During an emergency special meeting of the Bryant City Council, which lasted less than half an hour, the council voted Thursday to dissolve the city's Advertising and Promotion Commission and repeal the A&P tax.
The Saline Courier was notified of the meeting about two hours prior.
In a prepared statement, Mayor Allen Scott spoke Thursday of the commission's recent approval of a land purchase.
Monday, the commission approved the purchase of a 3-acre tract of land on Interstate 30 near the Flip Flop Flea market at a cost of $645,000. The commission's future plans included putting a welcome sign on the property and then developing or selling the unused property.
The recent meeting of the commission was the first gathering of the group since the council voted in May to terminate the commission's president and treasurer.
"It is my belief that the council did this action (terminating the president and treasurer) to send a message to the A&P Commission to be more diligent and forthcoming in their operation. Based on this proposed property transaction, I do not think the A&P Commission heard the message. As a result, the only solution to this issue I can come up with is to repeal Ordinance 2017-38 which established the A&P Commission, dissolve the A&P Commission in its entirety and repeal the collection of future A&P taxes," Scott said.
He also relayed various questions he has been asked about the property purchase including why not lease property and why spend so much of the commission's available funds.
"People have said this seems like bad stewardship of the funds the public has entrusted the commission with," Scott said.
Alderman Carlton Billingsley, who also serves on the commission, was the only member to vote against dissolving the commission. Alderman Lorne Gladden, who also serves on the commission, was not present for the meeting.
Billingsley gave reasoning behind the land purchase.
"This was not a rush decision that this has been worked on for quite some time," he said. "Our opinion was we're good stewards of the money and don't lease land where we have no recovery of those funds, instead we could buy three acres, develop the sign in the appropriate amount of square footage that we needed and then, more than likely … we could sell that land for the same price we purchased it for …I t was not our plan to buy $645,000 worth of land just to buy land."
He noted that since only four members remain on the commission, all of the remaining members must be present for a meeting to have a quorum.
"It's been a challenge to have everybody in the room together," Billingsley said.
He also expressed disappointment in the council.
"When we established the A&P Commission … I don't think there was ever a doubt on anyone's mind up here on council that the A&P Commission was not going to do something that we could all be proud of; however, I don't know what has changed in the last six months. I'm really disappointed in our leadership and in the city," he said. "To sit here and continue to attack this A&P Commission for absolutely no reason other than you don't agree with the situation, I don't agree with it. I'm disappointed and I can't believe we're sitting here having the same discussion that we had in May."
He noted that the council's action "sends a strong message" to individuals on other commissions and committees.
"Just because we don't agree, we don't kick people off. Just because we don't agree, doesn't mean we can't have a discussion. I haven't had anyone pick up a phone and ask me what was going on with this commission. If we're so deeply concerned, let's have a conversation. We're not Washington D.C. This is not the federal level and we can get along. We go to church together, we eat in restaurants together and the last thing we need to do is have a city divided and that is what we have over the last six months."
In response, Council Members Brenda Miller and R.J. Hawk said they have requested, through FOI, the commission's financial records.
Alderman Rob Roedel agreed that there was a "lack of communication" adding that there was also a lack of direction and lack of trust.
"I think if the A&P Commission and the council worked together more closely we probably wouldn't be sitting here tonight," Roedel said.
There is currently $778,000 in the commission's account, Billingsley said.
When asked by the council how this funding will be handled, City Attorney Josh Farmer didn't have a definite answer.
"I'll have to research that," Farmer said.
The belief is that the land will not be purchased but that funding would still be available to fulfill requests made by the Bryant School District and Greater Bryant Chamber of Commerce during the commission's meeting Monday.