City, contractor appear to resolve payment issue

Differences stemming from a 2011 housing contract involving federal Department of Housing and Urban Development funding through the Pine Bluff Economic and Community Development Department have apparently been resolved.

Richard Bullard and Jerry Riley of the Jefferson County Community Development Corporation met with Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and other city officials Friday morning at the civic center and ironed out a settlement in which the city council will pursue appropriate legislative action so that JCCDC can be paid $106,000, as agreed upon in the contract. The amount represents proceeds from the sale of one of three low-income homes constructed near the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with HUD funds administered by PBECD.

In response to a point by Hollingsworth that the remaining homes need to be sold this year to satisfy the contract, Riley said such transactions would be made easier with the payment of the outstanding amount and the city’s completion of street enhancements at the site. The mayor pledged that the street work would be done as quickly as possible.

The disagreement peaked recently. After the council unanimously approved a resolution that altered the manner in which the city was to distribute funds to Riley, who constructed the homes in question, Hollingsworth vetoed the measure on Dec. 16, saying she had received guidance from City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott that the prescribed procedure could raise “red flags” with HUD. HUD last year audited PBECD and uncovered misappropriations and documentation problems with nearly $500,000 in HUD funds that must be repaid by the city.

The council overrode the veto Jan. 6.

PBECD Interim Director Larry Matthews and Hadden-Scott explained HUD restrictions and how they conflicted with some policies enacted during the administrations of former mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. and former PBECD Director Donald Sampson.

Others participating in Friday’s meeting were Alderman George Stepps, council community development committee members Alderman Glen Brown and Alderwoman Thelma Walker, and Hollingsworth’s chief aide, Evelyn Horton.