I interviewed Ed Gray, the executive director of Capital Trust Agency, about the Studers’ pledge to the Community Maritime Park. Capital Trust Agency provided the New Market Tax Credits to the project and Gray has sat in on all the budget meetings for the project since the NMTC were approved last year.
“The first time I heard about this second pledge was two days ago,” said Gray when I talked to him on Sunday, July 31. “I never heard anything but one two-plus million pledge. I never heard anything but the one.”
Two pledges totaling $4.3 million were never brought up as possible receivables to help with the troubled finances of the park project. “It was not in the numbers,” said Gray.
When the project looked like it would be $1.7 million short in June, an additional $2.25 million was not brought forth by Ed Spears as the way to cover it. “In fact, the mayor’s office was talking with Studer about either loaning the money to the project or buying surplus city property in the CRA district to help cover that shortfall,” said Gray.
The Studers were reluctant to write a check for $2.05 million and had lost trust in how the CMPA was handling the budget and the construction. Gray and John Asmar, the mayor’s Chief of Staff, called for a meeting on Monday, June 27 to work out the final construction budget.
Gray explained: “Quint and Scott (Remington-the Studers’ attorney) were in the mode that they couldn’t trust anybody because they kept hearing different things. The project needed the $2.05 million to balance out the construction budget. I was hearing from Ed Spears that they couldn’t get Quint off dead center and write the check so that they could then go to the CMPA with the final budget amendment. I told all parties to seat around the table decide how to get this thing back on track. ”
“My whole deal beginning since last February was time,” said Gray. “We are behind. The timetable is not being met and the timetable is critical.”
Were the Studers right to be concerned about the construction budget? “Absolutely,” said Gray. “You couldn’t tell who was in control. You couldn’t tell when they finally would arrive at a final construction budget.”
The Studers and Gray were concerned over the cost overruns and how money was constantly being shifted around. “Ultimately, his concern was if they kept eating into other parts of the project with a few $100 here and few $100 there towards overruns, what is his $2 million going to go towards?” said Gray. “Quint wanted to make sure his $2 million went towards a budget that he agreed to. That was my same goal.”
The meeting was successful. A construction budget was agreed upon. The Studers put in writing to give the CMPA the $2.05 million by August 15.
Three weeks later on July 19, Ed Spears reported the shortfall was not $1.7 million, but $4 million. It was then that Spears said the Studers had made two pledges and owed the CMPA $4.30 million.
Ed Gray was not called by Spears and told the CMPA executive director thought there was an additional $2 million-plus coming to project. He didn’t hear anything about a second pledge until late last week.