Bryant City Council passes eminent domain ordinance

During a special Bryant City Council meeting Tuesday night, the aldermen adopted an ordinance that allows staff attorney Chris Madison to continue negotiating with local residents about acquiring property for the Alcoa Road expansion without jeopardizing federal funding.

The expansion of Alcoa Road is a project that Bryant, Benton and Saline County officials are all working on together and each party is responsible for receiving certain tracts of land.

Bryant is responsible for seven parcels of 52 tracts of land, said County Judge Lanny Fite, who was present.
Since an eminent domain ordinance was adopted, Madison now is authorized to negotiate with residents on acquiring the property. Previously the residents were negotiating with an out-of-state company hired to handle the process.

One resident, Ardyn Grinstead said he was told that Arkansas is a one-offer state and Aldermen Randy Cox and Adrian Henley said they spoke with several residents who told them the company has not negotiated with them.

Both Fite and Madison said there are specific guidelines each agency much go through to receive federal funding for the project. These guidelines protect residents, Fite said.

As part of the guidelines, residents have to have some kind of documentation or evidence to support a counter-offer, they said.

If all of the properties are not secured by the end of the month, $5 million in funding for the project could be lost. At such a juncture, the cities would have to pay the deficit or the project dies, said Jim McKenzie, executive director of Metroplan.

Since the council approved the ordinance, Bryant's properties are considered secured and Fite and Madison agreed to meet with residents to hear their various offers.

If the offers are deemed not to have merit, Fite and Madison can make this determination and inform the property owners. If the offers are considered acceptable, the process can move forward, Cox said.
Henley and Alderman Steve Gladden voted against the ordinance.

Also during the meeting, an agreement between the city and the Boys & Girls Club of Bryant was not discussed since Executive Director Suzanne Passmore and Scott Dews, board president, were not present.
Alderman Scott Curtis said Passmore was not informed that the discussion was on the agenda.

The city normally does not notify individuals personally since the agenda is published online, City Clerk Heather McKim said.

A story about the meeting also appeared in Tuesday's edition of The Saline Courier.

Mayor Jill Dabbs said she will set up a meeting with Passmore, Dews and Madison.

The council's next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. July 21.