In November of last year the city's Redevelopment Authority, at the behest of City Manager Jim Nelles, sent Warren Main Street a dunning letter demanding the repayment of loans from the city for the ill-fated Allegheny Center for the Arts building project.
Main Street's response was that it has no money, that it wasn't in charge of the project, and the city should be sending these kind of letters to GRO-Warren.
City Counil ordered an apology to Main Street, although it is not clear whether an apology was ever offered.
On March 6 of this year, the city sent a similar letter to GRO-Warren directors Harvey Stone and Janet Gregory, although technically they had apparently resigned along with the rest of the board members last October.
In this letter, the city notes outstanding loan payments of $6,000, $38,179.44, and an $80,000 loan in default plus accumulated interest.
In his response on GRO-Warren stationery, Harvey Stone responds that GRO-Warren has only about $100 in the bank and is unable to pay the debt. He also suggests the city turn to Main Street's board, which he contends refused to sign off on agreements that would have turned the building over to the contractor and would have satisfied the loans.
This has to be a very frustrating business for members of city government. It is certainly frustrating and puzzling for those of us who have watched this soap opera play out over the past year.
There might be a clue in the private meetings City Council has held with legal counsel on a number of occasions to discuss current and/or pending legal action regarding the tens of thousands of dollars that seem to have evaporated in the empty building on Liberty Street.
Another clue might be the closing paragraph of the most recent letter:
"Notification as to payment arrangments sought by GRO-Warren to bring the outstanding loan payments current is expected within 10 business days of the date of this letter.... Should notification not be received in timely manner, the City will pursue all available legal and equitable remedies."
The City may never get its money back, but it will have learned some important lessons about managing downtown redevelopment projects.