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Mt. Olive gets housing funds

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to award up to $267,838 in federal housing dollars to Mt. Olive Community Outreach Center, but left the door open for River Road Family First Development to have a shot at developing its project.

In June, City officials had asked the city commission to award up to $233,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's HOME program to the River Road Family First Community Development Corporation.

The commission tentatively adopted the proposal, despite the fact that Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver, who is hired by the city commission, chaired the corporation's board of directors and Brenda Robinson-Cutler, the former county commissioner who remains on probation after pleading guilty to theft in 2006, is its executive director.

But upon further review, City Manager James Taylor pulled the item from consideration after concerns arose that, in order to meet building codes, the project would require extensive additional work that would put the project out of sync with federal guidelines.

At the commission's pre-briefing Tuesday, Taylor explained that the River Road project still is feasible, but would require a variance from the Flood Review Board in order to receive federal funding.

"If they can get a variance, the River Road project can move forward," Taylor told the board.

If the variance is approved and the River Road project meets all of the remaining federal guidelines, the commission can choose to allocate federal dollars later in the year for the project.

The funding for the Mt. Olive development, according to the agenda item provided to commissioners ahead of the meeting, would go to fund the rehabilitation of 13 single-family homes on South Carolina Avenue and Kentucky Avenue in the St. John's Estate's Subdivision in East Albany.

While Mt. Olive has a lengthy history in using HOME funds without incident, in 2008 the group was awarded HOME funds that were ultimately withdrawn by the city for failure to draw down the funding in a timely manner.

By awarding the funds to Mt. Olive, the city avoids the possibility of having to return up to 15 percent of its federally allocated housing funds to HUD, which would've put future allocations in jeopardy.

Under federal guidelines, CHDO's develop or renovate low-income housing up to certain guidelines before being inspected by the city. If the development passes muster, allowable expenses paid for by the CHDO are reimbursed using the federal dollars.