Fort Smith paper notes senator's city-backed project | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fort Smith paper notes senator's city-backed project

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 7:05 AM

The Southwest Times-Record reports here on earlier reporting about a $111,000 federal tax lien filed against one of Sen. Jake Files' business.

The article touches on another Files deal that has prompted some inquiries from Fort Smith residents previously. The newspaper recounts:

Files and fellow developer Lee Webb are building a long-planned softball complex for the city of Fort Smith at Chaffee Crossing. They say the complex will feature eight fields designed to host a range of youth or adult sports tournaments and activities that include softball and baseball.

In 2014, the city agreed to buy a completed product, dubbed the River Valley Sports Complex, for $1.6 million, then lease it to Webb and Files to operate. At an estimated cost $4.3 million, the facility will be built with the city’s $1.6 million along with donations and in-kind services, according to the developers.

So far the city has released about $400,000 of the $1.6 million based on construction milestones.

“Getting the dirt work done, I think, was the hardest challenge out there,” Parks Director Doug Reinert said Monday. “Now hopefully they are going to start putting up walls for some structures.”

A completion date for the project is March 31.

$2.4 million in "donations and in-kind services?" (A big portion of that is $1.1 million in value ascribed to the donation of land from the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.) The city is paying to build a facility that it will lease to developers who presumably have a plan to profit from the city-built facility. Did anybody wonder if the city could have simply operated the facility itself? Of course, when a private developer gets taxpayer money for most of  project capital costs, it makes it somewhat easier to turn a profit.

The deal was approved by a split City Council that had some concerns that developers could meet their end of the bargain. Bears watching.

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