ADICA board OKs funding for Herald cleanup

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority board approved more than $12,000 in funding for damages to the basement of The Albany Herald related to the ongoing Pine Avenue Streetscape project even though ADICA and city officials say they believe the project's contractor is liable for the damages.

The funding, $12,013.36, will be used to pay costs related to cleanup of The Herald's 126 N. Washington St. structure that became necessary when recent heavy rains flooded the newspaper's basement. Most of the funding ($9,727.26) approved by the ADICA board at its monthly meeting Wednesday afternoon is earmarked for Bishop Clean Care, which ADICA President Aaron Blair said had removed the sludge that resulted from more than 6 inches of water pouring into the building.

"We feel, ultimately, the contractor was liable for these damages," Blair said. "But instead of fighting over that right now, we believe it is more important to finish the project. Letting the project sit and get worse was in no one's best interest, especially The Herald's."

Zane Grace, owner of the Leesburg-based Zane Grace Construction Co. that is the contractor on the $352,000 project, said late Wednesday his priority concern is to complete the project that includes new sidewalks and drainage along the southern side of the 100 block of Pine Avenue.

"Our insurance adjuster came and looked at the damage in the basement of The Herald building, and my stand is that the majority of the water that poured into the basement could not have come through the wall we built," Grace said. "There was an existing 2-foot by 2-foot hole that might have been for ductwork, and that's where I believe a lot of the water came in.

"I was prepared for my insurance company to mitigate with the city and (The Herald's) insurance company, and Aaron and I had about worked things out. Then (City Attorney) Nathan Davis said (ADICA) would not pay me until I'd paid for the cleanup at The Herald. Now the city is 45 days behind in its payment."

Davis, who recommended that the ADICA board hold off on voting on a $4,600 change order request sought by the contractor for overtime work after Herald officials demanded that Grace complete demolition work during non-office hours, said the more important issue at this time is moving the project forward.

The original contract for the roughly 60 percent completed streetscape project called for completion by May 31, although heavy rains in February, June and July have hampered construction efforts.

"We feel we can sit down with the contractor and address the issue of (responsibility for) the Herald cleanup at a later time," Davis said. "No matter who is ultimately responsible, the work still has to be done."

Blair said after the meeting he was afraid Grace would pull his workers off the streetscape project if ADICA and the city demanded he cover the costs of the cleanup.

"That would have been a disaster," the ADICA president said. "They've done a good job on the project so far, and we want them to complete the job."

Davis said he needed to look at letters sent to the city and forwarded to ADICA from Southern Community Newspapers Inc. Vice President of Operations Lynn Ridder that demanded disruptive work utilizing jackhammers be completed after Herald office hours. Grace employees did the work on the weekend, and the company asked for $4,600 in additional funds to cover the overtime costs.

SCNI is the parent company of The Albany Herald.

Also at the meeting, the ADICA board OK'd intergovernmental agreements with the city of Albany that will allow the agency to pass city funding to the Flint RiverQuarium ($150,000) and the Albany Civil Rights Institute ($50,000).

"The city can't make donations, but since it voted to supply these organizations with emergency funding, y'all (under the terms of the agreement) will serve as the conduit to funnel the money to these entities," Davis said.