Originally created 11/29/00

Proposal by ANIC resisted

Last week, members of the Augusta Neighborhood Improvement Corp. indicated they would like to assume control of the daily operations of the city's Housing and Neighborhood Development Department.

On Tuesday, the Citizens Advisory Committee, the board that oversees the city department, indicated their opinion: No way.

"Look at it like checks and balances," said Citizens Advisory Committee member Joseph Vignati. "It's almost like letting the fox in the henhouse. I don't know any other way to put it than that.

"Legally, I don't know how they could do it, since they have county commissioners on that board. You've got state legislators with a finger in the pot, county commissioners with a finger in the pot ... I mean think about it."

The issue arose last week during an ANIC board meeting. At the meeting, state Sen. Charles Walker and others, including Augusta Commission member Lee Beard, said bringing the Housing and Neighborhood Development Department under ANIC's control would save the city money and eliminate duplication of services.

Advisory board member Nathaniel Charles said he couldn't think of any department that has had the needs of the community more as its top priority.

"I think (Housing Director Keven) Mack has done a good job; I think he's got a good group of people to work with. There have been quite a few improvements. I've seen it over the years myself," Mr. Charles said. "I just don't see where it would be in the best interest of this county for anything other than this department to stay as it is."

Some advisory board members said they see ANIC's attempt to seize control of the department as a personal vendetta against Mr. Mack.

"I see this as an easy way to try to get rid of Keven Mack, who in my opinion has been doing a hell of a job," Patrick Sizemore said.

Advisory board member Irma Williams said people who criticize Mr. Mack's job performance fail to realize he took over a department deep in debt.

When he became director shortly after the city and county government consolidation, Mr. Mack inherited an agency that had illegally spent $1 million in state funds. The funds had to be paid back, Ms. Williams said.

Robert Cooks, the new president of ANIC, attended Tuesday's meeting and said he took all the comments as advice and useful information.

"I'm not taking it personal," he said. "You can't in this business."

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.


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