The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners elected to not use Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds to demolish and redevelop blighted structures at its regular meeting Tuesday morning.
Instead, the board opted to have a town hall meeting at a later date which will used to inform the public, gauge interest and get a general sense of how citizens feel about using NSP money to handle the situation of run-down buildings in the community.
The initially proposal, if approved by the commissioners, would've automatically needed a public hearing to determine the public's opinion on whether the NSP moneys should be used in this type of manner.
After some discussion it was agreed upon by the commissioners that a town hall meeting will happen independent of the item on the meeting agenda being approved.
Commissioner JaNice Van Ness, Post 2, made the motion to have the town hall meeting and it was seconded by Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbitt.
"I will support having and hosting a town hall meeting," said Nesbitt who vehemently opposed Van Ness' idea of using NSP moneys to knock down and blighted structures. "I think by holding the town hall meeting that will give this board a better opportunity to gauge the public's interest and then we can proceed forward."
At the board's work session Aug. 5, Nesbitt stated he would rather see more county money reallocated to the Planning and Development department to resolve the problem. According to Rockdale NSP Coordinator Tanesha Lanier, there are currently 35 ruined homes that need to be revitalized or destroyed to build new homes.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Oden, who was absent from the latter portion of the work session last week, supported Nesbitt's theory at the meeting Tuesday.
It would be a challenging and difficult task to reprogram the NSP funds to be used for demolition and renovation, says Oden.
"I had a chance to review the last meeting and I concur with one of the commissioners," he said. "There's another process here that can take place and we can (use) that process to address these issues of blighted homes and with less restrictions from the (Georgia) Department of Community Affairs."
Oden said that he will request the commissioners to consider putting additional resources in to their next budgets to take care of the dilapidated homes.
"I know we have a few bighted homes in our community, OK. I understand that," he said after applauding Van Ness for wanting to rid the community of these types of homes. "I think we take care of that in our budget this year."
Van Ness disagrees with her fellow board members however. She doesn't see any way that the county can move money around to give to the Planning and Development department without either raising taxes or dipping in the fund reserve.
"This is just a shift in funding," she said about NSP proposal. "We simply don't have the money in the budget."
NSP is a federally funded program where funds, with funds distributed through Georgia's Department of Community Affairs by the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, that can be used to purchase, renovate and repopulate foreclosed homes.
Rockdale County has roughly $2 million in NSP funds.