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City, FRC agreements exist

ALBANY -- An agreement between a local nonprofit developer signed June 1, 2007, suggests that while city officials largely failed to properly oversee the Grovetown development, that the developer agreed to repay funding if it violated the terms of the agreement.

Specifically, the agreement, which was signed by Cutliff Grove Family Resource Center (FRC) CEO the Rev. McKinley Drake and City Manager Alfred Lott and former Community and Economic Development Director Jennifer Clark, states that FRC will ensure that any expenditure of HOME funds will be in compliance with the requirements of HUD regulation 92.206. This regulation governs what types of services or items can be purchased using federal HOME funds.

Invoices, purchase orders and payment requests for the Grovetown project reviewed by The Herald this week show that, some purchases include food, office supplies and computer equipment that HUD regulation 92.206 doesn't expressly state is allowable.

However, many if not all of the invoices were approved, signed-off on and reimbursed with checks signed by city officials including Lott were issued before the agreement was drafted.

An undated agreement that appears to have been written earlier and is formatted differently than the other agreement, was signed only by FRC's executive director and had no signature from city officials.

A handwritten note, signed JN -- presumably of Juanita Nixon, FRC executive director -- at the top of that document reads:

"This is the copy of first (illegible) however we were never given sign (sic) copy back. It was asked many times. Call if more info is needed."

Although worded differently, that document stipulates that Cutliff Grove will agree to abide by Part 92 Title 24 of the Code of Federal Regulations and regulations concerning the HOME program.

The agreements appear to be the only documents between the city of Albany and FRC that set up any kind of restrictions or obligations regarding the development. Neither the city nor FRC had a deed to secure debt prior to the project's approval.

The agreement signed by both parties does indemnify, or hold the city harmless, from the action or inaction of FRC. But questions about the validity of the document remain.

The city commission will decide at an 8 p.m. meeting today whether to accept a proposed settlement negotiated between FRC and the city that would turn over the 1.07 acres to the city in exchange for first refusal rights.

The city was forced to repay $364,000 after they decertified FRC as a Community Housing Organization. That move came after HUD declared the Grovetown project to be ineligible for use of federal funding.