Barling makes official its desire to end the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,877 views 

Barling City Directors passed a resolution at their meeting Tuesday (March 27) recommending the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) come to an end. It was passed by a vote of 5-1 with Director Savanna Robison voting against it.

The resolution recommends dissolution of FCRA, termination of indenture of trust, establishing a winding up date and procedures for the distribution of trust funds and trust property to the beneficiaries. The four beneficiaries are Barling, Fort Smith, Greenwood, and Sebastian County.

“Last week I spoke at the FCRA meeting and expressed to the board (of trustees) that if the beneficiaries approved resolutions to dissolve, that we strongly ask that they adhere to the wishes of the beneficiaries and vote to dissolve,” said Barling Mayor Greg Murray.

The FCRA was formed in 1997 to oversee redevelopment of 6,000 acres of land released by the U.S. Army from Fort Chaffee as part of a Base Realignment and Closure downsizing.

Barling is the first of the beneficiaries to pass a resolution regarding the dissolution of the trust. Sebastian County Judge Steve Hotz included a draft of a similar resolution in the Sebastian County Quorum Court’s agenda package for the March 29 meeting in order to give members a chance to review the resolution for future discussion.

The Barling resolution states because there is small acreage of “Economically Feasible Trust Land” remaining along with other remaining non-economic lands, the annual salaries and operating expenses indicate it would “reasonable, economical, and, applying fiduciary standards” to distribute trust funds and property to the beneficiaries and dissolve the trust. It also states that a dissolution date should be set and that FCRA should refrain from buying back property already sold to be sold again. The resolution states that there are approximately 250 acres of marketable land remaining in the trust.

ANNOUNCING INTENT
Barling City Administrator Steve Core said he believes there are 489 acres, including Deer Trails Golf Course, which consists of about 120 acres. The FCRA Board of Trustees has said they want the golf course to remain a public golf course, but the property is listed for sale on the FCRA website.

Core also said there is about $8 million in FCRA trust accounts. The FCRA financial report from Feb. 29 shows approximately $8.6 million in current assets. FCRA salaries are shown to be about $600,000 annually, Core said.

“We were told in a meeting by Daniel Mann (FCRA executive director), we have it on tape, it would take two to two and half years to shut it down. That was a year and a half ago. Now we’re hearing it’s going to be 10 years at least,” Core said. “That $600,000 (in annual salaries) will gobble up that $8 million.”

Board members raised questions about details of the dissolution in the resolution. Acting City Attorney Matt Ketcham advised that the document was merely a resolution, not a contract.

“It announces the intent and desire of the board,” Ketcham said. “It says, ‘This is what we want to do.’ … The (FCRA) board is not bound by this resolution,” Ketcham said. “The board can throw it away. They can doodle on it.”

Ketcham said if the FCRA board does vote to dissolve the trust, there will have to be numerous meetings with the beneficiaries on how the dissolution can and would happen.

FCRA LETTER
Mann sent a letter regarding the resolution that was read at the Barling meeting.

“That being said, I am quite confident that the Trust will continue its operations even if the resolution is passed by the City of Barling,” Mann said in the letter.

Mann also questioned the validity of information in the resolution.

“Is the City of Barling willing to pass a resolution knowing that it contains false information and other information that the City has not verified is true. That could have significant ramifications. Why has the FCRA not been involved in the discussions of its future?” Mann wrote in the letter. “I was disappointed to learn that the City of Fort Smith and City of Barling had organized a meeting with the FCRA’s four beneficiaries but did not bother to include the FCRA. It would be much better if Barling and the FCRA were partners in the winding down of the FCRA. To that end, we appreciated having Mayor Murray join us at our last FCRA board meeting. The Mayor of Barling has a seat at the table of all of our board meetings. Discussions about the future of the FCRA should be held in conjunction with the FCRA and not in the dark.”

Representatives of the four beneficiaries of FCRA met Aug. 7 and agreed to a list of questions regarding the dissolution of the trust. An email was sent by Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken Aug. 8, 2023, to Mann and the FCRA board with 10 questions pertaining to dissolution. Those questions went unanswered for seven months.

On March 4, Mann sent an email to Geffken, McGill and the Fort Smith Board of Directors answering those questions after he learned about the resolution on the Fort Smith board’s agenda asking for answers to the questions asked in August.

In the email, they answered the 10 questions regarding dissolution of the trust, noting that while it is too early to know exactly how long it will take to complete all that the trust needs to do and go through the process of dissolving the trust, they believe it will take less than 10 years to do so. It also noted that dissolution could be done in less than three years.