Forest Park City Council members ‘praise the Lord’ after they vote to buy Ft. Gillem

FOREST PARK — Forest Park City Council members rejoiced after they approved the final three items necessary to buy Fort Gillem at a special called meeting Thursday afternoon.

“Praise the Lord,” said City Manager Frank Brandon after the meeting adjourned.

These three items were tabled at a regular meeting Monday evening. By approving the tabled items, the council put the full faith and credit of the Forest Park government behind the agreement of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Army — meaning the city would pick up any debt the URA may not be able to repay the Army for Gillem in the future.

Councilwoman Latresa Akins also successfully worked in a deal with Project Jasper in which the company will let the council know about any job openings in the future to pass on to residents. Project Jasper is the code name for the company negotiating to buy a portion of Gillem. The company will remain anonymous until the deal is completed.

Concern about the Project Jasper deal prompted the council to table the final three items at Monday’s meeting. The company was concerned about some rack and conveyor systems which had been left in a building it was poised to buy. The racks were supposed to be removed by a company the city contracted. The company would then pay the city in order to keep the equipment and the funds would go toward Gillem.

Executive Director of the Forest Park/Fort Gillem Local Redevelopment Authority Fred Bryant said the contract slated the project to be completed at the end of May and that Project Jasper had agreed to allow the removal of the equipment to go on until closing if necessary.

But the racks were still there just days away from the projected closing date and Project Jasper wasn’t happy about it. In an email to the mayor and council, the anonymous company said it intended to keep any of the racks left in the building once it moved in.

“Based on the month and half we’ve already lost in the schedule, salvaging materials still left in the building will not be salvaged for reuse because the demo contractor will have zero time to take the care required to remove anything remaining for reuse,” the letter read. “Everything in the building will be carted off for scrap.”

The letter went on to state the city had “virtually unlimited time to work on getting the rack out” and that the company told the URA several times that “removing the rack was a time-consuming operation. Yet the removal didn’t start until late and no effort that I know of has been made to increase the number of workers removing the rack.”

Nobody at the meeting Monday knew enough about the contract the city had with the company removing and buying the racks and conveyor systems— or whether the city could offer less of the rack for a reduced price if it couldn’t all be removed from building 516.

“If we’ve contracted to sell them to some third party and we can’t because now we’ve contracted to sell them to Jasper, we’ve just bought ourselves a lawsuit,” Mayor David Lockhart said at Monday’s meeting.

But by Thursday afternoon’s special called meeting, the council had realized that the agreement had been made in an unsigned letter, so the city would not be sued. Also, the contracting company estimated the racks could be removed before closing with Jasper.

“It appears now that they will be able to move all of those racks and conveyor systems by this weekend,” Bryant said.

Project Jasper, originally scheduled to close its deal with the city June 4, is now expected to close Tuesday.