The Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library Board of Trustees will consult its lawyer to negotiate whether to charge rent to Lloyd Lee, a tenant of a building on a property that has been sold to the library system.
Lee, Main Street Development LLC majority member, had rented space at the building at 618 Main St. before the library board purchased it. He operates a certified accounting firm. He signed a contract — dated Feb. 6, 2017 — with Library Board President Tommy Brown for the sum of $385,000 to sell the property to the library. The new library is slated to be built at the 618 Main St. location.
The contract states that Lee will also move the Main Street Development building from the 618 Main St. site by March 31, 2018, and that he is to move his business operations from that site by August 1, 2017.
Library trustees Edward Fontenette, Linda Banks, Tommy Brown, Anna Marie Jacks, Ann Talbot and Ethel Cogshell discussed consulting with lawyer Jack Talbot to negotiate rent with Lee. These developments come after voters approved a 3.0-mill tax increase to raise $14 million in November 2016 to construct a new library building in Pine Bluff and to renovate four Jefferson County library buildings.
Brown said if Lee does not move the Main Street Development building by March 31, 2018, then the library system will pay money to demolish it.
“Apparently he has been unable to physically move his business out of his building,” Brown said. “In his letter he did not say how long he wanted an extension.”
During a later discussion, Brown said he is not faulting Lee for rain in May and June that delayed his eventual move.
“We are going to ask him to pay us rent: a fair and reasonable amount,” Brown said. “Jack Talbot represents us in the contract and we are going to ask [Talbot] to negotiate the rent (with Lee.)”
Informed of these considerations, Lee said Thursday the library people had not contacted him as of Thursday morning. He acknowledged missing the contract’s deadline that required him to move his business from the Main Street Development building at the now library-owned property by Aug. 1. Lee objects to the library trustees charging him rent, although he said that it is their right.
“I think I have given them enough,” Lee said. “I sold it at less than fair market value. I sold it significantly below the actual investment that was made here. I feel like I have contributed quite a bit already. Plus if I salvage my building as the contract states, it will save them the cost of demoing this building.”
The Main Street Development LLC building was damaged by Garland Trice’s neighboring building collapsing beginning in July 2014 and continuing through January 2017. The Main Street Development LLC building suffered from bricks falling onto its roof, causing damage.
“The only reason I have not moved yet is because the remodeling project on the building to which I am moving has been delayed because of rain,” Lee said.
Lee expects to move his business operations from the Main Street Development building by late October 2017. He will later move the Main Street Development building to White Hall.
“I do not think I am causing them a delay,” Lee said. “No one is more motivated to move than I am.”
Later Thursday, Lee called the Pine Bluff Commercial to say that he had spoken with Jack Talbot to negotiate a rent rate.
In other news, interim library director Taylor Eubank is working with architects from Little Rock-based Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects and Fred Reed, the president of Reed Architectural Firm. Eubank suggested setting aside 5 percent of contract money to have contingency reserves for unforeseen possibilities.
“In the first place, Watson Chapel comes out of those $14 million,” Eubank said. “I don’t know what those fees are but those bond lawyers get a nice chunk of dough to pay for their tall buildings. We’ve got the architect’s fees and the general contractor’s fees. All that money is coming out of the $14 million.”
In other news, Eubank wants to attract high school students to the Pine Bluff Library. He brainstormed how to accommodate these students.
“I decided it’s time to do something,” Eubank said. “We haven’t got it all figured out yet but we are heading that way.”