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Augusta Commission will repay money to HUD

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East Augusta Community Development Corp. gets to keep a dozen lots it purchased using federal money, but the city is on the hook for repaying about $344,000 used to buy them, the Augusta Commission reluctantly agreed Tuesday.

The commission voted 6-2 to repay the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development the money from the city’s general fund, with Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and Commissioner Joe Jackson voting against. Commissioners Jerry Brigham and Corey Johnson were absent.

Super District 9 Com­missioner J.R. Hatney, who frequently abstains on commission votes, cast a vote in favor, despite his close ties to the community housing development organization.

“I’m in the clear. I know what I’m doing; I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Hatney said after the meeting. “There’s no conflict of interest because I’m not associated with that organization.”

Hatney, the senior pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, incorporated East Augusta Community Development in 1999, before joining the commission.

While the group continued to receive federal HOME money through Augusta Housing and Community Development throughout the 2000s, it lost its nonprofit status in 2011 by default for failing to file tax returns since 2003.

In 2011, East Augusta Community Development amended its articles of incorporation to name Johnny Hampton, the administrative pastor at Good Hope, as president.

The community housing development organization, which received $299,128 in HOME money to develop low- and moderate-income housing, failed to complete the development within five-years, prompting HUD to require the federal money be repaid, Augusta Housing and Community Development Assistant Director Hawthorne Welcher told the commission.

Asked to elaborate on the impediments that prevented East Augusta from completing the work, Welcher said the lots purchased had drainage problems and lacked water and sewer service. All are in the riverfront neighborhood of Marion Homes.

“When people buy property, and expect water and sewer to come it’s called land speculation,” Bowles said.

Welcher said the situation created a “constructive tension” prompting Housing and Community Development to implement checks on the community housing development organization activities.

“This is a mistake that definitely will not happen again,” he said.

It occurred previously in 2008, when Augusta had to repay $288,786 in housing money because of missing documentation, and in 2009, when the city had to repay $95,000 after two houses were sold to buyers whose incomes were too high.

Commissioner Grady Smith asked which engineer OK’d the purchase of land that lacked infrastructure. City Administrator Fred Russell said Housing and Community Development authorized the expenditures.

“It’s cheaper to put it on paper first and go down the checklist,” Smith said. “It seems like the taxpayers take it on the chin every time we have a shortfall.”

Both groups were sent formal requests for repayment March 31; neither has responded, Welcher said.

The requests weren’t included in the two-page response to an open-records request by The Augusta Chronicle for documents associated with the refund.

Commissioner Alvin Mason moved to repay the money so long as Housing and Community Development check on the community housing development organization activities.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

• Augusta Commission heard details behind closed doors but took no action against longtime Recreation, Parks and Facilities Director Tom Beck, accused of granting an employee unwarranted compensatory time. It’s an offense for which other employees have been fired, said City Administrator Fred Russell, who placed Beck on unpaid administrative leave Tuesday.

• The commission voted to table a contract with Automatic Data Processing, a global human resources outsourcing firm that has a large Augusta call center, until a committee meeting next week after several commissioners said they had questions about the deal.

• The commission allowed Cloud 9 Neighborhood Bar & Grill operator Tyrone Davis to withdraw his application for an alcohol license without prejudice. The move permits Davis to reapply for a license later at another location, Licensing Director Rob Sherman said. The Wrightsboro Road club surrendered its license this year after numerous complaints and police calls.

• The commission took no action regarding Mobility Transit Services LLC, the firm that manages Augusta Public Transit. After a Monday work session, Commissioner Alvin Mason said he would raise the question of Mobility being in breach of its city contract during Tuesday’s closed-door meeting with attorneys.

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Bouganvillea
0
Points
Bouganvillea 04/17/12 - 11:03 pm
6
0
What a fine mess this is. Is
Unpublished

What a fine mess this is. Is everyone down at The Marble Palace completely incompetent?

Riverman1
79202
Points
Riverman1 04/18/12 - 06:37 am
7
1
They can be incredibly

They can be incredibly competent when they are figuring out ways to spend millions on their projects.

raul
4109
Points
raul 04/18/12 - 07:38 am
3
0
I have a feeling if this

I have a feeling if this happened in Columbia County there would be a public reaction. In Augusta, bidness as usual.

raul
4109
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raul 04/18/12 - 08:13 am
4
0
“I’m in the clear. I know

“I’m in the clear. I know what I’m doing; I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Hatney said after the meeting. “There’s no conflict of interest because I’m not associated with that organization.”

Dost thou protest too much, Mr. Hatney?

allaboutlife
35
Points
allaboutlife 04/18/12 - 08:52 am
1
0
Whenever we get stuck paying

Whenever we get stuck paying a ridiculous fine, bill, etc., there always seems to be a commissioner somewhere in the mix. And people care. They just know that nothing will be done by the voters of that particular district. Some feel that if you ain't crooked, you ain't trying.

praisehim1st
0
Points
praisehim1st 04/18/12 - 09:07 am
3
0
I have never heard of or seen

I have never heard of or seen such a group of incompetent leaders of a city as this group. Who elected them! Shame on you.

allhans
23227
Points
allhans 04/18/12 - 10:01 am
2
0
Hey. It's okay. The

Hey. It's okay. The "commission will repay the money".
If it's their money....

dichotomy
30442
Points
dichotomy 04/18/12 - 10:24 am
4
0
I care !!! I am sick and

I care !!! I am sick and tired of the crooked crap and the incompetency of our county commission. I am tired of them giving our money away to a few special people. I am tired of getting stuck with the bill for their stupidity. Our commissioners use their stupidity to continuously hammer the taxpayers to death. Seventeen years of Consolidation and our commission has NEVER made the right decision on anything. I have heard of teenaged boys having an "ugly date" contest but during every election our districts seem to conduct a "dumbest commissioner" contest and they always win.

There is way too much crooked stuff tied to Housing and Community Development. They are politically pressured to give taxpayer money to people who legally should not be getting it. And there always seems to be some ex-pseudo-preacher involved.....or a local politician.....or both. We only hear about a small part of it. Sylvia knows a lot more if she would only tell it.

countyman
19098
Points
countyman 04/18/12 - 11:11 am
2
4
The Chronicle would never

The Chronicle would never even print the story if it happen in Columbia County.. The Chronicle doesn't go out of it's way to find things on white republicans.. All you have to do is look at the negative articles on Richard Roundtree, and he's not even on the commission.. They don't print articles on crime, school related crime, and definitely not negative issues related to the CC government.. Only new businesses opening tend to make the paper..

If somebody was robbed in the parking lot of a popular restaurant like Rhineharts in RC.. The Chronicle definitely would print the story, and show it on the 5pm, 6pm, and 11pm news... Instead the Chronicle chose to print the story about a man exposing himself, and teenage drinking.. We all know the Chronile can find the Aiken or Columbia country tribunals, and produce a crime map similar to RC..

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 04/18/12 - 11:22 am
1
0
countyman, the last I checked

countyman, the last I checked it's The Augusta Chronicle. This isn't the Evans Chronicle.

Many of the stories in the Columbia County News Times would never make it into the Augusta Chronicle for the same reason.

abeecee
118
Points
abeecee 04/18/12 - 11:34 am
2
0
Here's a suggestion,

Here's a suggestion, Chronicle: Do an investigative piece on these Community Development Housing Organizations--and include Photos of the properties they (we, the taxpayers) own. To get you started, here's a list of who they are and what they are supposed to be doing, copied straight from the city's website.

The following CHDOs are in our area:

30901 Development Corporation
Laney Walker Development
Antioch Ministries
East Augusta Community Development
Promise Land
Sand Hills Community Development

FAQ's Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO)
What Is a CHDO?
A Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) is a private, nonprofit, organization that meets a series of qualifications prescribed in the HOME regulations. A minimum of 15% of each HOME allocation must be reserved by a Participating Junction (PJ) for CHDO activities.

A CHDO is defined as a private nonprofit organization that meets the following qualifications:

Is organized under state or local laws
Has no part of its net earnings inuring to benefit of any member, founder, contributor, or individual
Has 501c(3) status
Does not include a public body (no more than one third of board's membership for residents of low-income neighborhoods)
Has standards of financial accountability
Has among its purposes the provision of affordable housing for low- to moderate-income persons as evidenced in its charter, articles of incorporation, resolution, or bylaws
Maintains accountability to low-income community residents of low-income neighborhoods
Has a demonstrated capacity for carrying out activities assisted with HOME funds
Has a history of serving the community within which housing to be assisted with HOME funds to be located

For more information on CHDOs email La Sandra Corley.

countyman
19098
Points
countyman 04/18/12 - 11:37 am
2
1
I don't want this to become a

I don't want this to become a long debate, and get away from the original story... The CC times doesn't print the tribunals, or have a crime map either...

This is the 'Augusta' Chronicle, but both Evans and Lakeside have prom pictures on the Chronicle... Compared to one school in Richmond County, and then it's ARC.

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 04/18/12 - 12:38 pm
3
0
Mason made an interesting

Mason made an interesting point last nite in stating that he didn't want to loose the federal funding but he was amazed at the outrage some commissioners expressed but didn't have the same outrage and discuss in the Tee Center fiasco.

CarlA
114
Points
CarlA 04/18/12 - 02:04 pm
5
0
All countyman can say is the

All countyman can say is the Chronicle's reporting is biased. How about a comment on how the Richmond Co. Commission is sticking it the taxpayers AGAIN!

CarlA
114
Points
CarlA 04/18/12 - 02:05 pm
6
0
I think it's time the justice

I think it's time the justice department stepped in and looked into the Richmond Co. government.

TrulyWorried
12234
Points
TrulyWorried 04/18/12 - 09:13 pm
0
0
I totall agree - a department

I totall agree - a department that is 'clean' and can do what has to be done - not sweep anything under the rug. Now we as tax payers are forking over another $300,000 ! - We have not even digested the "missing" $25,000 or the liposuction repair - remember???

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