McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

June 12, 2013

MPower pulls its plug

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — MPower Economic Development has sent emails and a written statement asking that its proposed new contract with the city of McAlester be withdrawn from consideration at tonight’s city council meeting, with a parting shot at City Manager Pete Stasiak included in the missive.

MPower’s statement also says it’s closing its McAlester operation.

In the written release, MPower blames what it calls the “political and business machine” in McAlester and Pittsburg County as its biggest “obstacle” to economic development.

The new statements and emails follow a contract impasse by the MPower Board and a city council subcommittee in regard to economic development services for the city during the upcoming fiscal year.

Instead of the $150,000 yearly contract suggested by the city council subcommittee for its economic development services for the upcoming 2013-2014 Fiscal Year, MPower had instead demanded a contract of $400,000 a year, along with a 20 percent increase over the next three years.

That proposed contract had been on the agenda to be voted on at tonight’s city council meeting, following a vote on a proposed resolution from Ward 3 Councilor Travis Read that the city cease contracting out for economic development purposes.

A second part of Read’s resolution directs that the city of McAlester establish its own economic development division.

Although both items had been scheduled to be voted on tonight, MPower’s request to withdraw from consideration would leave only Read’s proposed resolutions on the agenda regarding the economic development matters.

MPower also issued a statement on Friday night, with the result that some did not see it until Monday.

Neither the email nor the release were signed, but simply ended with the typed words “Sincerely, the Board of Directors of MPower Economic Development Corporation.”

The News-Capital was busy early Monday trying to verify if the release actually came from MPower since the items had no signatures.

Reached by telephone Monday, MPower Economic Development Retention and Expansion Manager Shane Cameron verified the items indeed came from MPower.

“It’s from us,” Cameron said.

MPower Board member Brad Rutledge also confirmed Monday the release came from MPower.

Meanwhile, Read said he considered parts of MPower’s release and emails to the city council “disturbing.”

Read particularly objected to a passage in an email sent to the city council, which alleges that “During our negotiations with Councilman Read, it became increasingly obvious that he had no intentions of negotiating in good faith with MPower, as evidenced by his resolution, which was placed before the MPower contract” on the city council meeting agenda.

Read heads a three-member subcommittee, also consisting of Ward 6 Councilor Sam Mason and Ward 5 Councilor Buddy Garvin, appointed to handle contract negotiations with MPower.

On Monday, Read criticized the email from MPower alleging he had not negotiated in good faith.

“That’s not true” Read said. Read said he even rescheduled a negotiating meeting at the request of the MPower board in May. All three city councilors were there, but only one MPower board member, Carrie Patrick, attended, according to Read.

When she could not answer the councilor’s questions, Read called another meeting.

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