By Othor Cain
In an ongoing battle since 2012, the city reached a settlement with the company Retro Metro, headed by businessmen Socrates Garrett, Howard Catchings and Leroy Walker. The council voted to go into closed session and then executive session where the discussion, decision and vote took place.
In a 4-3 vote that was publiclyannounced in an open meeting, the council agreed to settle the Retro Metro litigation. Prior to going into closed session Councilmen Stamps and Banks who represent Wards 4 and 6 respectfully thanked Mayor Lumumba for participating in the negotiations process and getting the city to this point.
“Mayor I just want to thank you for your leadership and helping us reach this settlement. This was the right thing to do,” Banks said.
Retro Metro owns a portion of the Metro Center Mall, specifically, the old Belk store which was converted into office space for the City of Jackson. For a while now, Retro Metro has claimed it exceeded a budgeted amount for the renovations and wanted the city to pay the excess.
The city had been waiting on various audits to prove this and the situation had been stalled for years. It ended Tuesday.
Retro Metro has also entered into a newly formed partnership with Hinds Community College and other stakeholders that will transform the rest of its unoccupied space into a workforce development training center.
In other council news, after a nearly two-hour confirmation hearing, the council in a 5-2 vote approved Mayor Lumumba’s choice of Willie
Owens as Jackson’s top fire official. In a 5-2 vote, the council gave Owens a nod of approval with Councilmen Banks and Stamps voting no.
“I just believe trends and training has changed since Mr. Owens was last with the fire department,” Stamps said. “I think is imperative to
have someone leading the department that is abreast of all of the latest trends.
Banks grilled Owens on his command staff and the morale of the department. “I have a neighbor that works for the department and when I have to answer my door at 9:30 at night and hear stories of how people are being treated, for me that’s problematic,” Banks said.
Owens thanked the council for its support and said he was ready to go to work. “I’ve been operating as interim fire chief and I’m looking forward to leading the best fire department in the country,” Owens said.