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West Point Forward Fund has been used for 10th Street projects

WEST POINT — The Forward Fund within the city of West Point was designed to encourage sustainable community development projects that furthers the economic growth of the community, according to the Forward Fund application.

The funds within the account were generated by payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, funds from KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia in 2013. PILOT funds are usually a payment made to compensate a government for lost property tax revenue on the tax-exempt ownership or use of real property.

West Point City Manager Ed Moon said the city was planning to redevelop 10th Street and needed to find a way to finance those developments. That is when the city set aside the funds from Kia. Initially, the funds were meant to fill financing gaps for potential developers on 10th Street, and when those developers never came, the Forward Fund was created.

The Forward Fund application says the specific focus for the program is the 10th Street Area Redevelopment Plan designed district. However, Moon said the funds could be used anywhere in the city at the council’s discretion.

When the fund was set up in 2013, a total of $2.5 million was deposited. Since then, the city has spent funds on the Downtown River Park, constructing basketball courts, renovations to the police department and the Virginia Cook Activity Center.

Additionally, the Downtown West Point Development Authority was granted $350,000 to purchase the 13.2-acre West Point Woodyard on 2nd Street in West Point, adjacent to the river park, which it is inside the 10th Street redevelopment district. The plan was to clean up the site  and then listen to ideas about what do to with it, according to previous reporting from The Valley Times-News.

According to city documents, the West Point Development Authority — a separate entity from the downtown development authority — donated $100,000 to the downtown authority in 2018 to be used toward the woodyard and also loan the authority another $100,000 through a 10-year interest-free loan.

Also in 2018, the West Point Development Authority asked for $550,000 to mass grade two properties on 10th Street — one between F and G Avenues and the other between Avenues H and I. According to documents, the development authority would clear off the properties and target professional and office uses. Documents say such properties would provide an economic role in the city while not competing with businesses in the downtown area and near the exits off the interstate.

The balance after these projects brings the total to $325,950.28, according to Moon. However, $240,000 has been set aside for intersection improvements at OG Skinner Drive and 10th Street, bringing the total down to about $86,000.

The most recent request from the West Point Development Authority was for $80,000 to help offset costs in purchasing another piece of property on 10th Street.

First, the real estate company CDR Ventures, owned by Coleman Reeves, would purchase the property for $258,000.

Reeves said he would clear about 75 percent of the property, excluding the rental property where people still lived, and sell it to the development authority for about $288,000.

Within the details of the agreement, once there were no longer tenants on the property, CDR would give the development authority the first chance to buy the rest of it.

This past Monday, the West Point City Council denied the authority’s request for the funds to help pay for the property by a 4-2 vote. Several councilmembers expressed concerned about depleting the fund but said it wished the authority could find another way to make the development happen.

Tramell said it is likely the next expenditure out of the Forward Fund will be its last. Currently, there’s about  $86,000 of available funds and the fund application states the minimum request must be at least $50,000. He said since the council has the discretion of the funds, the minimum request could be changed.

However, Tramell added there will not be any more funds added to this account in the future.

Tramell said there were several residents at Monday’s meeting, who live in the area of the proposed development who were disappointed the council voted against it. He said people in that community want the blighted structures on the property to be demolished.

Tramell said before the Forward Fund was established, there was a community meeting hosted by the University of Georgia that presented 10th Street with mixed-use developments and townhouses along the 10th Street corridor.

“We had a beautiful plan that we all loved,” he said. “This was the first opportunity that we had to put hard dollars toward something that would make that vision happen.”

Just because the council voted against the authority’s request for funding doesn’t mean the property still can’t be purchased. However, West Point Development Authority Director Meghan Duke said the property will likely be discussed at the authority’s next board meeting Monday night.

She said the board will need to decide how to move forward with the purchase.   

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