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Thursday, June 2, 2011

City plans to fill streetcar funding gap with cash from land deal

Readers of this week's feature on the streetcar funding foul-up might have wondered why Mayor Kasim Reed's spokeswoman declined to say how city officials would find $5.6 million suddenly needed to fund the downtown transit line. Well, it's most likely because the city's Plan B involved a property transaction — one of the few topics, along with personnel issues and litigation, that City Hall officials know not to publicly discuss.

Within days of news breaking about the oversight, which the mayor's office says was an "honest mistake," city officials have started the process of replacing the funding. According to legislation introduced late Wednesday night during the Atlanta City Council finance committee, Reed plans to fill the streetcar's funding gap with some proceeds from a $6.67 million land deal between the city and Post Properties. The apartment company's portfolio includes a residential complex on 11 acres owned by the city adjacent to Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center. The company owns the apartment buildings but leases the ground for $22,390 a month.

The city says it has no use for the property, which is under lease until 2040 at the earliest, and began a competitive sealed bidding process in February. Post submitted the only bid.

Committee members — including Councilwoman Felicia Moore, who first sounded off about the streetcar funding misstep — didn't look thrilled about the proposal, which must still be OK'ed by the full Council. (Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who chairs the finance committee, offered a smile and simple "no comment" when asked her thoughts.)

But hey, what are ya gonna do? Return the nearly $43 million in federal funding for the streetcar?

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