Fort McPherson authority to end this fiscal year in the red

By David Pendered

The state authority overseeing the conversion of Fort McPherson to civilian use doesn’t have enough money to pay its bills.

The authority expects to end its fiscal year this month owing a total of $145,207. The authority expects to end the year with a cash reserve of just under $25,000.

The shortfall represents about 9 percent of the authority’s $1.3 million budget. The figures are outlined in a budget report released Tuesday at a meeting of the Fort McPherson Local Implementing Redevelopment Authority.

“Everybody’s supportive, but money is scarce,” said Jack Sprott, the authority’s executive director.

Before anyone hits the panic button over a funding shortfall, it’s important to remember the reason the authority was created and how it has been funded.

The state Legislature created the authority to oversee the conversion of Fort McPherson from an Army base to civilian use after the military vacates the fort by Sept. 15.

The state provides in-kind support to the authority, Sprott said.

Atlanta also has provided funding over the years. Fulton County has not provided funding, although it does have representation on the authority.

The federal government provides the bulk of the authority’s funding. The Office of Economic Adjustment, which is part of the Defense Department, provides money and assistance to communities that are affected by the closure of a military base.

For example, the OEA is expected to provide almost $700,000 of the authority’s projected budget of about $1 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the budget shows.

Still, there’s something unsettling about red ink.

“It feels like we have a real urgent need to raise short term income capital now,” said board member Ayesha Khanna.

Board member Peggy McCormick said the budget shortfall figures illustrate the tight management of the state authority. McCormick knows something about shoestring budgets in the government sector, having served until last year as president of Atlanta’s development arm, the Atlanta Development Authority.

“It shows careful spending,” McCormick said of the Fort McPherson authority’s budget.

It also shows that law firms and the authority’s landlord have been willing to accept deferred payments for services and office space.

Law firms are owed a total of $113,599, according to the budget. Here’s the breakout:

  • $54,110 to Garrity & Knisely, a Boston-based firm;
  • $44,134 to Sutherland, an Atlanta firm;
  • $15,355 to Greenberg Traurig, a Miami-based firm.

In addition, the budget lists outstanding payables for deferred compensation in the amount of $31,608, dating back to 2008.

An unspecified amount of rent is owed for office space rental to the Atlanta Development Authority. The Fort McPherson authority is housed in the headquarters of the ADA.

At some point in the future, the Fort McPherson authority is expected to become self-sufficient and not need direct government funding, Sprott said.

The authority is to take possession of the fort from the military, and make money by leasing or selling parts of the fort. The authority will own all the property on the fort until it is sold to private owners.

Three pieces of land already are slated to be converted after the fort closes. The Department of Veterans Affairs intends to provide medical services in a building at the former fort. Two credit unions will continue to function and serve the public.

“The concept is that in a few years we will be self sufficient,” Sprott said.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

6 replies
  1. Bill Fuller says:

    This sounds like a hodgepodge of nothing by the people who are taking the planning money for doing nothing. They are getting it because it is there and because they have connections to those who control the money. No one in the Fort McPherson community is finacially benefiting from anything. Nothing meaningful has been planned and all that will be left is those occupants that were there before any planning was started and any money spent. I hope those in charge will be held personally financially and legally accountable when this planning process is done. Nobody cares about the community and the community will be left holding an empty bag with a deserted peice of non-producing and blighted property. After all, it’s just Southwest Atlanta. It’s not like it is North Atlanta or Buckhead.Report

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  2. Bill Fuller says:

    For so long I have looked at the economic lost to the Southside when Fort McPherson closes. Many people who do not live on the south side will not care. Many more will look to develop things that will have no tangible means of replacing the lost of income that the Southside will suffer which equals to over $500,000,000 per year. No one in the Atlanta community of power and finance will care as the Fort McPherson area continue to decline. They do not live there and do not have to worry about the immediate community’s safety and security. Because of the community economic lost we can look for decades of decay in the area after the base closes. To that end, I have looked at the positives and negatives of the change in the area and its future.

    First, for the positives, the land area and location is an asset as it relates to the region. It is close to the Interstate System (I-75, I-85, I-285, and Langford Parkway), the Regional Airport (Hartsfield-Jackson), and the Regional Transportation System (Marta and the Interstate bus system). Secondly, it is a highly secured tract of land with secure fencing surrounding the entire tract of land. It also has complete infrastructure (electricity, gas, water, sewer, and communications) already built-in within its borders. Third, it has local surface commuting systems (paved streets, traffic controls, signage, etc…) within its borders. Finally, it is surrounded by highly developed urban areas with multi-governmental controls.

    The negatives are just as compelling. First, it is a large tract of land that is bordered by many independent governments and municipalities. This plurality of autonomy will cause problems with the ultimate use of the property. Second, the resulting lost of revenues that this location has generated for years will be difficult to replace with new development of equal revenue generation. Third, in the new century, the use of the property must generate substantial regional income for a long time. Fourth, the development must be attractive to many inhabitants of the Metropolitan Atlanta Region as well as many international visitors and the immediate surrounding communities.

    Now, what can we do to resolve a majority of these concerns and create a positive community image? In my opinion there are only a few things that can satisfy a majority of these concerns. In order to create jobs on a magnificent scale, generate an economic stimulus at a level that the Fort generated for the area, create a long lasting economical impact for the community, use existing amenities and infrastructure, and attract international income, we must create an international attraction. We will have to create a development that will generate $500,000,000 or more annually on a consistent basis.

    After thinking about a redevelopment that can accomplish all of these objectives I have come up with the ideal solution. We can create a local gaming district unique to the State of Georgia. This will create several thousand jobs, generate over three times ($1,500,000,000) the lost revenue of the Fort, and rejuvenate the existing area. It will generate jobs in the hospitality industry, the food industry, the vending area, the transportation area, the cleaning service area, the public relations industry, the entertainment industry, the security industry, along with many skilled and professional jobs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As for area security, the Fort already has a very high security system that surrounds the Fort and also provides protection for the surrounding communities. The development will attract business and gaming entities from all over the world; create jobs for all kinds of artisans, craftsmen and professionals, and create an attraction that will allow the Metropolitan Atlanta Area to continue to prosper of a long time to come as it continues to develop as an international city. It can be a mini Las Vegas in our own backyardReport

    Reply
  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Bill Fuller

    You wrote, “It (Fort Mac) can be a mini Las Vegas in our own backyard.” Given the present deteriorated conditions of the gaming meccas Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Cherokee NC and Tunica MS, why should we repeat them here?Report

    Reply
  4. Bill Fuller says:

    @ Burroughston Broch

    You wrote.

    @ Bill Fuller -“It (Fort Mac) can be a mini Las Vegas in our own backyard.” Given the present deteriorated conditions of the gaming meccas Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Cherokee NC and Tunica MS, why should we repeat them here?

    The present economy is cyclical. After this down economy turns around the gaming industry will flourish as people begin to make money again. There is no time like the present to began to develope this property for the gaming industry so that the Fort McPherson development area will be in position to take advantage of the up turn in the economy. Plus, a development of this type will put a lot of people to work in the meantime and immediately increase tax revenues…FORWARD THINKING. People will always gamble and the Hope Scholarship Fund could use the boost in income.Report

    Reply
  5. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Bill Fuller

    So you advocate spending a lot of money developing Fort Mac into a gaming mecca on the theory of “build it and they will come.” This sounds a lot like President Obama’s ineffective economic stimulus packages that he now jokes about.

    My guess is that you want to spend public money – are you willing to spend your own money with no public money involved?

    As for creating a positive community image, have you been to Atlantic City lately?Report

    Reply
  6. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Bill Fuller

    Present unemployment rates for various gaming meccas:
    Las Vegas 12.4%
    Atlantic City 12.9%
    Tunica, MS 31.1%
    Cherokee, NC 12.3%

    Present unemployment rate for Atlanta is 9.7% and for Georgia 9.1%.Report

    Reply

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