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Dougherty County officials praise downtown manager for development plans

Aaron Blair gives County Commission abbreviated State of Downtown address

From left, Community and Economic Development officials Shelena Hawkins and Phyllis Brown, Albany State University department chairman Peter Ngwafu, Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard take part in a Public Service Recognition Week ceremony Monday morning. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

From left, Community and Economic Development officials Shelena Hawkins and Phyllis Brown, Albany State University department chairman Peter Ngwafu, Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard take part in a Public Service Recognition Week ceremony Monday morning. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — While Albany’s downtown Central Business District is more closely associated with the Albany City Commission, it was the Dougherty County Commission that was singing Downtown Manager Aaron Blair’s praises Monday morning after Blair gave a condensed version of his State of Downtown address at the County Commission’s business meeting.

“I want to express my appreciation for the work this young man has done,” said District 2 Commissioner John Hayes, a staunch supporter of downtown redevelopment, particularly in the city’s historic Harlem District. “You’ve brought your very good skills to your efforts and mixed it with a passion for the work.”

Blair pointed out that some $575,403.80 had been collected in the tax allocation district created downtown and spoke of growing momentum to rehabilitate and breathe new life into the inner city.

“The private sector is key,” Blair said. “Our goal is always to have more private than public investment in downtown. The agreement reached with Shandon Development (and the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, which Blair heads) has the potential to bring $50 million in development downtown. That won’t happen in a week or a month, but it’s a huge step for us.”

Blair said he is advocating for construction of a city sports park in the former First Tee location behind the Albany Civic Center. That park is expected to include a tennis center that would be funded through county special tax dollars.

“There are from 30 to 60 acres of land available, and I’ve worked with planners to try and show a way that we could locate the park downtown,” Blair said. “We need for that to happen; it would be a huge part of downtown redevelopment.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission approved $22,958.60 in Capital Improvement Plan funding for a new pickup truck for the Dougherty County Jail, OK’d renewal of a yearly agreement with Department of Family and Children Services funding, reallocated some $350,000 in SPLOST V library relocation funds and $50,000 in SPLOST VI facilities management warehouse improvements to assist with the funding of a roof replacement on the Northwest Library Branch, and reallocated $150,000 in SPLOST III tennis center funding to assist with improvements at the Riverfront Resource Center.

“You’ll notice that the (Resource Center improvement) amount ($150,000) is larger than the amount we discussed ($110,000) at our work session,” Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said. “But there is work there that will be ongoing, and it makes more sense to get the amount needed now rather than coming back for a few thousand dollars here and there.”

Early in the meeting, Sinyard and Ward I Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard presented a copy of a joint city/county resolution to Albany State University professor Peter Ngwafu, the chair of the university’s Master of Public Administration department, recognizing this week as Public Service Recognition Week.

“These are the people who do things behind the scenes, who aren’t in the public eye,” Howard said. “They are the bricks and mortar that keep our community functioning.”

The commission also recognized the county’s Public Works volunteers who won the recent American Cancer Society Relay for Life Best Decorated Campsite and Best Team Spirit awards. ACS officials said Dougherty and Lee County Relay for Life events had thus far raised more than $108,000.