Monroe officials claim the city has not yet received a feasibility study commissioned for $800,000 in early 2017 to determine whether a new arena should be built instead of restoring or expanding the Monroe Civic Center.
Building a new arena is among Mayor Jamie Mayo’s priority projects. When he released his “60 for 60” project list, he included the new arena among the 60 projects. The “60 for 60” project list referred to Mayo’s objective to complete 60 projects relative to his age. Mayo will turn 63 next month.
At Mayo’s urging, the Monroe City Council contracted M3A Architecture of Jackson, Mississippi, to conduct the feasibility study for $800,000. As previously reported by The Ouachita Citizen, M3A Architecture collected $700,000 in October 2017 after submitting its “F. (Final) Submittal #1.”
The city still owes $100,000 to M3A Architecture, according to documents obtained by this newspaper in 2018. Last December, The Ouachita Citizen submitted a public records request to obtain documentation of any further payments or any other documents sent to the city by M3A Architecture.
Under the state’s public records law, as soon as M3A Architecture furnishes a city official with any document pertaining to the feasibility study, that document becomes subject to the public records law and must be disclosed if requested.
Through Mayo’s press office, Stacy Rowell, the city’s director of administration, claimed there were no documents responsive to the newspaper’s request.
In the past, the city has claimed it did not possess any documents related to the feasibility study when requested by this newspaper, though Mayo’s press office once indicated city officials had “reviewed” a document. Later, the mayor’s press office claimed it could not produce anything because it had not taken possession of anything, only discussed details in meetings.
Yolanda McElroy, with M3A Architecture, did not respond to The Ouachita Citizen’s inquiries about the status of the feasibility study.
It is uncertain how the city would pay for the cost of a new arena since the estimated cost could be as much as $90 million to $150 million. According to Mayo, a new arena built in downtown Monroe along the Ouachita River would attract bigger entertainment acts, create jobs and increase sales tax revenues for the city.
Questions about the need for a new arena were recently posed to candidates for mayor and the Monroe City Council during public forums. Several candidates have questioned whether the area needs another arena.
Mayo and City Council member Gretchen Ezernack were among the few to urge the public to support such an endeavor. Ezernack described the new arena project as a potential sales tax driver and asked the public to have an open mind about the project.
More details on Mayo’s project could be announced soon, according to Ezernack.
“I believe there is a public meeting coming up,” she said.