By James Beaty
A super majority of the McAlester City Councilor has voted to sell the city’s South Side Industrial Park to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
City councilors took the action when they met in regular session Tuesday night in the council chambers at City Hall.
District 11 Tribal Councilor Bob Pate, whose district includes McAlester and greater Pittsburg County, attended the meeting on behalf of the Choctaw Nation.
Acting through Assistant Chief Gary Batton, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma had offered $1,350,000 for 117.51 acres on the property.
During the Tuesday night meeting, Mayor Steve Harrison voted in favor of the sale, as did Ward 2 Councilor John Titsworth, Ward 3 Councilor Travis Read, Ward 4 Councilor Robert Karr, Ward 5 Councilor Buddy Garvin and Ward 6 Councilor Sam Mason.
Ward 1 Councilor Weldon Smith abstained. Earlier in the meeting, he said his concern was not with the Choctaw Nation, but that the city might some day regret selling the land, which had been intended for a second industrial park.
Before the vote, some discussion centered on Batton’s offer, which stated it was subject to approval by both the Choctaw Tribal Council and the city of McAlester. Batton’s offer also stated it was contingent on the presentation of a current property survey to the Choctaw Nation and the assurance of a rezoning request.
Mason said the city could not at this point assure that the land would be rezoned, noting that the city’s process calls for the request to first go before the City Zoning Commission.
City Attorney Joe Ervin pointed out that the Tuesday night agenda item addressed only the sale of the land at that point.
Before the vote, Tribal Councilor Pate addressed the city council.
He said the Choctaw Nation employs 400 people in the McAlester area, with 52 percent of them being non-Native American.
“We just want assurances that down the road, the rezoning will occur,” Pate said.
The property is in the same general area as the McAlester Elks Club and Great Balls of Fire. Recently, the city completed the extension and reconstruction of Elks Road, which leads to the Industrial Park.
The agenda also included a provision to allow the mayor to “execute and all necessary instruments to complete the sale.”
Batton and Pate met with the city council in February to ask to purchase the land.
“We are wanting to do some development,” Batton said during the February meeting. “Councilman Pate has long wanted to do something in McAlester.”
Pate and Batton said the five areas of construction the Choctaw Nation would like to complete on the property include a new community center, a wellness center, a food distribution center a head start facility and independent elderly housing.
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.
For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smartphone.