DAVID PRISANT: Skate park lease out of line with ADICA's duties

GUEST COMMENTARY: A decision earlier this month by ADICA is a setback for downtown redevelopment

David Prisant

David Prisant

The Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, aka ADICA, a quasi-governmental body on which I have served as a board member for a number of years, is charged with promoting the improvement and redevelopment of property within a prescribed area located, for the most part, in and around downtown Albany, including the skate park property overlooking the east bank of the Flint River between Broad and Oglethorpe.

Even though ADICA has a very small annual operating budget of $50,000 (allocated to ADICA by the city), the authority can purchase bonds that are used for redevelopment within what is defined as a Tax Allocation District, or TAD. As the TAD grows, a portion of the increased property taxes are transferred to ADICA for the purpose of reducing the indebtedness on the bonds. So, obviously, a bigger development project within the TAD (such as the Walmart in East Albany) is the “best case” example of this. Moving a shoe business from one location to another location (one block away) does nothing to enhance the TAD.

On Aug. 13, five board members voted to offer a five-year lease to Rabbitman’s Footwear for terms that clearly indicated that these individuals set aside ADICA’s obligation to the taxpayers in favor of helping Johnny Williams. Moreover, this vote was taken with full knowledge that I had brought a solid commitment from a group of developers who wanted the property to be “put out for bid,” with hopes that they’d be able to transform land that was languishing in neglect into an impressive redevelopment project that would generate a substantial contribution to the TAD for debt reduction on the bond.

Unfortunately, there was only one board member (besides myself) that understood what was “really” good for Albany’s growth, and I have thanked her for understanding this. The fact that a spokesman for the developers was not permitted to speak (because he didn’t know his name had to be placed on the agenda prior to the meeting) was regrettable. Moreover, I don’t think anything could have delayed the vote, given that the majority of the board members were determined to move ahead regardless of what was the best use for the property in question. As to what each person’s motivation was, I’m sure we’ll never “honestly” know.

Additionally, I think the community should know that the City Commission appoints one of their members to attend ADICA meetings as their representative, or observer. As of January of this year, their appointee, Commissioner Tommie Postell, has seen fit to not attend a single meeting until the one held Aug. 13. Even though he boldly announced to everyone that he was a member of “this” board (which he is not), he asked to be “brought up to speed” on several matters. I found this quite shocking in that he;s had access to all of ADICA’s minutes for the seven months he failed to make a meeting. Maybe it’s the City Commission that needs to be “brought up to speed” about Mr. Postell’s absences and reappoint someone else as their Representative!

Back when I decided to offer my time to serve on the ADICA board, I was very excited that I would have an opportunity to constructively add whatever I could to help revitalize downtown Albany. I remember when ADICA was created in the early 1970s. It was a time when I was working with my father in our family business (Carolyn’s Shoes) on the corner of Broad and Washington. ADICA meant something then and accomplished much, because those board members knew they had an obligation to wisely improve and redevelop property for the good of the downtown area. Last week, though, I saw an ADICA board that exhibited such disappointingly poor judgment that I can no longer see my participation as being helpful given their leadership, or lack thereof.

When five out of seven board members voted in favor of leasing the skate park building for peanuts rather than selling it to a group of local developers (and substantial taxpayers, I might add), I realized that ADICA needed a wake-up call. And while I do not suggest that the board should be dissolved, I do know we need citizens on the board who understand ADICA’s purpose and are willing to make decisions based on this obligation.

I have appreciated the fact that The Albany Herald has always had a reporter at our meetings, if for no other reason than to keep the public aware of what ADICA is doing. Clearly, the August meeting exposed ADICA as a body that has put the taxpayers of this community “on hold” and, in essence, stalled momentum so necessary for downtown improvements.

The interim ADICA director, Sharlene Cannon, is a remarkable talent, along with her assistant, Monique Broughton, and I wish them well. As for me, I have decided to go to the sidelines to protect my health and I am hereby resigning from the ADICA board.

David Prisant, a lifetime resident of Albany, is an insurance agent and began serving on the board of the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority in February 2010.