Council fails to OK URA for Gillem project


David Lockhart

FOREST PARK — City council members took issue with the mayor’s nominees for an Urban Redevelopment Agency and refused to approve a resolution aimed at forming the group.

Fred Bryant, executive director of Forest Park/Fort Gillem Implementation Local Redevelopment Authority, said the URA is necessary in finalizing and closing the deal to buy the former Army installation.

“It’s important because that’s the way by which we can finalize and close the deal with the Army,” he said. “We need this entity because it can do what the mayor and council can’t do themselves.”

The Georgia statute governing URAs allows the mayor to make the nominations. Members have to be residents of the city and not have a political agenda.

“There are really no other details on qualifications,” said Bryant. “They need to try to find people who are going to be economically minded and jobs-minded. They shouldn’t have a political agenda.”

Five names recommended by Mayor David Lockhart were rattled off during Monday’s 6 p.m. work session but council members appeared to believe they would have input on those selected to sit on the URA.

“I don’t think the names should be put out there yet,” said Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord.

Bryant, who left before the issue was addressed during the regular session at 7 p.m., said it is his understanding that the mayor can make the nominations but the council can still vote on the names.

Councilwoman Latresa Akins refused to adopt the resolution forming the URA and was joined by Maudie McCord and Dabouze Antoine.

“As it is drafted, council won’t be able to nominate the members,” said Akins.

Bryant said the setback is a minor hiccup that can be resolved but that there are time constraints.

“If we can’t close the deal with the Army, we won’t be in a position to close deals with the companies who want to set up on Gillem,” he said. “We need to make sure we don’t lose out on opportunities with these companies. If we can get it resolved, if we can have a URA in place in 45 to 60 days, max, we should be in a position to effectively meet the needs of the companies who want to locate there.”

The URA will work to authorize bonds, get loans, open lines of credit, buy and sell property — everything that needs to be done to finalize the deal with the Army, said Bryant. The ILRA will become advisory to the URA.

“The URA is allowed by law to obligate the city longer than what the mayor and council can,” he said. “It is important to our deal with the Army.”