During the June 10 regular Highland City Council meeting, the council unanimously voted to accept an offer made by the property owners. The council agreed to pay $275,000 for the property which includes eight acres.
"That's going to be the hub of Highland right there," Alderman David Harris said. "I'm excited."
In a special meeting May 20, the council voted to offer the owners $200,000 for the site along Highway 62/412 which, at that time, included just four acres of property. The owners had originally asked $295,000 for the property.
Mayor Jerome Norwood said the owners didn't turn down the city's offer to purchase the site of the former shopping complex and four acres, but wanted the city to instead consider purchasing all of the property for $275,000.
Norwood said the owners have agreed to provide a survey at their cost but asked that the city recognize two family members by placing a plaque or something similar on the property.
Although the council voted unanimously to accept the offer from the owners, it wasn't an easy decision for all of the aldermen.
"I'm just worried about spending nearly $300,000 for a piece of property to put a fire station on," Alderman Shawn Reed said.
Reed said the city can expect a $75,000 shortfall in sales tax revenue for the year if things continue on the same trend they have been during the last few months. Reed asked if such a purchase was the right thing for the city to do right now considering the city's financial situation. In addition, he said the city still needs another fire truck.
"How are we paying for this?" Reed asked.
Norwood said the city has applied for $150,000 in grants, several from federally funded organizations, to help with the purchase of property in which the fire station will be built. He said he expects to hear back from those organizations sometime during the summer.
In the meantime, the city will have to borrow the money from a bank. Norwood said two local banks, Liberty Bank and First National Banking Company, have offered the same financing options to the city for the purchase of the land -- three percent interest, five-year term and annual payments.
With both offers from the bank being identical, the council had an audience member draw a name out of a bowl to determine who the council will do business with. FNBC was selected and unanimously agreed upon by the council.
Harris said he thinks the purchase of the land would be an investment. He said he is certain the city would be able to sell the property later on if the council chose to do so at a profit greater than the amount the city will pay in interest.
Harris said he understands Reeds' concern.
"If it (business district) hadn't been coming back I'd be like Shawn and have some reservations," Harris said.
Alderman Jack Kimbrell said if he personally had $200,000 to invest and he had the options of investing in a CD, the stock market or land he would put his money in land. He said he has to trust the mayor and recorder/treasurer that the city can financially afford the purchase.
Part of the property is zoned commercial while the remainder is residential.
"I'm just concerned you all," Reed said. "I'm not dead set against it."
The property will be used to construct a fire station for the city. The city has $181,000 to work with for construction of the fire station by way of 75 percent from FEMA, 12.5 percent from Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and 12.5 percent from the city; however, that price does not include the cost of a foundation, Norwood said.
The Highland Fire Station located near Midway Plaza on Luanne Drive was destroyed Feb. 5 by a tornado ranking an EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The city is currently renting a temporary location for the fire station at a cost of $715 a month. The city has been assured it may continue to rent the building as long as needed; however, FEMA will soon stop reimbursing the city for the cost of rent, Norwood said.
The tornado also destroyed other structures in the city including a handful of homes, businesses in the Midway Plaza and others such as Highland Window and Door, the Pap Beardsley property, the Conley Ford property, Timberline Restaurant, Crispy Cone Wing Shack and others. Luckily, no one was killed in the tornado.