Taxpayer money down the drain - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Taxpayer money down the drain

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City Attorney Nathan Davis City Attorney Nathan Davis

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  The city of Albany will not try to get back $374,000 from a failed HUD project. Cutliff Grove Family resource center was given the money to build low to moderate income apartments.

But it never happened, and city leaders dropped the ball when it came to making sure the project was moving forward.

So now, commissioners are accepting responsibility and paying the price, with your money, more than a quarter of a million in Albany tax dollars, gone.

It was essentially a "bad transaction." That's what city attorney Nathan Davis told the commission this morning.

He says there was failure by both parties, Cutliff Grove and the city, and that if the city pursued legal action against Cutliff Grove, it may end up losing even more money.

The piece of property where Grove Town apartments were supposed to be built is now property that will soon be owned by the city.

 "I think we came out ahead by getting that land, 'cause at first we wouldn't have gotten nothing," said Commissioner Tommie Postell.

Rather than go after the 374-thousand dollars in HUD money Cutliff Grove received for the project, the commission decided today to simply take the deed to this property, worth about $95,000, and essentially write off the other $279,000 of taxpayer money.

Roger Marietta is the only commissioner who voted against the agreement. "My gut feeling was instinctively that I didn't think this was the right thing to do."

City Attorney Nathan Davis told the commission that Cutliff Grove was not willing or able to provide any money back to the city and that taking them to court would be a long legal battle. Marietta says he would have liked to try.

"I believe that they do have resources, I do believe that they do have money in the bank and I would have like to have seen some money in the deal," Marietta.

The project was awarded back in 2004, yet there is no evidence that any work was ever completed.

Commissioner Chris Pike says it's clear city staff simply didn't follow through as they should have.

Now the taxpayers have to foot the bill? "That's correct. Taxpayers are responsible for that because, again, the city staff did not take the correct steps in most cases when it came to Cutliff Grove," said Pike.

And that's why he voted in favor of the deal. "I'm not happy with it totally. I think it's better than nothing obviously, but it's not the ideal situation, obviously. We'd like to get all the money back, but that's just not going to happen."

The commissioners all agree that the next time a project is awarded by the city, it will be watched much more closely by the staff and the commission. 

If the city ever decides to sell the property, Cutliff Grove Family Resource Center will be given the opportunity to match the price offered by the potential buyer and close within sixty days.

The settlement agreement will be finalized at the commission's regular meeting later this month.

 
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