FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — The Arkansas Colleges of Health Education (ACHE) and real estate developer ERC Properties went head-to-head on Thursday (April 25) in hopes of purchasing a prime piece of land in the Chaffee Crossing area of Fort Smith.
About 80 acres of land was originally given to Fort Smith Public Schools as a potential site for a secondary school, but it was returned to the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority when the district decided to build at another location.
With the land now up for grabs, ERC and ACHE presented bids to a review committee for the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority in hopes of buying it.
ERC offered $1.25 million for 69 acres, and ACHE offered $1.2 million for 71 acres. Both had to explain what they would do with the property if purchased.
"One of the big points is that they are going to be putting the property back on the tax rolls that will benefit all the beneficiaries of the trust. That's all three cities and Sebastian County," said the attorney for ERC Properties, John Alford. "And of course the school districts benefit from the county taxes. So, the money flows back to the schools and the cities that are beneficiaries."
With ERC Properties promoting more housing, more families moving into the area and an economic impact by using the land, students with ACHE joined the meeting as the college's side was presented.
"We want to purchase the property so that we are not landlocked. So we can expand our programs and create more jobs and actually move the need in healthcare in Arkansas," said David Craig, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.
A first-year medical college student, Emily Colin, is one of the students who showed up at the meeting to offer support. She spoke about the importance of the college's expansion.
"I've already seen such an incredible impact that we have had on the community here in such a short amount of time," Colin said. "We have two classes worth of students and to be able to expand is going to continue that outreach throughout Arkansas."
At the end of the review committee meeting, the members voted unanimously that they would recommend to the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Board to let the college purchase the land.
ERC Properties attorney said since the decision is not final until the board votes they will continue their interest in the property.
"We think we still have a position and there may be some board members leaning toward our proposal because we do put property back on the tax rolls," Alford said.
The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority will meet on May 16 to give their final vote and decision on who will buy the property.