Gilbert Manor options sought

Some residents of Gilbert Manor don't want to move to pave the way for an expansion of the Medical College of Georgia, and they are exploring their legal options, an Augusta attorney said.

 

But an Augusta Housing Authority official said the process that led to a potential sale of the property was done "by the book."

Kenneth Jones, the managing attorney for the Augusta office of Georgia Legal Services, said residents have approached his office about what options they have to oppose a move.

"Our clients did not -- and they still don't -- want to move," he said. "They were happy with the housing they had. A number of them had lived there many years."

One of those options could be a lawsuit, although that has not really been discussed yet, Mr. Jones said.

"That could be a recourse if things are not resolved and our clients still wish us to take some kind of action," Mr. Jones said. "But that is something we have not decided upon doing yet with our clients and really have not discussed it in great detail with our clients."

But the Housing Authority was very careful to follow all of the federal regulations governing how it disposes of a property, said Richard Arfman, the director of planning and development.

"There's a certain process you go through step by step, and we played this one by the book," he said.

If the residents are forced to move, they want to get certain questions answered first, Mr. Jones said. Many of them have children in school and are worried about transferring them to a new school midyear, he said.

"Will their children be allowed to remain at their same schools throughout the school year?" Mr. Jones asked. "Will transportation be provided because those parents don't necessarily have transportation?"

That is something the Housing Authority plans to take up with the Richmond County Board of Education on a case-by-case basis, once the authority determines how many parents want that, Mr. Arfman said.

The school board has not made a decision on the issue, Deputy Superintendent James Thompson said, but he planned to attend a meeting Wednesday of the Housing Authority's board.

Gilbert Manor residents also want more information about an employment program MCG proposed, Mr. Jones said, that would offer entry-level and semiskilled positions to public housing residents.

The details of that are still being ironed out, said J. Michael Ash, the vice president for administration at MCG. The school plans to meet in the next week with the Housing Authority to hash out what kind of jobs and how many and other details such as that, he said.

"I have confidence in the administration and the board of the Housing Authority to do their business properly and thoroughly as (what) we all are focused on is the betterment of the living situation for the residents in Gilbert Manor," Dr. Ash said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Augusta Housing Authority will meet at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday with residents of Gilbert Manor who are interested in Section 8 housing waivers.