The Ferriday Town Council during a special meeting Monday night unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with Independence Chosen, Inc., pending attorney approval.
Approval allows the Los Angeles-based company to use the former Ferriday Oil and Seed building on Hwy. 15 on Industrial Road rent-free for 20 years for work the company will perform to improve the “way of life” in Ferriday.
Aldermen Elijah "Stepper" Banks, Gail Pryor, Andre Keys and Brandi Bacon supported the measure.
Alderwoman Gloria Lloyd was absent from the meeting. Lloyd said she did not want to attend a meeting at Town Hall because of the lack of spacing during COVID-19.
Last week, Ferriday Mayor Rydell Turner took exception to board members questioning members of the non-profit. He threatened to walk out and resign.
Turner said he felt Ferriday board members were unnecessarily asking personal questions to Choosing Independence, Inc., CEO Christian Richards on his company's motives and place of residence.
Members of Independence Chosen held a meet and greet at Ferriday Hall on November 9, and on Thursday at Ferriday Hall.
Also involved are Rhythm N Ballin Bottllng Company, Lee's Logistics, Ecodomika-Affordable Housting Manufacturing Facility and Richminds Network.
There are also local citizens on the board.
"We have people here helping out, and we have professionals," Richards said. "It's not a matter of getting validation and being approved, it's to get input on what the needs are here."
Richards told the board Monday night that Holmes Stoner with Ecodomika-Affordable Housing Manufacturing Facility was flying in from Florida Tuesday, which is why he wanted to address the board on Monday.
"I wanted to let him know we were unified in this," Richards said. "This manufacturing company is known worldwide and Ferriday can be a pilot program for the rest of the country. Housing is the key to the development of all of our programs."
Richards said Independence Chosen Inc., will pay utilities on the building, pay the insurance, make improvements, maintain the facility, and hire at least 85 percent of the people it employs from this area.
"The town will only be required to cut the grass and maintain the grounds around the facility," he said. "This is also based on the building being compliant on all codes, there being no asbestos, and Independence Chosen, Inc., being the only occupant of the building."
Banks then made a motion to bring Independence Chosen on board, and it was seconded by Bacon.
But Keys then stated he was wary of the 20-year agreement.
"That's a long time for me," Keys said.
"That's valid," Richards said. "But you will see the intangibles of what can be developed here."
Pryor said there was a lot of information thrown the board's way in one night.
"I cannot really speak on this with a clear conscience without hearing more about it and asking more questions," Pryor said. "I need the opportunity to go over this."
Richards said the company is funded by a well-known bank in California and will help low-income families in Ferriday.
After another 15 minutes of discussion, the board decided to vote for the memorandum pending approval of attorney Philip Letard, who was not present at the meeting.
"The Town of Ferriday is on board with this, but we have to makes sure all legalities are in order," Pryor said. "If our attorney approves everything in the contract, then we would love to have you here helping Ferriday."
Banks made the motion to approve the memorandum of understanding pending attorney approval, Keys seconded it and Bacon and Pryor voted yes.