City/ATI to play tug-of-war? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City/ATI to play tug-of-war?

December 13, 2006

Albany - Will there be a tug of war over downtown Albany? While Albany Tomorrow has spearheaded much of the downtown development, the city manager wants to take part of their money and hire a downtown manager who would report directly to him.

The city of Albany pays Albany Tomorrow $150,000 a year in fees as a redevelopment contractor. But next year, City Manager Alfred Lott, wants to cut that amount back to just $100,000, and use the difference to pay a downtown manager.  He says, "Our recommendation is to establish a downtown developer and via the executive director of ADICA and reestablish an independent person. A person separate from ATI and continue to fund ATI in some fashion at least for a year."

Lott wants someone in place for the day to day operations of downtown and he wants that person to answer to him and the city commission about potential investors. "Developers who have ideas and monies that we can look forward to. Right now, nobody is doing that," says Lott.

But Tommy Chatmon, President of Albany Tomorrow says that organization works with developers everyday, and brings them into our community.  He says, "We talk to and dialogue and have ongoing relationships with developers. In fact, we've co-developed many projects with private developers and we look forward to doing more of that."

Though, he also agrees, someone does need to be working with current businesses already in downtown, to keep them there and attract more traffic.  He says, "We see a need for someone to focus on the day to day. We feel like that person will have synergy with what we're doing and therefore our belief is that that person should emanate from our office and work directly with us."

But before money is taken away from ATI, board member John White says they will look at their budget and see what can be done about hiring a downtown manager from their current budget in order to satisfy both groups.  He says, "We should look at that budget and see where we are and perhaps put some more funds into that to be sure we have a strong person and all the support that person needs to help develop downtown."

For now, the issue has been tabled, but the city commission could decide to pull money from ATI as early as next week. The city manager and Tommy Chatmon will meet Friday to discuss what can be done about hiring a downtown manager, while still supporting ATI.

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