After the German Village Society alleged the misallocation of Columbus Urban Infrastructure Recovery Funds last week, a plan to install sandstone curbs and brick sidewalks along the south side of East Livingston Avenue appears to be off the table.

The German Village Society's leadership has asked the city to forgo spending UIRF money on the project.

The city instead will install concrete curbs and sidewalks as part of the original scope of work, said Michael Liggett, spokesman for the Columbus Department of Public Service.

It is expected to begin in July, he said.

The German Village Society on Jan. 9 posted a news release on its website alleging that Columbus officials had misallocated more than $500,000 in UIRF funding for that project, in addition to one other.

Among the biggest points of contention is the $506,168 in UIRF money the city had intended to spend on the project along the northern border of the historic district.

The city responded immediately to the society's letter when it was posted on the society's website, said Mark Dravillas, acting administrator of the city's planning division.

"We had communication with the society on these matters and believed we were working toward resolution, for the reasons stated," he said.

Dravillas said he bristled at the society's use of "misallocated."

"No funds have been misallocated," he said. "Their budget is whole, and we look forward to working with the neighborhood's leadership on a project the city can support and they can support."

City officials dispute having misdirected the funds, saying the society had asked for the money to be spent on upgrades to East Livingston on the neighborhood's northern border.

"In terms of an approval, the department was under the impression it was going in the right direction because the GVS approached us," Liggett said.

Delilah Lopez, who replaced Shiloh Todorov as the society's executive director in October, said the city should have asked the current board of trustees for consent before continuing with the project.

"There were many breakdowns in communication throughout this process that should have been addressed on both sides of the partnership," Lopez said.

Lopez said it is the city's responsibility to pay for the work out of capital-improvement funds because "it is fiscally responsible to pair brick and sandstone for longer wear, because concrete against sandstone results in rapid deterioration of the curbs, therefore more money in the long run to be used by the city."

Liggett said that is not financially possible at this time.

However, the $500,000 has been returned to the German Village Society, which could work with the city on how to spend the money in the future, Dravillas said.

There is no timeline on use of UIRF money, he said.

The UIRF program was established in 1992 to help fund capital improvements in older areas and is considered a partnership among the city and communities in designated areas, according to information from the city.

No city code dictates the society's authority over UIRF expenditures, but the city has a long-standing practice of using those funds for projects that are supported by the particular neighborhood, Dravillas said.

"For that reason, we are not proceeding with the UIRF dollars for the Livingston Avenue project because the society indicated they don't desire that their UIRF dollars be used in that manner," he said.

As of late Jan. 10, the society seemed to be walking back some of its criticisms of the city.

A new message, which was signed by nobody in particular and posted on the society website, stated: "German Village Society (GVS) was so eager to share an update on our status with Urban Infrastructure Renewal Funds (UIRF) that the main message may have been lost. We were thrilled to share that we were successful in getting the balance of our UIRF granted back to us.

"While GVS stands by the facts we presented in our letter, it was not our intention to point fingers at any one person or organization. For that, we apologize. In an effort to be as transparent and accountable, to which we remain committed, we drew attention away from celebrating our successes.

"Our second success is a renewed commitment from our partners at the city of Columbus to work even more closely together to ensure future success for all. We are proud to work alongside our neighbors, members and community leaders to accomplish our mission. That's why we exist -- to advocate for our historic fabric. We appreciate your support."

As of Jan. 14, the society was not accepting questions about the matter, said Nancy Kotting, historic-preservation advocate.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

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