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Ogdensburg housing, Main Street programs cleared by State

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OGDENSBURG — A state agency audit of the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization and Main Street Grant programs found no issues with the manner in which they were administered.

The audits, which were conducted in October and November, were requested by former city planner J. Justin Woods after allegations that had been improperly administering the programs.

“We did have an audit of our program completed, and they were very impressed with how our programs were run,” said Andrea L. Smith, interim city planner. “We had no recommendations to improve them.”

The state Department of Homes and Community Renewal sent a Nov. 29 letter to City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra declaring that no problems or concerns were found with the Main Street Grant program.

“The New York Main Street staff found the Ogdensburg Growth Fund Development Corporation’s Main Street Programs well organized and executed,” said Karl Gustafson, Main Street program director with the state Office of Community Renewal.

The Main Street Grant program provides matching funds for projects to rehabilitate businesses’ facades in an effort to improve the appearance of commercial districts.

The Department of Homes and Community Renewal also looked into Ogdensburg’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program and found no problems or concerns, said James A. O’Neill, president of C. W. Augustine, the DeKalb Junction company that administers all of the city’s housing programs.

“The NSP monitoring went every bit as well as the Main Street monitoring,” he said. “We had all of our ducks in a row.”

Mr. O’Neill said that the controversy surrounding the programs was mostly political.

“There really are no problems with the housing programs,” he said. “The problems are political infighting.”

In June, Mr. Sciorra complained to the City Council that Mr. Woods was moving funds in the Main Street program without his consent. In August, it was revealed that a family had been permitted to live in a city-owned Neighborhood Stabilization Program property three years without paying rent or taxes.

Neither issue had anything to do with the state’s rules guiding the administration of the programs, said Mr. O’Neill.

“Those things are irrelevant to the program,” he said. “What matters to the program is that they qualified, they were eligible and the work was eligible.”

Thursday, both programs were left out of funding announcements from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s regional economic development councils.

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