happy," he said. "I'll be happy to be here two more years."
Looking to the two year mark and beyond, Owen said there was still a lot of work to be done to fully re-purpose the land that was formerly a part of the U.S. Army's Fort Chaffee military installation for civilian use. And Owen said he wants to be able to see the development of what is now known as Chaffee Crossing through to completion, meaning he is likely to ask for more time at FCRA before hanging his hat.
"I'll probably ask for another two years," he said. "I think probably in four years I'll be ready (to retire). I think I will have an opportunity in four years to accomplish what I want to accomplishment and see what things come to fruition that I think should have come within that period of time. And in four years, I'll probably be ready to slow down a little bit."
One of the projects still on Owen's agenda is finalizing a lease from FCRA to a non-profit made up of members of the authority's Deer Trails Golf Course.
The facility has posted losses the last two years and is projected to lose $45,400 during the first quarter of this year, prior to the lease which should be signed and operational by April 1.
With a lease to the non-profit for $1 each year, Owen said the FCRA would reduce losses at the facility since it would no longer be responsible for property, equipment and building maintenance. The only cost, which is still an known, would be property insurance, Owen said.
FCRA Treasurer Kelly Clark said the five year lease would be a great move for FCRA and club members at Deer Trails.
"When we got it, we viewed it as something that enhanced the property. We sure didn't want it to go away, but in the same respect, we're not in the business to run golf courses, either. They have the expertise, they all got together and wanted to do it. We drafted a lease and they're going to starting running it April 1."
In other business, board members approved updates to the FCRA's master plan.