By Ray King

A committee of the Pine Bluff City Council on Tuesday recommended that a lease agreement between the city and Saracen Casino to use the former Bank of America building in downtown for two months be approved by the full council when they meet Monday night.

At a special called meeting of the Development and Planning Committee, Council members Glen Brown Jr., and Bruce Lockett agreed to the idea after hearing from Mayor Shirley Washington. The third member of the committee, Council Member Win Trafford recused from any discussion, saying the Saracen Tribe, which is building and will operate the casino “are my clients.”

Washington said she had been approached by representatives of the group who want to use the building in August and September for hiring and training purposes. She said the bank’s lobby would be used for training and the bank annex would be set up for human resources functions.

She said she quoted a price of $3 per month plus all utilities and the casino group countered with an offer of $2 per month plus electricity. In addition, the casino group said they would take care of all the cleaning, power wash the exterior of the building, and clean out leaves and grass.

Brown questioned the idea of the casino group just paying for electricity rather than all utilities (water and gas) and Washington said she did not think there would be much of an increase in those utility bills if the building was occupied.

“I would feel more comfortable if they take all the utilities but if we can’t reach that deal, I’m OK with it,” Brown said. “If they want to use it for more than two months I’m OK with that too.”

A check of the lease agreement drawn up by the city called for the casino group to pay all utilities, instead of just electricity and Washington said she would take that back to the group to see if they would accept it.