Councilwoman Donna Frye wants to fold the city’s two nonprofit redevelopment agencies into the city’s redevelopment department.

Frye included the suggestion in a memo outlining her ideas for the 2009-10 budget.

She noted that the Centre City Development Corp.’s budget dwarfs that of the city’s redevelopment division, which oversees redevelopment in 17 project areas, and estimated the city could save tens of millions of dollars by folding CCDC and the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. into the city’s existing redevelopment program.

A series of scandals at CCDC and SEDC led to talk about eliminating the corporations. But Mayor Jerry Sanders — with the support of the councilmen representing the areas served by the two agencies — ultimately recommended keeping the agencies but stripping them of much of their independence.

Frye told me today that after listening to the months-long debate about how to reform agencies, “It’s my opinion that the way we’re doing this is not working.”

She added: “It’s really problematic where we are held accountable, but we don’t have the authority to tell the head of the agency it’s time for you to leave, where we’re being ultimately flipped off. That’s not a good model.”

Sanders’ proposed changes would allow the mayor to get rid of the agencies’ heads — but not the council, Frye noted. Keeping the agencies separate also leaves the city open to liability for financial wrongdoing at the agencies, something that City Attorney Jan Goldsmith noted in a recent legal opinion.

“It becomes problematic where we’re really crossing in and out of what is an appropriate role for an elected body or a private corporation or a public corporation,” Frye said.

RANI GUPTA

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