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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ash Flat Fire Department plans on hold yet again

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In January, the city of Ash Flat advertised again for bids for a new fire department headquarters building. But construction is on hold again, after a real estate deal with a local auto dealership fell through.

In a letter dated Feb. 2, sent to the city council and Ash Flat Mayor Danny Traw, Terry Dillard -- owner of Dillard and Dillard Motor Company, which was the proposed fire department building site, told the council members that he was "out of the deal."

Dillard explained that the city had contacted him nearly a year ago, in February of 2010, about the sale of his dealership property and land to the city, to be used to house a fire department and city offices.

Dillard said he has been very patient with Traw and other officials, and has even allowed them into his business during working hours to observe and inspect the proposed site.

Dillard said the city has never, during this time, made a formal purchase offer and has not paid any earnest money.

Dillard also said the city failed to keep him informed of their plans and was shocked to discover an advertisement for bids, since the city does not have a contract on the land and dealership building.

Dillard spoke with Traw and a member of city council in December, and Traw assured him a decision would be made by Jan. 19. Dillard had informed the mayor that the 19th was as long as he could wait on their decision.

The topic of purchasing the building was not even discussed at the January city council meeting. Dillard explained he was no longer going to contact the city and would not be selling his property to them. "A year is enough time for anyone to make up their mind," Dillard said.

Dillard told the Villager Journal he originally considered the sale of the building and property, since he was going to need less space on his car lot when he began selling used cars exclusively.

Dillard said he spoke to the mayor on different occasions about the proposed deal and expressed his need for a decision, as he needed time to move to a new location if the sale was completed. He also needed time to change signs and make the public aware of his new location.

Dillard said he now plans to remain at his current location, and continue to serve the needs of the community from there, as he has done for many years.

"I am not going anywhere," Dillard said. "I really like this area and the people who live here."

Allan Brogdon from Hardy will be leasing the back of the building and offering auto repair service to the community, while Dillard maintains a used car lot at the location.

Because the invitation to bid has already been advertised, despite the city's lack of a location to build on, it is unclear where this latest development leaves the fire department project.

The library, which is located in the previous fire department building, is nearly complete, while the city's attempts to procure a new fire department home has been futile.

The city first attempted to secure land across from the Ash Flat Walmart, which is owned by Fred and Charlotte Goodwin. The city paid to have a lift station moved, a survey done, and had an architect draw up plans for a fire department building to be built at the site. The land was given to the city in exchange for the expense it incurred moving the lift station.

When the construction cost estimate for that site came in too high in August of 2010, Traw rejected all bids and moved forward, proposing the Dillard property to the council.

The city decided it could move all city offices to the dealership building, and construct the fire department on the seven adjoining acres.

Traw later re-formed a committee to study the options for the fire department building. The committee brought its findings to city council in November and, after discussion, hired local architect Larry Bronson. On Feb. 1, the new request for bids was advertised, unbeknownst to Dillard.

When The Villager Journal contacted Fred Goodwin on Feb. 6, he stated he was still willing to offer his land for the fire department building, but that the city did not currently have the deed to the land that he and his wife, Charlotte Goodwin, city clerk and treasurer, had offered.

Goodwin explained that he was in the process of signing the deed over to the city, and that he had "worked a deal out with the bank and the city is not going to have to pay the cost" of the land transfer.

The cost of the transfer was referred to by Traw at a September council meeting as being a problem, since it was expected to be between $6,000 and $8,000.

Goodwin said he was on the way to get the deed signed on the 6th, and explained he, "has to round up my other partners and have them sign it too."

The Goodwin land is located adjacent to the Sonic, but a possible complication was mentioned by Goodwin at an August city council meeting, when he stated that the property might be located within the flood plain.

Mayor Traw was contacted on how the fire department issue will proceed, since the Dillard land and building are off the table, but he did not return this paper's calls for comment.

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