Benton School Board has paved the way for UALR-Benton Center to expand its facilities by the board's vote Monday night to purchase First Security Bank's downtown facility for a new central administration office.
The board voted 4-2 for an agreement to purchase the bank facility for housing the district's central administration facilities.
The agreement calls for the school district to pay the bank $2.3 million in cash plus the traded properties of C.W. Lewis Stadium; the stadium parking lot; the old junior high building that currently houses UALR-Benton; and the central administration and technology buildings.
The agreement includes the following terms and conditions:
•$1 million escrow (earnest money) is established upon the agreement.
•Final closing/transfer will take place Aug. 31, 2013.
•Acknowledgement of First Baptist Church's "right of first refusal" on the parking lot with any and all net proceeds being added to increase the cash portion of the purchase price. First Baptist has been given 90 days to exercise the option.
•First Security reserves the right to "not accept" transfer of the traded properties.
•Transaction is subject to any requisite state or federal approval for both parties.
•Final purchase agreement documents must meet the approval of the president of the Benton School Board, CEO of First Security Bank of Saline County and attorneys for both parties.
Before the board voted on the issue, Benton Mayor David Mattingly spoke in behalf of the proposal and displayed conceptual drawings of a new UALR facility, which would be located on the site of C.W. Lewis Stadium.
A number of local residents attended to o encourage the vote.
The proposal to acquire the downtown bank structure was presented about three months ago. In the meantime, the district conducted appraisals of the bank structure as well as school district facilities that were to be traded as part of the proposed arrangement.
Board member Wade Goodwin voted "no" and Dr. Joe Felan abstained, noting that he had some difficulty with the appraisal amounts and also pointing out that he is an employee of UALR.
Felan's vote, however, counts as a "no" according to Arkansas law, Dr. Tony Prothro pointed out.
Voting "yes" were board members Brad Bohannan, Heath Nix, Jonathan Woolbright and the president, Jeff Morrow. Member Paul Viner was absent.
Prothro, who served as superintendent from 2006 until the present time, has guided the board through the property discussions and research that led to Monday's decision.
During Prothro's remarks, he acknowledged the assistance of a former board member Sam Stueart, who suggested the UALR expansion plan two years ago.
"We owe him a debt of gratitude," Prothro said.
Dan Jordan, acting superintendent, expressed his appreciation to everyone who played a part in the process.
"I've watched this unfold over the past few months and I want to thank the mayor for the leadership he provided in forming alliances with the UALR trustees and a lot of interested parties," Jordan said.
Mark Vanderpool, president of First Security, also spoke at the meeting. He said the bank plans to build a new facility at the old Baptist Health Clinic (Benton Family Clinic) site, which the bank has owned since 2007. He has said previously that the bank would build a structure that is in line with the bank's newer facilities around the state, he said.
Vanderpool has stressed that the bank plans to donate the properties it receives from the school district to the proposed UALR expansion project.
UALR-Benton has been approved for a new four-year degree program in e-commerce starting in the fall. School officials have said that additional space will be needed soon as the program expands. The local school will be the only one in the state to offer the new degree.
In other action Monday night, the board adopted a resolution regarding the refunding of a May 1, 2008, bond issue and another resolution on second-lien bonds related to completion of the school's sports complex
The board approved a $4,645,821 construction bid for completing the sports complex. In a prior meeting, the board had voted to complete the project.
Phil Moffitt, senior project manager of Nabholz Construction, pointed out that the bid is about 5 percent under budget.
The board also approved a $153,776 bid on a courtyard construction project at Benton Middle School.
Also approved were milk and bread bids for the coming school term. Interstate Bread Co. will provide the bread service and Coleman Dairy will continue to provide milk to the district.
Also approved were the classified salary schedule; contract disclosures to avoid conflicts of interest; and renewal of a storage agreement with White Investments.
The board heard an overview of the special education department conducted by Cindy Rogers.
Numerous personnel recommendations were approved following an executive session and will be reported in a later edition of The Saline Courier.
All board meetings are open to the public.