It came as a shock to many Osceola business owners and OML&P ratepayers that a deal had been struck to sell the municipally owned property commonly known as the "Fruit Building". The deal first became public in a hurried special called City of Osceola Council meeting in which the Mayor made an opening statement followed by his son, Ken Kennemore of Kennemore Insurance and Real Estate presenting a contract to the Mayor and Council for immediate approval.
Since the building was not being made available for public use, the sale would have released the City of Osceola from liability issues, and those pesky insurance worries. Right? Not so fast. A quick glance of the "contract" revealed one glaring issue. An issue that in a community plagued with the perceptions of higher than average electric rates should have raised red flags...
That's not all... the pre-sale lease arrangement (which alone had the potential to bankrupt Osceola) did not include a "No-Subleasing Clause". Without a no-sublease clause, the quarter-million square foot facility could have been spit into partials and subleased to multiple high energy consuming businesses... all with FREE UTILITIES. This shouldn't come as a surprise since it has now been brought to light (via FOIA) that the contract was, in fact, a multi-middle man, subleasing contract with absolutely no guarantee of the final purchase coming to...fruition.
Hmm... The lure of low hanging fruit? That final purchase price of $3,000,000.00 for the former Fruit of the Loom complex looked really nice for anyone hoping to get the City of Osceola out of the real-estate business.
Luckily, the State of Arkansas has specific laws in place that protect the taxpayers (and in this case... Municipal Rate Payers) from the potential corruption and/or incompetence of elected officials dabbling in the highly lucrative yet equally speculative commercial real estate business.
§ 14-54-302. Purchase, lease, sale, and disposal authorized
AR Code § 14-54-302 (2017)
-(d) Municipal real estate or personal property to be disposed of as one (1) unit shall not be sold without competitive bidding if the amount exceeds twenty thousand dollars ($20,000)...
That should have been the end of this story since the sale/lease was in fact nullified by the failure to put the sale out for public bid. Rest assured, more of this story is developing as I type.
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