Bass Pro contract negotiations continue

OKEECHOBEE — Work on the Okee-Tantie contract with Bass Pro was under discussion again at the Dec. 12 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission. The commissioners agreed they would like to have the contract signed by the end of the year.

One technical point going back and forth in contract revisions has to do with the $300,000 deposit Bass Pro is to give the county at signing, with the remainder of the $3 million bid to be paid in nine months if Bass Pro decides to go ahead with the project.

Under the proposed contract, the money is a non-refundable deposit, except for a few conditions, explained County Attorney John Cassels.

Chairman Terry Burroughs said the county has taken Okee-Tantie off the market for a year to give Bass Pro time to do their research.

He suggested the county should keep the $300,000 deposit if the deal falls through, unless it is for a problem that comes up with the title.

“If something new comes up after the first title before closing, that should legitimately put it at risk because that is something we have control of,” said the attorney.

Another issue of negotiation is the construction plan, Mr. Cassels said.

He said Bass Pro proposed the language: “Seller and Buyer recognize, acknowledge and agree that the exact size, style, and overall scope of the development of the Property including any improvements to be located thereon (the “Development”) shall be at the sole discretion of Buyer, that Buyer shall be in sole control of all aspects of the Development, and that Seller shall have no right to review or approve any of the same except as may be required by law. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Buyer covenants to Seller that the quality and finishes of the Development shall be no less than the quality and finishes of other fishing and outdoor recreation developments of Buyer and its affiliated entities throughout the United States.”

“I think we need to add back in some reference to the core Bass Pro organization,” said Mr. Cassels. He suggested it be changed to “ … Buyer and its affiliated entities, including American Sportsman Holding Co. d/b/a Bass Pro Shops, throughout the United States.”

“I am sure we want some kind of recognizable brand,” said Commissioner Brad Goodbread.

“It’s not the $3 million,” said Mr. Cassels. “It’s the ripple effect of that kind of organization coming to Okeechobee.

“We are excited about the project. We are excited about working with Bass Pro,” said the attorney.

Mr. Goodbread said the goal was not to sell the property, but to create a resort destination.
“They want to market this thing cohesively with another opportunity they are going to do at the same time,” said Chairman Burroughs.

“I don’t have a problem with the verbiage he has here,” he said.

“We are going down the aisle and we’re not even at the altar yet,” he said. (“And we haven’t even seen the bride,” interjected Commissioner Goodbread.)

“I am not too worried about a name right now,” said Chairman Burroughs. “I am worried about the $300,000 and making sure the property is protected,” he said.

“I don’t have any problem with the buyer’s proposed wording,” said Commissioner David Hazellief. “I have faith in this organization.”

“This has gone on long enough,” said Commissioner Hazellief. “The public has lost faith that this is going to happen.”

He said he understands contract negotiations take time.

“I had the governor call Johnny Morris,” said Chairman Burroughs. He said Mr. Morris assured the governor there is no problem.

“We are working with the attorney, the legal aspects of this,” said Chairman Burroughs, “and these two attorneys have to come together.

“Let’s put this together, send it out to them and see where we are,” he said.

“I think we are very close to being there,” said Mr. Cassels.

“On Dec. 28, I would like to see it back here,” said Chairman Burroughs.

Mr. Cassels said if necessary if something else comes up, the county commission could call a special meeting to deal with it.

He said while the delays may be hard for the public to understand, business contracts take time.

Mr. Cassels explained, “They did say to us, almost verbatim, ‘Bass Pro doesn’t move quickly.’
“I think you are almost there,” he said.

“This is a multi-million dollar contract and we just want to get it right,” said Commissioner Culpepper.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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