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ADICA ratifies facade grants

ALBANY -- The board members of the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority took the final steps Wednesday to rebuild a downtown grant program fraught with mismanagement and plagued with scandal.

The much maligned facade grant program remains at the heart of an ongoing criminal investigation that, so far, has yielded four indictments, including that of former downtown manager and ADICA CEO Don Buie.

But under new leadership, a new grant program emerged Wednesday as the board ratified a $22,000 facade grant Buie gave to Subway without the board's knowledge while simultaneously adopting bylaws that place stronger controls and reduce the amount of the facade grants to $10,000.

Interim CEO James Taylor told board members that after speaking the owners of the Subway on North Jackson Avenue and reviewing the file, it appeared the facade grant issued to them was legitimate.

"It appears they didn't seek out the grant. We, or Don, brought the grant to them," Taylor said. "It has been a useful and beneficial grant for them and they have met the criteria, so I would recommend you ratify it."

Another facade grant, this one to Sweat Pea Boutiques, still has many unanswered questions, Taylor said.

Although the store owner has yet to respond to Taylor's attempts for contact, he said it appears Buie entered into an agreement with her for a one-third, one-third, one-third arrangement between the store owner, the building owner and ADICA. The owner has yet to pay her portion, however,which has forced ADICA to pay two shares at roughly $8,000.

There exists, Taylor said, an agreement signed by the property owner and Buie, but not by the store owner.

The board took no action on that facade grant until more information could be obtained.

With a barebones quorum, the board adopted a draft budget proposal and bylaws that solidify strict new spending controls implemented by the board following Buie's termination.

The bylaws limit the facade grant program to one that "reimburses half of the costs of improving the facade of structure up to a limit of $10,000," Taylor said.

"The intent is to assist businesses, not to serve as a source of income," Taylor said.

The bylaws also give power to the board to appoint a design committee to determine the legitimacy of the facade grant applications -- a committee that once was created solely at the discretion of the downtown manager.

The board also learned that a $6 million bond issuance for downtown revitalization had officially closed and was available for use, although Taylor said that projects are still being discussed and would likely be brought to the table in December. While ADICA is the redevelopment agent for the money, approval from both the ADICA board and the City Commission is required before the money can be spent.

Taylor said one possible early expenditure being considered would be to give $100,000 back to the general fund of the city of Albany, along with $400,000 in cash that was given to ADICA as an advance on the bond issuance.

The board also learned that former downtown business owner Tim Washington had signed a promissory note and had made a payment to ADICA toward his back rent and facade grant. Board member Lajuana Woods, who was not at Wednesday's meeting, also made her second payment toward repaying a $50,000 facade grant she received for her restaurant on Radium Springs Road.