City Attorney Nathan Davis speaks to the city commission Tuesday. Davis believes that $4 million in SPLOST dollars approved by the voters in 2010 can't be used for a controversial multimodal center.
ALBANY, Ga. — Albany city commissioners learned Tuesday that $4 million in special sales tax proceeds originally designated to help build a new transit facility near downtown likely can't be used for that project, threatening the future of the project and leaving commissioners with more questions about the controversial project.
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During an update of the project during Tuesday's work session, Assistant City Manager Wes Smith told commissioners that City Attorney Nathan Davis had rendered an opinion that $4 million that was approved by voters in a 2010 referendum can not be used for a multimodal bus terminal because of a 2008 court case from Columbus.
In that case, the court ruled that resolutions adopted by local governments can be used to determine the intent of how SPLOST dollars will be used. Previously only language on the ballot dictated how the funds would be spent and was often intentionally left vague.
However, an intergovernmental agreement between the Dougherty County Commission and the City of Albany outlining SPLOST VI, lists $4 million for a transportation maintenance facility not a transit facility, which prompted Davis' opinion.
Stripping $4 million from the project shocked some on the commission Tuesday who had just learned the cost of the four sites under consideration.
"Oh my...We can't do this. Without SPLOST, how do you intend to pay for this," Langstaff asked City Manager James Taylor.
"How do I intend to pay for this?" Taylor responded. "I don't."
If the SPLOST money is stripped from the project it leaves only between $3.5 million and $5 million in stimulus funding available to use on the project, depending on the outcome of the city's request for an extension to spend the money. Those funds come with a 20 percent local match that would have to come from the city's general fund.
According to the presentation Tuesday, Site A, the Budget Inn and former Chinese food restaurant at 301 East Oglethorpe Boulevard would cost nearly $9 million to acquire, demolish and build a transit station; Site B, the site of the current Destiny Transportation Bus Station at 300 West Oglethorpe Boulevard would top $11.2 million; Site C, the former Heritage House hotel site at 732 West Oglethorpe Boulevard, would cost $8.8 million and Site D, the former movie theater site on Gillionville Road would cost 8.9 million.
Sites A and D may be higher because they don't include purchase prices only assessed values. Site B topped the four largely because of the $1.8 million price tag the Destiny Group has offered as a purchase price and environmental costs that would be associated with developing the site. Site C's price tag includes the $1.1 million price the city has already paid to purchase and demolish the site.