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City Council passes resolution for purchase of historic home

Jonesboro City Council members discussing the budget on Jan. 2, 2024.
Rebecca Robinson
Jonesboro City Council members discussing the budget on Jan. 2, 2024.

The Jonesboro City Council introduced a resolution for the purchase of a historic building that was met with some back and forth on Tuesday night.

The resolution was for the city to purchase property located at 700 S. Patrick Street. It would be purchased in hopes of restoring the house on the property for use as an African-American cultural museum.

The building belonged to the principal of Booker T. Washington School. The school was the first high school for African-Americans in Northeast Arkansas. The current African-American cultural museum is located at the E. Boone Watson Center.

The resolution passed unanimously but not before discussion. Councilmen Dr. Anthony Coleman and David McClain raised some questions about the resolution up front.

“First of all, let me say this, I do believe it’s apropos that we consider historic and heritage value. Especially with this being considered Black History Month and as a proud black man I do appreciate this opportunity.” Colman said.

Coleman was concerned, from a business perspective, if purchasing the property was the best financial decision for the city. The property was appraised at $31,000 and the city had set the purchase at $65,000.

Brian Richardson, Chief Administrative Officer, explained that the appraisal was on the property and two lots. It did not include the other three lots the city was going to purchase with it. The additional three lots had not been appraised with the property.

McClain expressed his concerns about the property entering into the Land Bank. McClain said the property will return to the Land Bank for use if the structure was not developed by the parks department.

“What does that mean? I want to make sure if we buy the property for $65,000 and we exhaust half a million or a million trying to restore the home, do we then say well we spent too much now it goes into the Land Bank? Help me understand,” McClain said.

“I don’t think we should get into the business of buying property we don’t have a plan or a vision for,” McClain added. “I understand there has been discussion but if we don’t have anything lined out, I don’t understand why we overpay, in my opinion.”

Tony Thomas, Chief Operating Officer, addressed McClain’s concerns

“That’s the sole purpose of the Land Bank, to acquire properties for redevelopment. That’s their overall mission is to locate properties that could be hindering development in certain parts of town, acquiring those properties, and then making them available for redevelopment” Thomas said.

McClain suggested putting a pause on the purchase because of how expensive the restoration could be.

Mayor Harold Copenhaver said if they hit the pause button, they would lose it. Councilman Chris Moore said he was pretty sure if they let the property go it would be bought up quickly.

“I’m pretty sure one of my buddies would buy that tomorrow. Five lots for $65,000 that all have $1,900 water meters on them, I’m pretty sure after it goes out tonight if we turned this down, there's not a pause,” Moore said.

Coleman said after hearing from everybody he was okay with it, but he wanted to see it followed up with and finished.

Roger McKinney the museum supervisor and curator explained the property’s historical value to the council.

“This house we are talking about in particular was built in 1924, the principal's house, that’s the significant value. My other fellow members who went to Booker T. Washington would love to see this.” McKinney said.

He later added in the meeting with it being Black History Month the museum has been busy. Jonesboro High School brought 60 kids out, Nettleton brought 40 kids, and another elementary school brought over 40.

“There’s a need for a larger facility because the center has outgrown itself. People have been donating so much stuff and we don't have anywhere to put it.” McKinney said.

Copenhaver said the city has already gotten curator interest in the project from Chicago and other parts.

Other Resolutions:

The city also passed a resolution to enter into an over $1-million contract.

The contract is with Atlas Asphalt Inc. for the 2024 Asphalt Milling and Overlays Selected City Streets Project. The contract is $1,009,114.66. Some of the streets include Trinity Oaks Drive, Copper Cove, and Chimney Chase Drive.

Another resolution was passed authorizing the City, Water, and Light Department to apply for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for fiscal 20223 Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant. The grant will be used to replace wooden utility poles with steel poles.


● An ordinance to amend chapter 117, known as the zoning ordinance providing for changes in zoning boundaries from R-1 to I-1 for property located at 57909 E. Nettleton Ave. moved on to its second reading.

● An ordinance for a microbrewery restaurant private club permit for Defending Advancement Inc. as Lebowski’s Inc. to be located at 514 Southern Ridge Blvd moved to its third reading.

● An ordinance to amend chapter 117 known as the zoning ordinance providing for changes in zoning boundaries from AG-1 to I-1 for property located at 6725 E. Highland Drive as requested by Garret Dunham of Fisher Arnold on behalf of Platinum Properties of NEA LLC moved to its third reading.

● An ordinance for the approval of a private club permit for Jonesboro Kids to BBQ Hilltop moved to its third reading.

● An ordinance for the transfer of location of a private club permit for 1812 Pizza Company for its third reading.

A 2019 graduate of Sheridan High School, Robinson graduated from A-State with a degree in multimedia journalism in December 2023. In January 2021, while working toward her degree, she was named sports editor for The Herald, A-State’s student-run newspaper.