Full council should have supported FFA lease

    Thank you for the front-page article in last week’s Saint James Press covering the extensive discussion about the city of St. James’ 10-year lease agreement with the St. James School District for the livestock barns and arena at the Nelson Hart Park. This proposal was approved by the St. James Park Board and submitted for city council approval at the monthly city council meeting on June 14, 2021.

    This has been considered for over 10 years and is a win-win situation for city of St. James, St. James Schools, and the Future Farmers of America (FFA). It removes the responsibility from the St. James Parks Department to maintain the livestock barns and the arena with the ability to spend scarce resources on other parks and recreational needs. It allows the FFA to expand events for showing animals and other school related special events in our community.
    I was concerned to see the resolution barely passed, 3-2, in the city council vote. The dissenting votes were Ward 3 Councilmen Dave Watkins and Stephanie Swanson. Councilman Watkins chose to pathetically haggle over lease terms which seemed puzzling to me considering:
    1. The Sharon Lorts Memorial Fund provided the cost for materials for one of the barns and the FFA with the Evening Star 4-H Club providing volunteer labor to build it. We remember Sharon as a kind, loving mother and community leader who continues to inspire us all.
    2. The FFA has agreed to provide $20,000 in upgrades including replacing the electric and water throughout the barns.
    3. The FFA will maintain the barns and arena facilities for 10 years and the city can modify the lease at any time.
    4. The St. James School District and FFA have proven to be reliable partners with the city for multiple generations.
    The residents of Ward 3 need to know how their voices are being represented by Councilman Watkins and Swanson on the City Council. If your readers wish to view the council meeting from Monday, June 14, they can go to the City of St James Facebook page and do so.
Rodney Edwards
St. James