Albany is on Uncle Sam's hook, big time -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Albany is on Uncle Sam's hook, big time

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  The city of Albany is on the hook to pay back $374,000 to the federal government. Nearly five years ago, Cutliff Grove Baptist Church got Housing and Urban Development money to build affordable housing on Broad Avenue.

The HUD money passed through the city and was then given to Cutliff Grove.

Cutliff Grove leaders knew back in October they were having difficulty moving forward. That's when they asked the city to help fund the 24 low to moderate income apartments they planned to build, but the city said no. Without financial backing, HUD determined the church didn't have the ability to continue.

Cutliff Grove first received federal money to build low to moderate income apartments in August 2005. A few months later, they bought the land to build them on. More than four years later, the sign promoting the project still stands, but construction hasn't begun. 

"The only specific step that had been taken was the acquisition of the property, certainly suggests that they were not capable of carrying out the project and HUD made that determination, in that they were not,"  said Albany Asst. City Manager Wes Smith.

And now that the project has been deemed ineligible, all the money spent must be paid back. 

"The project has been going on for years, so far Cutliff Grove Baptist Church has received $374,000 from the federal government through the city of Albany for the project, but it hasn't even begun, construction has not started and now that they've been decertified, that money has to be paid backs" said Smith. 

How it will be paid back is the big question.  "At this point in time, the city of Albany solely is on the hook to repay this money, and the commission make the hard decision as to whether or not to go back to the CHODO, the church, in order to pursue repayment from those who actually spent it."

And no matter what the commission decides, the money must be paid back, either by HUD withholding money, or the city forking it up. 

"Through the decertification process, the city's now on the hook to pay the $374,000."

Hundreds of thousands of dollars lost, at a time the city can least afford it.

Rev. Drake said he had not heard a response from Congressman Sanford Bishop's office and did not want to discuss the project further.

 The city will meet tomorrow morning to discuss what path they'll take. If they choose to pay back the money by allowing HUD to withhold part of this year's allotment, that means other low to moderate income housing projects may be negatively impacted.

  • Click HERE to see documents the city has on this matter


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