Once again what was conceived as a program to better the housing and neighborhood conditions in Augusta's more downtrodden areas and, in doing so improve the quality of life, has turned into a bureaucratic boondoggle whose main purpose is to perpetuate itself.
Last year the goal of the Augusta Neighborhood Development Corp. was neighborhood revitalization, supposedly in the Laney-Walker neighborhood. In one year's time, where is the revitalization that has been accomplished? So far the only accomplishment is a list of projects and a hamstrung board whose members claim a "Catch-22" situation that prevents any work from being done without the allotted money being spent on administrative costs, consultant fees and other expenses.
Some of the listed items on ANIC's agenda include $500,000 to finance construction of the education complex at the entrance to the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. According to Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta, some of the money will go to the Augusta Commons project. Other items include the gateway and corridors project, a feasibility study for an aquarium, the Augusta Canal, a biotech/bio-medical research authority and a medical research facility. Last, and it turns out least, there's $250,000 for certifiable community housing organizations.
But all of these projects, however worthy they may be, ... really are a moot point because (The Chronicle reported) "Board members now say that without access to more of the city funds, they are destined to fail."
Standing out in this mess is city Housing and Development Department Director Kevin Mack. He says, "We want to see houses built." In fact Mr. Mack deserves a pat on the back for actually getting work under way in the Laney-Walker area. AINC should follow Mr. Mack's example and actually achieve better housing and neighborhood conditions. ...
Robert McCranie, Augusta
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