Dougherty leaders consider cutting allocations to ATI - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty leaders consider cutting allocations to ATI

April 10, 2006

Albany - Albany Tomorrow Inc. faces a major money shortage if Dougherty County leaders decide not to give them money this year. For years, Dougherty County has given ATI $150,000 a year to develop its sales tax projects from Riverfront Park to the First Tee Golf Course. County commissioners say they only have one new project in the works, so they might not give ATI as much, if any, money this year. That could leave ATI scrambling to make up 25% of its budget.

Riverfront Park, the Flint Riverquarium and the Oglethorpe Gateway are all projects paid for with sales tax money and developed by Albany Tomorrow.

ATI President Tommy Chatmon said, "Most of ATI's funding comes from management fees and development fees."

Every year, the City and County each give ATI $150,000 for their services. But with few projects on the county's to-do list, county commissioners might not hand over that money this year.

Commissioner Lamar Hudgins said, "We don't want to pay for services that we don't need."

ATI board members packed Monday's commission meeting, as President Tommy Chatmon asked commissioners for $100,000. That's $50,000 less than last year.

"It would go into our general fund for operational services and expenses incurred by ATI. It represents approximately 25% of our overall budget," said Chatmon.

Commissioners say the renovations to the Bridge House is the only sales tax project the county would need ATI's help with. And some don't think overseeing that project should cost $100,000.

"ATI serves us in many ways in a positive way," said Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard. "But we must literally look at our budgetary spending from what are we getting for our money and how far tax money going in terms promoting and growing Albany and promoting and growing jobs."

"The funding is critical," said Chatmon. Chatmon says ATI has already cut back its staff and spending, even getting rid of lunches at board meetings. But he says ATI continues to handle county's projects and should be financially compensated.

"We provide all landlord services for all the rental properties in the west paring deck. We interface with the public and manage the booking of Riverfront Park," said Chatmon.

The county's finance committee will now look into how the money would be spent and then make a funding recommendation to the commission.

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