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Redfield property talks continue


REDFIELD – Mayor Tony Lawhon spent Friday in Little Rock and Cabot signing legal documents indicating the willingness of the Jefferson Council municipality to accept two pieces of property.

Lawhon had a meeting scheduled with a representative of the Little Rock commercial real estate firm Flake and Kelly to sign a letter of intent on a proposal by Charles River, a Wilmington, Mass.-based research firm, to donate the company’s 87,600 square foot lab, shuttered in 2009, and 40 acres to Redfield.

Jim Dailey, a representative of firm Flake and Kelly, acknowledged earlier that there have been discussions about Charles River donating the property to Redfield. Both Lawhon and Dailey noted that negotiations are in the preliminary stage and no firm agreement has been reached..

Kourosh Malek, a Redfield residential property developer, offered the donation of 7.5 acres in Cabot, Lawhon said, requiring his signature. The mayor told aldermen he had a potential buyer for the Cabot property.

Malek has a major apartment complex and single family dwellings subdivision southeast of the Interstate 530 and Sheridan Road interchange in Redfield. Lawhon said Malek plans to open a second development west of I-530 as soon as municipal water and sewer lines can be extended west from the four-lane highway.

If negotiations progress as anticipated, the city may be able to acquire the lab “by the end of February,” Lawhon said earlier.

A third potential donation of property to the city is in the early discussion stage, Lawhon said, adding he could not comment further.

The ad hoc task force opposed to the proposed closure of Redfield Middle School has discussed petitioning the Arkansas Board of Education for authority to operate a carter school in Redfield if the existing school, constructed in the 1930s, is closed, and has expressed an interest in acquiring the lab for a school facility.

The task force has also discussed petitioning the state board for permission of the Redfield area to withdraw from the White Hall School District.

Lawhon said the three story lab structure has potential for a number of possibilities, including use as a school.

The mayor said he plans to attend Thursday’s meeting with the task force and White Hall School Board.

“If the school board will give us time to develop a firm plan for the Redfield Middle School, we believe we can come up with several options,” Lawhon said. “Constructing a new middle school adjacent to Hardin Elementary (School) is one possibility.

“We firmly believe that closing the middle school here will hurt future development of Redfield, a major element in the White Hall district.”

Voters rejected a referendum Nov. 6 to recall Lawhon.

“I was humbled and literally blown away by the (winning) margin,” Lawhon stated. “The campaign was started by a few disgruntled residents.

“As mayor, you must make decisions that not everyone likes,” he added. “I believe we are investing in the future of our city.”

In other developments during 2012, Lawhon said, Redfield received good audit reports from Legislative Joint Auditing for 2010 and 2011 except for notations for payments to three vendors.

Steps have been taken to implement the requested changes in financial procedures, Lawhon said, to bring the municipality into full compliance.

James “Smitty” Smith, who is serving as the part-time acting street superintendent since longtime superintendent Harmon Carter was fired Nov. 8, has taken that steps to clean the street department shop, remove old chemicals and begin serving municipal equipment, Lawhon said

The Redfield Planning and Zoning Commission has approved a preliminary plat for the construction of a new Dollar General store on 1.29 acres adjacent to the existing Dollar General facility south of Sheridan Road, Lawhon said, adding that a representative of a restaurant has expressed interest in the existing retail store space once it becomes vacant.

Major improvements were made by the water and parks departments during the past year, including repairs. The former installed 300 new water meters, reducing water loss from old meters, and instituted on-line bill paying.

Improvements have been made to the park during the past year utilizing grant monies, Lawhon’s state of the city address said, and roads surrounding the city park have been repaired after the roadways were deeded to the city.

Two additional police officers have been hired to provide around the clock protection and the city paid cash for new police cars, Lawhon’s report said, and Redfield City Court was moved from City Hall to the American Legion building to provide more room.

Lawhon said the present police station on Sheridan Road has a number of environmental issues, including leaks and mold, noting the municipality is looking at options on building a new station on city-owned land behind the existing building in 2013 or 2014.

Lawhon said City Hall is working with a planner to develop 10,- 20- and 30-year master plans for Redfield, including streets, developments and zoning.

Future plans call for constructing sidewalks on River Road, construction of a skate park and splash pad and annexation of property.