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North Little Rock is poised to sell city property at Fort Roots to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for expansion of the VA's law enforcement training center, pending City Council approval tonight.

The VA has offered to buy the 2.32 acres on Hill Road adjacent to the Fort Roots campus for $90,000, according to a resolution the council is to consider today.

The VA originally offered $65,000, based on the appraised value of the property. The agency raised that to $90,000 after the city had counter-offered with a $100,000 price, according to a letter to Mayor Joe Smith from Maina Gakure, project manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Construction and Facilities Management in Washington, D.C..

"I thought that [$65,000 appraisal] was low," Smith said. "We need to have more money than that for it. We agreed on $90,000.

"So we're going to sell it to them so they can expand their law enforcement academy and they can train more officers and bring more officers to North Little Rock for those programs," Smith said. "They have outgrown their facilities. They need more property."

The Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, located at the Eugene J. Towbin Healthcare Center, 2200 Fort Roots Dr., will manage the property once the VA purchases it, said Chris Durney, public affairs officer for the system in North Little Rock.

"The purchase is for a tenant area we have in that corner to help them expand and to improve their facilities," Durney said. "All of the police officers in the federal force are trained in Fort Roots through the law enforcement training center."

The center offers 10-week training programs, Smith said, with officers housed by the VA in the city.

"Every VA security policeman comes here for their initial training and continuing education throughout the year," Smith said. "This could very well mean a couple thousand people every year coming to stay in our community. That's out-of-town money coming into North Little Rock.

"I think [the sale] is the right thing to do to help their academy grow and bring more people to our community," Smith said.

If the purchase is approved and closed, access to Emerald Park from Fort Roots will remain as is, Durney said. Emerald Park Trail runs downhill off of Hill Road next to the property being sold.

The 2.32 acres isn't part of a larger parcel of city-owned property, though the city does have other property on the hillside that Smith said is "not really developable."

Smith first offered to do a land swap with the VA involving a larger parcel of federal government land containing some structures near the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, but it would also have cost the city money to make such a deal work, he said.

"They have about 6 acres closer to Pulaski Tech, but that didn't work out without the city writing a good-sized check," Smith said.

"I really wanted to do it [the land swap] in order to save it for growth by Pulaski Tech, but they don't have any future plans to grow in the next four to five years," he said. "I really didn't want to put a half-million dollars into a piece of land just to hold it."

Metro on 08/13/2018

Print Headline: Sale of land to VA on NLR agenda

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