The Louisiana City Council Monday night agreed to solicit proposals from prospective buyers who may be interested in purchasing three downtown lots.
That decision capped off a lengthy discussion regarding the process the city was following in regards to selling the properties. For the time being, the council’s action also will halt negotiations that were underway between the city and two prospective buyers.
The council voted 7-0 to advertise a request for proposals (RFPs) for the properties, located in the 300 block of Georgia Street and the lot on the southeast corner of Georgia and 4th streets. It also scheduled to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, July 16, at 5:30 p.m. to review the RFPs.
The two votes were made after five of the seven council members opposed a motion to proceed with selling the properties. During a vote to sell the properties to Carter and the Dempseys, Ward 1 Alderman Larry White and Ward 2 Alderman Jim Wood voted in favor of the move. The aldermen who opposed the motion were Ward 1 Alderman Sal Pollice, Ward 2 Alderman Kathy Smith, Ward 3 Alderman Bart Niedner, and Ward 4 Alderman Russell Stephens. Ward 4 Alderman Monroe Elliott was absent.
The city had begun negotiations with Tim Carter on the lots located in the 300 block of Georgia Street and with Doug and Lynn Dempsey on the corner parcel. All three lots are vacant and are adjacent to properties that both parties currently own.
According to Mayor Tom Wallace, the city was offering to sell each of the three downtown lots for $10.
However at Monday’s meeting, Niedner made the suggestion to advertise for proposals to open up the possibility if there were others interested in the properties. He indicated he had been approached by a resident questioning why this had not been done up until this point.
While he felt it was in the best interest of the city to allow making the properties available to the public, Niedner also stated he does not feel other offers will be made.
“I do not believe you will have any competition,” Niedner told Carter and the Dempseys. “I believe this is dotting I’s and crossing T’s because the Constitution of Missouri says we cannot use public resources for private benefit. I want to completely eliminate any possible accusation that this council has violated that basic tenant.”
By seeking the RFPs rather than bids, a purchase price will not be the focus of a future transaction between the city and any prospective buyer. Rather, a buyer must agree to certain specifications imposed by the city.
The legal notice related to the RFP is published in this week’s Press-Journal.
The council’s action left Carter and the Dempseys frustrated by the latest delay. Both parties expressed concerns about whether the council may decide to select a proposal over their own.
Carter indicated he planned on beautifying the property as a way to alleviate storm water run-off issues and help stabilize the adjacent structure he owns. He estimated it would cost $15,000 to improve the city-owned property.
Meanwhile, the Dempseys are in the process of opening a business at a vacant storefront on Georgia Street and also informed the board at Monday’s meeting they had purchased the vacant property adjacent to that structure earlier in the day. They envision converting the two vacant properties into a parking lot.
“My thing is, 3 ½ years that lot has been vacant; 3 ½ years nobody has ever said a word,” Doug Dempsey said. “Lynn and I start getting our ducks in a row and now all of a sudden certain members of the city council want to throw up the red flag and say, ‘Wow, wait a minute.’ ”
Mayor Tom Wallace also felt the city should have proceeded to sell the properties.
“I don’t think prolonging it is doing it right,” he said. I think you’re doing an injustice to the people who have invested their money already.”
Some discussion at Monday’s meeting also focused on whether or not an ordinance needed to be adopted acknowledging a decision to sell city-owned property or if a resolution was sufficient as a way to expedite a transaction.
The board eventually voted 7-0 to proceed with having resolutions drafted and acted upon for future real estate matters.
Still, Niedner felt it would be in the city’s best interest to spend another week to ensure any deal is conducted in the open.
“My opinion is, if we put out a RFP, we are requesting a proposal to do something that would benefit Louisiana with these properties,” Niedner said. “It’s up the council — it’s not a matter of dollars — it’s entirely up to this council to determine for subjective reasons, any reasons, which proposal best fits the needs for Louisiana.”