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July 10, 2013

Coffey persistent on Midtown audit

Fire station conveyed for Kroger expansion deal

NEW ALBANY —

New Albany City Councilman Dan Coffey continued his scrutiny Tuesday of the agency in charge of the $6.7 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program. 

A resolution sponsored by Coffey that was passed last month was reaffirmed by the New Albany Redevelopment Commission. It calls for an audit of the NSP program, which has resulted in the rehabilitation of 32 vacant and dilapidated properties in the Midtown neighborhood. 

Coffey said the audit — which would be performed by the Indiana State Board of Accounts — should focus on how the nonprofit New Directions Housing Corp. has managed the project. 

“I’ve got some real questions about how some of the money was spent,” said Coffey, who is a council liaison on the redevelopment commission.  

One of the properties was turned into a neighborhood center, and another a community gardens. The structures on the remaining 30 properties were refurbished or rebuilt, and the majority have been sold to low-to-moderate income homeowners. 

But the cost of saving some of the houses has been questioned by Coffey and other city officials. 

About $5 million was spent on construction for the properties. As of May 1, the city recouped about $1.9 million by selling 23 of the 30 homes. New Directions’ estimated total gross from the initial phase of the NSP project will reach $2.4 million when all the homes are sold. 

Though most of the houses were sold for between $55,000 and $109,000, the city and New Directions spent on average between $112,000 and $200,000 to repair the homes. 

But redevelopment member and Councilman John Gonder said such expenditures fit the federal program’s design. 

“It’s not an efficient process, but what you’re dealing with is trying to maintain the fabric of a neighborhood,” Gonder said. 

Though the financial investment to refurbish the homes was typically much more than the asking price, Gonder referred to the houses redeveloped through the NSP program as “seeds to rejuvenate those neighborhoods.” 

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