FCRA, beneficiaries begin process toward dissolution of the public trust

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 41 views 

Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) officials and its beneficiaries have agreed that the next steps in moving toward a dissolution of the trust is for FCRA to create a projection of property available for sale and estimated revenues and expenses for the next few years.

Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow, Barling Mayor Greg Murray and Barling City Administrator Steve Core, Sebastian County Judge Steve Hotz, and Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken and Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman attended a meeting Monday (June 10) with Daniel Mann, FCRA executive director and CEO, and Dean Gibson, chairman of the FCRA board of trustees, to begin discussing the process of a possible dissolution of the FCRA trust.

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. The trust has four beneficiaries – the cities of Barling, Fort Smith and Greenwood and Sebastian County. The cities of Barling, Fort Smith and Greenwood and the Sebastian County Quorum Court have passed resolutions calling for FCRA dissolution. Only the authority board can vote to dissolve the organization.

The FCRA Board of Trustees passed a resolution May 16 to continue forward “in its successful mission pursuant to the terms of the Indenture of Trust agreed upon by the Beneficiaries on February 19, 1997.” The resolution also states that the trustees believe it is in the best interest of the trust to work in coordination and consultation with the beneficiaries to openly discuss operations of the trust until the trustees decide it is time to dissolve.

“We want to work together to help each of you understand where we (FCRA) are currently and our vision for the future and how we believe we can get there,” Mann said Monday.

Beneficiaries expressed their desire to set a date for dissolution, but Mann and Gibson said an exact date is something they cannot yet give. Mann has in the past given a timeline from three to 10 years, based on the amount of trust land still available for sale, and said Monday he still feels comfortable with that timeline. He said being able to narrow it down more is not now possible.

He said when the trust was first indentured, the reuse plan listed three phases of development, none of which had a detailed timeline.

“I think we are at the tail end of phase two, going into phase three,” Mann said.

He said in the past five years, they have sold 890 acres. He also said it was hard to tell how long it would take to sell the remaining property. Mann said FCRA had an independent engineer look at the available land still for sale. There are 1,307 acres of land to be sold by the trust, he said. Of that 1,036 is outside of the floodplain. Beneficiaries had estimated there were only about 500 acres of marketable land left in the area.

“What we’re doing to help educate ourselves and start educating our partners is doing feasibility studies on some of the key areas so we know what the costs are, especially in the City of Barling. I envision the majority of the cost for development is going to take place in Barling, just because the infrastructure isn’t there,” Mann said.

Geffken said the beneficiaries need to know what of that approximate 1,000 acres of land is right of way and streets and other types of property.

“There has been lots of information – correct or not. We should all agree on a range of number (of acres). We are not in agreement on that,” Geffken said.

The beneficiaries also said a pro forma projection of FCRA revenues and expenses expected in the next five years could better determine a dissolution timeline. Once the projection is completed, which Mann said could take about two months, then everyone could move forward from there.

“We can start with projections of revenues and expenses over the next few years” Gibson said. “I think we can put together that projection of property. It will be a projection only. … That will be good for all of us.”

Mann suggested once that is complete, the beneficiaries should meet with FCRA at Chaffee in order to learn more about what they are doing and what still needs to be done, so all could make rational decisions on what the next steps need to be.

Beneficiaries representatives still wanted an approximate dissolution date set.

“We need to come up with an end date, so we can work toward that end date,” Murray said. “We need to look forward, and the only way to look forward is to have a finish line.”

Gibson said setting a specific date would only be detrimental to the cause because if that date was not hit exactly, then it can cause even more strife between all the parties.

“Once it’s on paper, then there are all sorts of pressures,” Gibson said.

He did however say that since the original indenture stated the trust should take 25-30 years to complete its task, he wouldn’t mind setting a dissolution date of the end of 2027.

“I don’t look at a date, the way I interpret the end date, to set an arbitrary calendar date serves zero purpose. From our standpoint, you look at revenues and expenses, you look at property and you look at ongoing obligations,” Mann said.

Mann said putting aside in-fighting occurring between the beneficiaries and the FCRA and focusing on proactive approaches to the projects that will help the land be sold and developed will help speed up the process of finishing the FCRA business. The beneficiaries agreed that lowering the temperature on both sides and working toward things together is the goal of all involved.

The group agreed to meet again at the FCRA once the projections are completed for more education and discussion.

Editor’s note: The media was initially not allowed to attend the June 10 meeting per FCRA Executive Director Daniel Mann. However, when the meeting was set to be held in City of Fort Smith offices, City Administrator Carl Geffken invited Talk Business & Politics to attend.