Arts group to maintain, manage downtown Art Park

ADICA board members, from left, Kilena Underwood, Tommy Gregors and David Prisant listen to a proposal by ADICA President Aaron Blair during Wednesday's board meeting at the Government Center. (June 19, 2013)

ADICA board members, from left, Kilena Underwood, Tommy Gregors and David Prisant listen to a proposal by ADICA President Aaron Blair during Wednesday's board meeting at the Government Center. (June 19, 2013)

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority is taking the necessary steps to turn management of the downtown Art Park over to the D'town Arts Coalition, a step that was part of the original plan for the Pine Avenue facility.

"The intent was for that organization to take over the maintenance and management of the park when it reached a certain level of readiness," Downtown Manager/ADICA President Aaron Blair said after Wednesday's monthly meeting of the development authority. "We feel that we're about at that stage.

"They will continue the (monthly) Nights D'town events, which they're heavily involved in now, and they will do the daily maintenance checks to make sure there is nothing offensive in the park. We're also going to expect them to have at least one other event a month, but we'll still use some of the funding in our budget to make sure the events remain at their current level. This will empower a downtown organization that's been working hard for us."

Board member Thelma Johnson suggested that City Attorney Nathan Davis check to make sure the arts group has all the required licenses to protect ADICA from possible liability.

"Let's empower them, but let's empower them the right way," Johnson said.

Davis was also tasked with reworking a soon-to-expire 10-year agreement between ADICA and the state's Department of Natural Resources that lists the inner-city authority as the governmental agency responsible for operation of the Flint RiverQuarium. Tommy Gregors, an ADICA board member who serves as executive director of the Thronateeska Heritage Center and was recently asked to take over as chief operating officer of the aquarium, asked the board to consider a 40-year agreement to match the duration of the DNR's initial 50-year agreement with the RiverQuarium.

"We've asked Mr. Davis to look at the document to make sure we're in compliance with state laws," Gregors said. "The agreement between ADICA and the RiverQuarium is expiring in April of next year, but we're in the middle of a fundraising campaign and would like to have a longer-term agreement in place as soon as possible.

"We've moved past talk of whether the RiverQuarium will remain open; we've put that to rest. But we want potential donors to feel comfortable that we have a long-term agreement in place, not one that will run out in the middle of our (two-year) campaign."

Davis was also tasked by consensus to look into having ADICA serve as a conduit between the state and the Easter Seal Foundation so that the organization can continue to utilize property on Palmyra Road. ADICA would accept a deed to the property from the state under the proposal and allow Easter Seal to continue uninterrupted usage.

In other action at the meeting, the ADICA board voted to accept a low bid of $9,287 from B&B Electric to provide power service to the Art Park and approved its Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which is unchanged at $50,000. The board also OK'd its TAD bond budget, which currently is at $1,635,809.20.

That funding has been allocated for projects that include the Art Park, ADICA's facade grant program, lighting for the Old Northside neighborhood, a planned canoe/kayak launch on the Flint River and renovation of the historic downtown Albany Theater.

Blair said none of the new tax money collected in the downtown tax allocation district has been spent, accumulating an amount of around $600,000.

"With a new gas station and possibly a Dollar General store planned in the TAD, I expect that account to surpass $1 million in the next year or two," he said. "We could do a major project of our own, but we like to support projects initiated by the private sector. That allows us to better leverage our funding."

Blair also told the board he'd gotten no bids on purchase of the downtown skate park by deadline, but he has had individuals express an interest in the property.

"I'll meet with them now that no one can say we haven't been fair (in allowing a sealed bid process on the property)," the ADICA president said.