City to give $150,000 to Civil Rights Institute

ALBANY -- City commissioners tentatively moved to fund $50,000 per year over the next three years to fund the hiring of a project manager for the Civil Rights Institute.

After hearing from Albany State University's Michael Rogers, a spokesperson for the board that governs the museum and cultural center, the board adopted the measure 4-1.

The grant request is to help hire Lee Formwalt, a former professor and graduate dean at Albany State, to oversee operations at the ACRI for the next 36 months.

"Economically, this is just a drop in the bucket for what they plan to do and I think it's a good thing," Commissioner Tommie Postell said. "Fifty thousand dollars a year, for us, is really nothing when you're talking about funding the success of the Civil Rights Institute."

Formwalt is the former executive director of the Organization of American Historians and has a history in the area by serving as treasurer and vice president of the Civil Rights Museum at Old Mt. Zion Church.

The decision wasn't unanimous, however. Commissioner Bob Langstaff cautioned the commission about continually giving to various organizations piece mill, saying that the commission should put charitable amounts into a big pot that would allow organizations like the institute to come back before the commission during the regular budgeting process and make a presentation.

"I just think that they and some of the entities we give money to should come up with an amount they need to annually operate and then come petition the commission for their share of the pot," Langstaff said.

Langstaff said there ought to be some consideration for projects built using special sales tax dollars for how organizations will then use that property without government help after they're built.

Commissioner Morris Gurr said he agreed with comments made by City Manager Alfred Lott that would require the institute to submit its plans for operations for the end of the three years, so that the city doesn't become bound to financially supporting institute every year.

"I'm also agreeing with Mr. Lott that there needs to be some kind of exit strategy here," Gurr said. "If this is a three-year supplement, it's OK. But if it becomes something else, we'll have some concerns."

Commissioner Roger Marietta said he was excited about the potential growth of the program and the possibility of collaboration between the institute and local secondary and post secondary schools.

"There is a new generation that really has no idea what happened 50 years ago," Marietta said. "I"m excited about this."

Because the city cannot give money directly to charitable organizations, the money would instead go through the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, which would serve as a conduit between the institute and the city. ADICA already serves that function with money given by the city and county to the Flint RiverQuarium.