Sunday, February 19, 2017

Intermodal Talks Debt and Money to Pay

(Disclaimer:  Gregg Reep was attending the Intermodal Authority meeting as a reporter for  He was Mayor of Warren from 1987-2005 which included the time period when the City of Warren participated in the creation of the Intermodal Authority.)

After taking care of basic monthly business, the Southeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority Board spent most of the February 15, 2017 monthly meeting talking about how it plans to pay the remaining expenses for construction work to the authority's industrial park and a loan that currently amounts to $359,147.19 to a Southeast Arkansas bank.  It appeared from the comments made that most of the board expects or hopes that the cities of Monticello and Warren and the counties of Bradley and Drew will pay the debt as well as other expenses.  At this time the authority is not certain how much debt will be owed once the current construction contract is complete and all grant funds are expended.  Most of the grants that have been used to build the infrastructure of the intermodal park have required local matching funds.

The discussion concerning what the cities and counties "owe" followed a report that a presentation had been made to the Warren City Council at their February meeting
and plans are underway to address the Monticello City Council and both quorum courts to make a case for payment.  From comments made by several board members, it was very obvious that some of them assumed from information they have been given that the cities and counties legally owe the authority $609,114.19, which is the amount listed on the organizations financial report.

A number of question were asked by board members relating to the legal obligation of the two cities and two counties.  Gregg Reep, who was attending the meeting on behalf of, was asked to address the matter of the legal requirements of the cities and counties, since he was Mayor of Warren when the authority was created under state law.  He told the board that he was not there to speak or advocate but was willing to try to explain the relationship between the authority and the four governing entities.

He told them that Monticello, Warren, Bradley County and Drew County had created the Southeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority under provision of state law.  He stated the four bodies have no legal liability to pay any money to the authority, unless money is appropriated by the city councils or quorum courts.  While this has been done to some extent over the years, he is unaware that any city or county has approved any amount to add up to the $609,114.19 being carried on the financial report. He talked about the legal purpose of the authority and the separation of powers that does not mandate any payment by the cities and counties, unless authorized by their governing bodies on an annual basis.  He told the board that under no circumstances can the intermodal board obligate the cities and counties to pay expenses of the authority.

This issue seems to have surfaced after Drew County received a bill for over $140,000.00 and informed the authority they did not owe it but planned to pay some$40,000.00 that has been budgeted by the quorum court for the current fiscal year.  Warren Mayor Bryan Martin, the only elected official present at the meeting, told the authority board that he has continued to recommend and the Warren City Council has approved $30,000.00 per year over the past several years to assist the intermodal and that he will continue to make such a recommendation in the future.

Chairman Lipton indicated the public has been confused by past reporting by on the issue of city/county liability.  Mr. Reep stated that will continue to report the facts.  Several board members stated they understood that the cities and counties are not legally liable for the debts of the authority but hope to convince them to keep contributing until the debts and ongoing bills are paid and if or when the authority generates revenues on it's own.

Almost every member of the intermodal board voiced their desire to complete the intermodal park and to bring business and industry to the site to create jobs and economic growth for the region.  It was stated by at least one board member that the authority should have been discussing the money issue with the councils and quorum courts a long time ago.

The authority voted to pay $40,000.00 on the existing loan.

The financial report given out at the meeting listed the following amounts owed by the two cities and two counties:
City of Monticello $110,246.18
City of Warren $111,593.72
Bradley County $228,585.42
Drew County $158,688.87
Bob Milton, who keeps the books for the authority explained how the amounts listed as owed are calculated.

There was also some discussion as to how any future public taxes that might be generated by the authority would be divided among the four creating governments even though the authority park is located within Drew County. 

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