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RELEASE: Mayor Bradford Responds to Recent Local News Article

4/13/2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

F-A-C-T-S: THE TRUE STORY...

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. -John 8:32 (TLB)

In a recent opinion piece by Herbert Simmons Jr., Mr. Simmons responded to a March 22, 2018 news article published in the Jackson Independent about a Jonesboro Town Hall meeting where the bankruptcy of his Global Hotels International, LLC (or, Sleep Inn) was announced because of its debt owed to the Town of Jonesboro.

As multiple unfounded accusations were levied against me in the opinion piece, I, Mayor Bradford, issue the following response, based on FACTS, not opinion.

“Mr. Simmons claims in a recent opinion piece that I am ‘[rejoicing] in what some see as [his] demise’   by including the hotel’s bankruptcy on the agenda for the March Town Hall meeting. He can only wrongly claim this because he was not in attendance at the meeting and obviously has not read the minutes of that meeting.

To answer the question, ‘still unsure why the hotel’s filing for bankruptcy would end up on the town’s agenda,’ I placed this item on the agenda solely for informational purposes. Once documents were received from Mr. Simmons’ attorney informing the Town of Jonesboro of the bankruptcy filing, it became my duty as Mayor to inform the Board of Aldermen of the filing because the hotel is in debt to the Town of Jonesboro for past-due property and sales taxes. It is my duty as Mayor to inform The Board of all official business. By state law, I must do this in a public setting at an official meeting. After announcing the bankruptcy filing, I immediately turned the meeting over to Mr. Doug Stokes, the attorney for the Town, to explain what Chapter 11 bankruptcy means and how the hotel’s filing directly affects the Town.

As Mayor, it is my goal to work towards the continued economic growth of our community. Seeing a local business and its leadership struggle is not anything I would ever ‘rejoice’ about. In fact, having another hotel in our Town would be a welcomed sight.

Nonetheless, in this same opinion piece, Mr. Simmons made multiple claims about the Town’s water system. I would like to address those claims with FACTS. Firstly, Mr. Simmons claims I am ‘purposely [sabotaging]’ the hotel. This is absolutely false. In the planning stages, even before the hotel was built, Mr. Simmons came before the Board and requested that the Town temporarily exempt the hotel from sales taxes for the first few years, until the hotel could become strong. After a tied vote by the Board of Aldermen, I cast the deciding vote to grant the sales tax waiver. We were later informed by our attorney that the exemption could not be provided; however, if I were ‘purposely [sabotaging]’ Mr. Simmons and his business, I would not have voted in favor of the exemption.

Additionally, when Mr. Simmons claims I am ‘purposely [sabotaging]’ him, what does he mean? Is it ‘purposely [sabotaging]’ him when I denied his requests for the Town to waive his water utility bills? I believe if you use the Town’s water, you should pay for it, no matter who you are. If I waive a utility bill for Mr. Simmons, why not others too? Is it ‘purposely [sabotaging]’ him when the Town recommended that he include a booster pump to his hotel’s construction plans to prevent low water pressure problems and yet he declined? Is it ‘purposely [sabotaging]’ someone to deny their request for favors at the expense of the taxpayer? My answer is a resounding NO!

On multiple occasions, Mr. Simmons has come before the Board of Aldermen to inform them that the hotel was experiencing water problems. I explained to him that there was nothing the Town could do immediately to remedy the problems he was experiencing. Let me be clear: I, better than anyone else, am fully aware of the water problems our community faces. However, despite the growing number of businesses in the southern part of the town where the hotel is also located, Mr. Simmons is the only one who consistently complains, remains uncooperative, and requests the Town to give him unethical personal favors.

It is not my job, as Mayor, to pick winners and losers in Jonesboro. It is not my job to have the taxpayer pick up the tab for Mr. Simmons’ failure of a not-so-thorough vision.  So yes, when Mr. Simmons continually approached me and the Board of Aldermen to pay his utility bills, I did, in fact, tell him that there is nothing the Town can do for him because what he was asking us to do was illegal and unethical.

Concerning the new water well to support the southern part of town, it is currently our highest priority. While the well is a major expense for the city, through fiscal responsibility, we are tackling it, one step at a time in three phases, with phase one nearing completion.

Mr. Simmons states that I told him the Town intentionally lowers the water pressure, especially during times of potential freezes. This is untrue. What I did tell him was that during the months of December and January, we could not increase the water pressure because doing so would likely cause more pipes to burst. Also, during those potential freeze times, we have to maintain the current water pressure in an effort to avoid further damages.

Mr. Simmons alleges that I lack a vision for our city, but when I first took office, three of our six water wells were not functioning. Today, all six of the wells are functional—up and running—and we are working towards getting a seventh water well. However, with this progress, we have seen additional troubles in our infrastructure due to old and outdated pipes. All of these fixes cannot happen overnight. As you can see, progress is being made towards a better water system that can fully support the residential and commercial growth taking place in our community.

Mr. Simmons is entirely misguided in his unfounded and reactionary claims. Just like I desire for all of our businesses, I want his to succeed as well, and I am pleased that there are bankruptcy protections available to assist his business as he seeks to reorganize its debts. Nevertheless, casting blame on me, or worse—on our community—is not the answer to his embarrassment, lack of vision, and financial failures.

Finally, Mr. Simmons mentions an idea that the Town needs a master plan addressing long term water problems and infrastructure.  While on several occasions, I have spoken about our infrastructure goals and plans, I have yet to put these plans in writing and provide them to the public for review and feedback. To that end, I agree that drafting a detailed infrastructure master plan is a good idea. I fully intend to follow up and within the coming months present a plan to the public.

While I am not delighted to see Mr. Simmons’ hotel file for bankruptcy, I am pleased that it is an opportunity for his business to restructure its debts. I am also pleased that these protective measures exist to help our local businesses, but it is not the Mayor’s job to dole out illegal personal favors. I wish Mr. Simmons all the best as he attempts to address his business’s debts.”