The El Dorado City Council unanimously approved a new contract with the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce for economic development services.
At the council meeting Tuesday, officials heard a presentation from Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Dumas and Brandon Barnette, economic development project manager for the chamber, before approving the $45,000 contract.
The contract was approved with a 7-0 vote, as Alderman Willie McGhee was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, and with the stipulation that a council member appointed by the mayor sit on the advisory board to the chamber’s executive board. The move is dependent on approval from the executive board and the position would not have an actual vote on the board.
The contract with the chamber was approved by the El Dorado Works Board last week before being sent on to the full city council. The $45,000 contract for services will be paid in quarterly installments of $11,250.
The terms of the proposal were modeled after a contract for services between the city of Little Rock and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, though Dumas said the contract was tailored to fit El Dorado. Among the services spelled out in the contract are:
• Providing planning, marketing and strategic advice and counsel to the city regarding job recruitment, development, retention and expansion.
• Developing secure tools for the purpose of economic development prospects, such as maps, charts, photos, brochures, reports and other matters, as are necessary and required to adequately promote new and expanding industry within the city.
• Developing a business retention and expansion program.
The contract also specifies that the city has no financial interest in the chamber, and the chamber is prohibited from using the city’s name or credit in purchasing equipment and supplies.
Both Dumas and Mayor Frank Hash noted that the past year was a good one for the chamber and the city, with several prospects sent to the area from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and several local projects getting off the ground, including the sale of the old ThermaFlite building to South Arkansas Cannabis Solutions, LLC, which purchased the site for $1.5 million.
Dumas noted the owners of the property will find out Feb. 27 whether they will be awarded one of five cultivation licenses from the state for medical marijuana. The group is also seeking a dispensary license, which the state will issue in late spring or early summer. The state plans to issue 32 dispensary licenses statewide.
Dumas also noted that the old Pilgrim’s Pride site at 1902 S. West Ave. will be put up for sale, adding that the city successfully leased the site’s parking lot. In August, Hash had briefly pushed for the city to purchase the site, which he had said at the time was being offered to the city for $2 million when the property was valued at $12 million. Hash withdrew the efforts to purchase the site after considering the city’s economic development revenue, saying at the time that they “need additional time to replenish themselves, (and) possibly this is not the best time to consider additional obligations.”
Dumas said he does not know what the price tag will be for the 49-acre site, but noted that “it’s a tremendous site - once you get it all clear.”
Hash said he believes the city still needs to control that site to prevent an unfavorable business from settling there. He said a business with unpleasant noise or smells could interfere with the investments made in El Dorado Festivals & Events.
Hash suggested the chamber may consider making a recommendation to the council on whether the site should be considered for purchase.
In other business, the council also approved a motion to stick with the personnel manual stipulation of vacation days being capped at 22 days per year for non civil service employees who have been with the city for 20 years or more. Hash requested the motion, saying that while the policy technically hasn’t changed, it had become more lax. He noted one city employee had 44 vacation days, plus the city’s 16 holidays, a leave day for an employee’s birthday and sick time.
Madeleine Leroux can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.