Albany-Dougherty Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson asks the Albany City Commission for additional funding for demolition of blighted property during the board’s meeting Tuesday at the downtown Government Center.
ALBANY, Ga. -- After an extended discussion of the merits of continuing funding for the "demolition pipeline" that brings down blighted housing in the city despite dwindling finances, the Albany City Commission tentatively voted to approve an additional $150,000 for that purpose at its work session Tuesday morning.
Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson said $111,000 of the $150,000 funded for blight demolition in the city for Fiscal Year 2014 has been committed, and he asked for another $100,000 to $150,000 to continue the work.
"If we don't get additional funding, we'll have to discontinue the program or put it on long hold," Tilson said. "We've averaged spending $300,000 on demolition the last three years, and we have 167 active cases identified. We could potentially lose the opportunity to demolish some of these buildings if we do not get additional funding."
Tilson said his office had taken down 240 blighted buildings over the last five years at an average cost of $5,000 per property. He noted that 2010 census figures indicated there are 3,655 vacant housing units in the city.
City Manager James Taylor told commissioners they must decide if they want to continue to expend city resources on the fight against blight.
"You do not have enough money to tear down all the dilapidated buildings identified (by Code Enforcement)," Taylor said. "The question is, do you want to keep this program going? Personally, looking at our financial issues, I'm OK with shutting this pipeline down."
Ward 1 Commissioner Jon Howard, long a proponent of blight removal, said Albany is moving toward becoming a "city of renters and eyesores."
"Is anyone looking into liens and foreclosures (as a way to gain control of blighted properties)?" he asked. When told by Taylor that such acquisitions by the city would remove properties from tax rolls and lead to maintenance costs, Howard said, "We need to be thinking outside the box."
Taylor replied, "I agree, but I don't think this is the box we need to be thinking outside of."
Ward 6 Commissioner Tommie Postell recommended approving the additional funding, saying, "This goes back to the Flood (of '94) when we made the mistake of paying property owners for some of these raggedy houses. Now the attitude of those folks is just to leave (the blight) to us. I'll go along with this additional $150,000 because this situation is already cancerous."
Commissioners also voiced approval for a redistricting plan that will be presented at next Tuesday's night meeting and at the city's September business meeting before being sent to the Department of Justice for approval; OK'd travel expenses of $1,093 for Ward 3 Commissioner Chris Pike and $882.22 for Ward 4 Commissioner Roger Marietta, both of whom attended Georgia Municipal Association training in Young Harris Aug. 2-4, and voted 3-1-1 to tentatively approve four alcohol license applications and a one-day license for an Easter Seals fundraiser.
Howard, as is his custom, voted against all alcohol license requests, and Ward 2 Commissioner Ivey Hines abstained.
The board voted to tentatively approve funding for a wildlife hazard assessment at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport ($106,131), IT software upgrades ($340,000), purchase of 29 mobile computers for Albany Police Department vehicles ($115,612.56), chlorine cylinders ($46,500) and machine replacement parts ($85,000).
Acting on a request by staff, the commission voted not to add a charge to property owners for a Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI-funded relief sewer in the Pointe North area of the city. Development in that area has been halted because the city's sewer there is at capacity.