CHOCTAW — The developer of a new 39-acre town square to be anchored by a Walmart Supercenter moved to sue the city of Choctaw over money it claims the city owes it for construction and legal costs.
The partially city-funded shopping development has encountered several problems since Choctaw officials signed an agreement with Bentonville, Ark.-based Choctaw Town Square in 2010 to develop the site.
Choctaw has pledged water, sewer and traffic improvements worth an estimated $9.6 million for the Choctaw Town Square Project to lure new business to the city.
Choctaw Town Square claims in its lawsuit that city officials have refused to reimburse it for construction costs from a $7.5 million tax increment financing bond the city issued last year to help finance the development.
The developer filed its breach of contract lawsuit against the city of Choctaw and the Choctaw Utilities Authority in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on Friday.
The city has reimbursed Choctaw Town Square for more than $3.8 million in development costs so far, but began asking the developer to provide more detailed information on some of its invoices for the project costs in December, City Manager Roger Nelson said.
East half ‘is dirt'
While Walmart recently purchased a site at the Choctaw Town Square site for a new 150,000 square-foot store, work has progressed slower than city officials would have liked on the development, Nelson said.
“The eastern half of the property is dirt,” Nelson said. “It's been graded — that was part of our request, to see where they were with the development plans for Phase II.”
In its lawsuit, the developer also threatened to halt work on the development on NE 23 east of Henney Road.
“For obvious reasons, (Choctaw Town Square) is reluctant to continue construction on the project when, at this stage, CTS is not being reimbursed by the city and (the Choctaw Utilities Authority) for the costs it has incurred for project construction,” the lawsuit said.
The developer also claims in its lawsuit that Choctaw should pay for Choctaw Town Square's legal costs to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by Choctaw City Manager Robert L. Floyd last year.
Former manager sues
Floyd moved to sue Choctaw and Choctaw Town Square in June 2012. The former city manager claims in his lawsuit that the city council wrongfully fired him after he questioned the dollar amount on an invoice Choctaw Town Square submitted to the city.
The city has no agreement to pay the developer its legal costs in the case, Nelson said.
Choctaw Town Square principal Eldon Blackaby declined to comment on the lawsuit on Friday. An attorney for Choctaw Town Square could not immediately be reached for comment.