Quincy’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was the hot topic for the Gadsden County commission Monday night.
Clerk of Court Nicholas Thomas said he was “putting the commissioners on notice” concerning not having the needed documentation to release the county’s portion of the CRA funding.
The CRA was set up by the city in the early 2000s as a way to revitalize the downtown area and was later expanded to include the south side of Jefferson Street as the boundary.
County funding is figured on an ad valorem tax base which was established at the time the CRA was set up in 2000 and 2001. Any taxes collected above that base by the county goes to the CRA.
Thomas said the funding now is about $288,000.
The clerk’s office was given the responsibility four years ago of passing the money to Quincy’s CRA after county tax collector Dale Summerford asked the commissioners to take over that duty.
Summerford had previously been sending the CRA money directly to Quincy as it was collected.
According to Thomas, the problem now was that he did not have the needed state-required documentation to release the funds. Quincy, he explained, was behind on completing its 2012 audit.
He did say that he had a draft of the city’s audit, but added that state statute required a separate audit for the CRA to be attached as well.
Thomas said he would not release the funds at this point without the commission’s approval.
Commissioner Doug Croley spoke first on the issue saying that he supported both Thomas’ decision and the City of Quincy. He said there were a lot of rumors and innuendoes about the CRA and he wanted to help Quincy work through this situation.
Croley said he supported an objective audit, adding that he thought it was something that should be done.
In response, Commissioner Brenda Holt had issues with the county being involved in an audit of another government entity. “Let them get it done themselves,” she said.
Chairman Eric Hinson said he did not want the county to appear to be a bully.
In response, Thomas said he was not asking for anything except the required documentation.
Croley said he did not want to go in and do the audit for the city, but wanted to help them with it.
Hinson stated that he wanted everyone who has a CRA in the county to be treated the same.
According to Thomas, the Town of Havana has a CRA and has provided all of the required documentation. Havana, according to the clerk’s office, received $13,158 from the county.
Commissioner Gene Morgan asked about the audit years and Thomas responded that the year in question was 2012.
He then asked if this money was being dispersed from taxes collected in 2012 or 2013.
Thomas said the city has historically been one year behind turning in the audits for the CRA funds, but the money being dispersed now was for funds collected in 2013.
Morgan stated he wanted the audits up to date before the money was released.
County attorney David Weiss spoke on the legal responsibilities the county had concerning the CRA.
He said the commission had no part in setting up the CRA. The commission, he explained, had no authority other than being the taxing authority and passing the funds to the CRA.
He added that there was a penalty for not dispensing the money. The funds, he said, go directly to the CRA, which is a separate entity from the city.
Quincy city manager Jack McLean was present at the meeting and both Holt and Croley wanted him to speak.
McLean agreed with Weiss, saying the county’s concerns were just a paper requirement for the CRA to file.
He disagreed that it had to be an audit, but could instead be a financial statement.
Concerning the way the CRA board spends funds, he said the CRA board makes the decisions and it was up to the CRA board to address the issue of an audit.
McLean said that the five people sitting on that board would protect their right to make decisions concerning the operation of the CRA.
Commissioner Sherrie Taylor stated that the CRA area was in her district. The funds, she said, had been used for various purposes in the past and she asked McLean what was the intent of the CRA board going forward.
McLean said the plan that has been adopted by the CRA board involves housing and roads.
Taylor stated that the audit was important and that the funds are being used properly was important as well. She wanted the clerk to be given whatever he needed so that the funding could be released to the CRA.
“I don’t want to see it held up, but I do want to see proper documentation,” she said.
She then asked McLean to get this resolved.
Hinson added he wanted more information before he voted on the issue.
No action was taken on this issue by the commission.