City to discuss possible suit

ALBANY, Ga. -- Discussion of possible litigation to reclaim tax dollars that are being repaid to the federal government on behalf of a failed low-cost housing project has been placed on the agenda for the Albany City Commission's next meeting.

Ward 4 Commissioner Roger Marietta had the topic placed on the agenda for Tuesday's 8:30 a.m. work session, according to an agenda received Friday.

The city is in talks with the federal government to repay $374,000 that the Department of Housing and Urban Development say was spent on a low-cost community housing project first undertaken by Cutliff Grove Family Resource Center -- an arm of Cutliff Grove Baptist Church -- in 2006 that was later deemed ineligible by HUD.

The city then decertified the Cutliff Grove as a Community Housing Development, or CHDO, prompting HUD to demand the money be repaid.

The commission directed City Manager Alfred Lott to pay the money back to HUD out of the city's general fund rather than allow HUD to deduct the funds from its annual appropriation to the city, which would have impacted the city's ability to fund low-income programs such as rental assistance.

The commission did not, however, take any direct action to attempt to reclaim the funds which were originally spent by Cutliff Grove officials to buy the land, do some initial clearing work and relocate families that were displaced by the project, which has drawn the ire of some in the community.

The commission has discussed briefly options to try and get some of the money back, like placing a lien on the property, but no clear action has been taken.

Cutliff Grove officials have maintained throughout the process that they haven't done anything wrong, saying that they were simply a victim of a depressed economy and had previously been unable to receive the additional financing they would need to continue the project.