DDA loan to institute increases from $1.5 to $2 million

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Jimmy Lifton and supporters of the Lifton Institute and Unity Studios gathered in the lobby of the Allen Park Downtown Development Authority building Oct. 22 following the board’s contingent approval of a $2 million unsecured loan for capital improvements. Among them are Linda Collins (left), Barbara Soto, Vincent Sanchez, Lifton, Cecelia Sanchez, Douglas Robbins, Helen Salazar, Eric Cedo, Hazel Robbins and Andy McDaniel.

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – The Downtown Development Authority on Thursday approved a $2 million unsecured loan to the Lifton Institute for Media Skills for capital improvements, subject to city accountants’ review and approval of before any cash is disbursed.

The authority had approved a loan earlier this year for the same amount, a quarter of which was earmarked for noncapital expenses.

Members voted 6-2 to approve Thursday’s resolution, with Jennifer Carbonaro, Tim Estheimer, Mayor Gary Burtka, Julian Llamas, Steve Haddix and Shelly Keenan in favor. Opposed were Angelo DeGuilio and F. Dennis Luke.

At a DDA meeting Aug. 26, Lifton had requested $1.25 million to $1.5 million for capital expenses, as well as $500,000 to $750,000 for salaries and noncapital costs. Attorney Dennis Miller said at that meeting that he did not believe authority funds could be used for noncapital costs.

An opinion from the state Legislative Review Committee that $500,000 for noncapital expenditures was not eligible under the state DDA public act was reported to members at their Sept. 24 meeting. Authority officials indicated that the promissory note would read that all requests for draws would be submitted to Mike Bawol, a local accountant utilized by the authority, for prior review and approval before loan funds were disbursed.

Lifton told members Aug. 26 that he would be able to draw on some other capital to start. However, in a press release dated Thursday, he acknowledged that the project, which requires significant financing and government approvals, “has been hampered by the depression engulfing our economy.”

Bawol has suggested the following loan conditions be met prior to any draw of cash:
• Require three years of personal financials/tax returns from Jimmy Lifton and Oracle Post, which comprises two independent post-production studios in California.
• Require a schedule of how and when the money is spent.
• Require that there be no personal gain by Lifton from any suppliers.
• Require liens on all personal assets regardless of “upside down” status.
• Create a definition in the document of “proof” regarding expenditures.
• Require original contract documents of proposed movies to be produced.
• Require that any and all equipment purchased be located in Allen Park.

On Aug. 23 Lifton told authority members he would not allow liens on his personal assets.

In the release he said classes at the Lifton Institute will begin this week, despite the challenges that have occurred with the state “running out of funds for job training.”

Unity Studios has selected Burton Share Management as the general contractor for studio construction activities. The architect will be Hobbs and Black of Ann Arbor.

Lifton’s release, issued through Eric Cedo, his director of marketing, was partly in response to a report broadcast on WDIV-TV 4 on Thursday insinuating that Lifton had not kept to its timeline or promises.

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