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Council votes to draft contract with Williams Foods

Mayor Valerie Thomerson and Williams Foods President Jeff Williams talked to each other following Thursday's city council meeting. The council voted to move forward on an agreement to pay the grocery store $1.9 million. (Photo by Ben Felder)

Mayor Valerie Thomerson threw her hands in the air and let out a big “yes” on Thursday after the city council concluded its meeting by taking a giant step closer to finalizing a deal with Williams Foods grocery store on payment of $1.9 million in incentives.

“I’m thrilled that we are moving forward towards a solution,” Thomerson said. “It was definitely a give and take, but we have an agreement.”

The council met in executive session during the meeting and invited Jeff Williams, owner of Williams Foods, to join them. After emerging from the executive session a motion was made to have the attorneys for the city and Williams draft an agreement that the council can approve at its next meeting. The council voted 5-0 in favor of the motion.

The city has a contract with Williams Foods to pay the grocery store $1.9 million in incentives. Details on how the money would be paid were not clearly stated in the contract and the issue had caused some division on the council and was a common theme during the April elections. The council did not provide any details about the agreement made in executive session but Williams said it will not involve a bond and will be a payment over time.

“The bond ended up being bad for the city,” Williams said. “With the fees, the interest rate is through the roof and it’s unsellable right now.”

Williams said both sides made compromises to reach an agreement in theory and his attorney will now draw up a contract according to the specifications agreed on in executive session and the council will approve it at its next meeting.

“I am excited to be at this point and I think it’s a great option for the city,” Williams said.

The word rebate was used by the mayor to describe the agreement and she said the city would not be at any risk.

“There will be no burden to the city,” Thomerson said. “It will be based on revenue out of the store and other details beyond that I would rather not say.”

The mayor and councilmen Wade Johnson, Hoss Cooley and former councilman Bill Sharp have all expressed concern over paying Williams, especially using bonds to do so. Sharp resigned from the council earlier this year and Jeff Davis was appointed to the vacant seat. However, all five current councilmen voted to move forward on the deal.

“I think the compromising spirit was actually shown when the council unanimously voted to move forward,” Thomerson said. “I was always concerned by how we were going to pay for it and that has been taken care of. Once the details of (this deal) come out…I think everyone will be pleased.”

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