Recouping mismanaged money not top priority - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Recouping mismanaged money not top priority

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – The mayor of Albany says getting back $374,000 in mismanaged HUD money from Cutliff Grove is not a top priority for the city.

The city already agreed to pay the money back to the federal government for a failed apartment development spearheaded by Cutliff Grove Family Resource Center. But the city is in no hurry to get reimbursed by Cutliff Grove at a time when money is hard to come by.

We had a number of questions about the Cutliff Grove project. We wanted to know who was at fault for the project failure, if the city didn't conduct proper follow up, and if there are any other federal projects in danger of losing their money. City Manager Wes Smith told us in an email that we would get those answers Tuesday, but we did not.

Mayor Willie Adams says the reason the Cutliff Grove project didn't make it onto Tuesday's agenda is simple.  When asked, "Is this not a priority for the city?" He said, "No, it's not one of the top priorities at this moment. We've got some problems in some other departments that take precedent over this right now."

The main problem he's referring to is the turmoil in the city attorney's office. Inner office strife and disagreements.  Adams said, "First of all, we need to get our legal department all organized in order for them to take care of the legal work that's needed to be done, so you can see from that where the priority needs to be."

The city has already entered into a repayment agreement with HUD for the money, using cash from the general fund. When that decision was made April 6th, city manager Al Lott said he would bring back a plan to pursue repayment by Cutliff Grove to the commission within 30 days. That hasn't happened. 

Adams said, "We'll get around to it, we're not dragging our feet, but it's not anything that we put as top priority at this moment."

So when will it be? The Mayor says sometime within the next six months. 

He said, "Within the next six months could mean tomorrow, two weeks from now, three months from now."  We asked him for a better time frame.  "I can't give you a better time." "Why not?" "Because I don't want to." So in the meantime, the taxpayers are out $374,000.

When I asked city manager Al Lott about the omission from the agenda Tuesday, he said it may have been a mistake and may need to be placed on the next work agenda. He's looking into it.

Cutliff Grove maintains that one reason the project lost its funding is because of a failure by the city to conduct a proper environmental assessment at the site.

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