Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

TOP STORY>>City may condemn property for library

IN SHORT: Jacksonville will consider eminent-domain procedures to gain library land.

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council will vote Thursday on plans to use the power of eminent domain to condemn three lots of land so the city can go ahead with its plans to build a new $2.5 million library.

If the council approves the resolution, the city can take immediate possession of the land. The acreage the city is looking at condemning is three lots on or near the corner of West Main and Warren streets. B&C Rental Properties, Inc owns all three lots.

According to secretary of state records, the president of B&C Rental is Robert W. Dougherty, of 3715 Christy Lane. Mary Dougherty is listed as the company’s secretary.

City Attorney Bobby Bamburg explained that under eminent domain the land owners would still have to be fairly compensated for the land, but eminent domain will allow the city to proceed with its public project—in this case the library—while the sides work out fair compensation.

Earlier this summer, the city came to financial agreements to purchase two-thirds of the land on the south side of West Main Street between Walgreens and Warren Street it is seeking for the library.

The city purchased the building and land that housed the Tobacco Store and Fishnet Missions from the Abdin family and the Texaco station land from the Sheaffer family. The two lots totaled about an acre and cost the city $380,300. The city has been in negotiations since then on the remaining section of the block, which is broken into a number of smaller lots owned by either B&C Rental or MSF, Inc.

MSF, according to state records, is a for-profit corporation and the president is Harry K. Dougherty II, of 607 W. Main St. The secretary is Cathy Dougherty.

The council resolution to exercise eminent domain states that “despite extensive efforts on behalf of the City of Jacksonville to purchase certain properties owned by B&C Rental for construction and development of a new Jacksonville Public Library, lengthy efforts to amicably resolve the parties’ differences have failed.”

Because the city needs the land immediately, the resolution calls for the city to “exercise its rights of eminent domain to obtain and condemn” the property.

Along with the resolution to use eminent domain, the council will also consider a resolution giving the mayor and the city clerk authority to negotiate “a reasonable price as just compensation” for the lots of land owned by B&C Rental and MSF that are not under consideration for condemnation.

Bamburg said it is possible for the city to reach an agreement with B&C Rental without filing the condemnation papers, but passing the eminent-domain resolution gives the city option for quick access and the ability to start construction without a long delay.

In July 2004, Jacksonville residents approved a one-mil property tax increase to pay off $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library building.

The mayor has said that most of the cost of the land would be paid for by private donations.

When asked about the amount of land needed for the library, Mayor Tommy Swaim said, “We’re looking at different configurations.

We’d like to have a large enough area for green space, about one and one-half or two acres.

“I’d like for this to be a centerpiece for the downtown area,” Swaim added, with amenities including a park-like setting.
Swaim said he was “fairly confident” that the city and the Central Arkansas Library System would break ground on the new library by the end of the year.

Roberts said he hoped the project could be put out to bid in about 90 days, noting that the rising cost of materials will require the city to raise more money or cutback on at least $150,000 worth of expectations.

He said material costs were up at least 12 percent.

The new library building will be approximately 13,500 square feet, about 4,000 square feet larger than the current Nixon Library, also located on Main Street, but on the other side of the street and a couple of blocks east.

The Nixon Library was constructed in 1969.

It is one of the oldest buildings in the Central Arkansas Library System and has roof and drain problems, which caused the library to be closed for a month in 2004. The building also contains asbestos.