Mayor Butch Berry said at Monday’s council meeting he would speak to the Eureka Springs School Board at their Jan. 8 meeting about the school district giving the property formerly the site of the high school, now the site of the Community Center, to the city. Berry said he is not sure what the board wants to do, but the Attorney General’s opinion was that the district could give the property to the city if it were for educational or community benefit.
Berry said such a move would make the Community Center Foundation, lessee of the property, eligible for grants not otherwise available. The Foundation, according to the lease, would still control the property, but the city might be able to renegotiate so that the Foundation would spend some of its fundraising funds toward the property instead of toward lease payments. He also wondered if the city could eventually move its offices there, though he doubted, as things they are now, if the city could afford the rent.
Alderman Terry McClung agreed with Berry the city would not be able to afford the rent, and he did not like the risk the city might encumber if it owned the property, although he did like the idea of negotiating for space for city meetings, which he considered a separate issue.
Alderman Kristi Kendrick said if the city were given the property, the city would own something someone else controlled. She did not consider it a benefit to the city at all and called pursuing that option “extremely dangerous” without the city performing due diligence.
Blake Lasater, CCF board member, commented the Foundation is doing its work for the city, and if the city owned the property, “the wonderful partnership” would open up new grant opportunities. He was steadfast, however, the Foundation could not just give away space and still meet its financial goals.
Alderman David Mitchell and Mickey Schneider still rued not being offered exclusive use of a meeting space.
Aldermen agreed the talk of being given the property was all conjecture and premature, and a mountain of details would have to be worked through first.