By Shawn Byrne
On the heels of a referendum petition being pulled in opposition of the Town of Wickenburg’s Resolution No. 2251 to enter into a contract with West Wickenburg LLC for the purchase of the Forepaugh property, Town Attorney Susan Goodwin wrote that the contract is not subject to referendum.
“Only legislative acts are subject to the referendum powers,” Goodwin wrote to Town Manager Vince Lorefice in an email. “The contract between the Town and West Wickenburg, LLC does not create new policy.”
Goodwin explained the contract between the Town and West Wickenburg “primarily implements a prior agreement between Wickenburg Economic Development Partnership and the Town.”
In 2016, the Town and WEDP entered an agreement in which the Town conveyed 77.5 acres of property 16 miles west of Wickenburg to WEDP for $10 with the understanding that it would be developed into an industrial facility to foster economic growth and bring jobs to the area. In 2017, WEDP requested a contract amendment, and the Town agreed, which required WEDP to pay fair market price for the property. WEDP was also required to open an escrow account with $50,000 to begin the transaction. The escrow account was not opened and the sale of the property did not take place by the deadline.
Lorefice said the contract with West Wickenburg will give the Town about $318,000. That sum includes the price of the property of $245,000 adjusted with the Consumer Price Index that now equals $268,000, plus $25,000 in well matching funds, and up to $25,000 in legal fees.
“In 2017 Town Council revised an amendment to the agreement by taking the appraised value and adding CPI,” Lorefice said. “Without spending more money on an updated appraisal, Council reviewed recent sales in the Forepaugh area and was confident it was a fair number.”
Any other investments by the Town to the property won’t be recovered. Some estimates for that have come in at about $200,000, Lorefice said.
“I don’t know the exact cost over all the years, per state retention laws our financial records only go back so many years,” Lorefice said about the Town’s expenses at Forepaugh over the years. “There had been contracts between the Town and WEDP for membership fees. WEDP spent money doing studies, economic impact studies, and site planning. The Town and others put money into it working the investment for close to two decades.”
Information sheets being handed out in support of the referendum report the real buyer of the property is the Echeveria Family Trust (aka Wickenburg West LLC, an Arizona company.) However, the buyer is in fact West Wickenburg, LLC of Billings, Mont., which has a registered agent of Justin T. Yost, better known as Ty Yost. (The Oct. 23 story in The Sun inadvertently transposed the company name and reported the buyer is Wickenburg West, rather than West Wickenburg, possibly creating the confusion.)
Some obstacles need to be overcome before the sale is complete.
A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment performed by ATC Group Services LLC in February 2018, found several environmental concerns are present on the property. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality through a grant, at no cost to the Town or WEDP, will determine the best practices for clean up in Phase II. Then, next year ADEQ plans to facilitate a clean up of the property which will also be funded through a grant, according to Lorefice.
Economic Development Director Pamela Green previously said that the purchase agreement between WEDP and WW is contingent upon ADEQ’s clean up activities, which are expected to take between 12-18 months, depending on the scope of the work. Should the sale default, the Town can legally recoup the property.
ADEQ Public Information Officer Erin Jordan told The Sun that ADEQ is almost done with Phase II and determining the best way to do the cleanup.