Viewpoint: Be careful picking partners for federal dollars

The city of Albany is getting a $250,000 grant to begin the planning phase of a project that would transform the McIntosh homes housing project. It's part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

The goal is to transform distressed neighborhoods into places with affordable housing, safe streets, and good schools.

If the planning process goes well, Albany can next apply for a grant which could bring millions of dollars to put the plan into action.

If the city wins that process, we think that's the time for extra caution. The city has had two recent bad experiences with picking its partners for government improvement projects.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we reported that a half million dollars of taxpayer money spent to build the 'Enclave at Oglethorpe' apartments is down the drain. The project bogged down, the partner died, and taxpayers have nothing to show for the money they put in.

Last May, the city paid HUD $374,000 to reimburse federal dollars that came here for the Cutliff Grove Family apartment development. The city handed that money over to Cutliff Grove. The apartments were never built, and Cutliff grove can't, or hasn't, paid the money back.

And the city has done little, if anything, to recover the taxpayers' money.

We agree that improvements are needed at McIntosh, but we hope stringent checks are in place when, and if, the federal money comes.

The taxpayers deserve to have their hard-earned money protected.