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September 7, 2006 Issue



Other Top Stories
Meetings to be held locally to address poverty in rural Georgia
Wadley homes to be rebuilt
Grants improve properties

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Meetings to be held locally to address poverty in rural Georgia

• Why do counties like Jefferson and Glascock continue to have persistent poverty rates despite receiving more and more grant money, the state wants to know

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The state of Georgia is looking to better its relationship with its rural communities. Out of the 159 counties within the state, 91 counties have persistent poverty rates. Now state leaders are looking to change the statistic.

“We shouldn’t have 91 counties with persistent poverty rates,” University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute’s Mike Bishop said. “This state does so much with economic development. We know the state of Georgia, through state agencies, can do things more effectively.”

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Town hall meetings will be held in Glascock and Jefferson counties as they will be held in nine other counties within the CSRA. These meetings are a part of a pilot program, the Communities of Opportunity Initiative, started by the Georgia Rural Development Council in partnership with University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, who has been represented by Tina Hutcheson, who Bishop said was instrumental in setting up the meetings.

The Jefferson County meeting will be held on Monday, Sept. 18, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Louisville at the Senior Citizens Center. The Glascock County meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 10, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Gibson at the old school building.

The initiative is being sponsored by the Georgia Rural Development Council, a government appointed board that is in the business of partnering and advocating for rural Georgia, according to Bishop.

“This is a policy making board,” Bishop explained. “They make recommendations to the legislature and governor, whether it is a new policy on agriculture, transportation and so on. They will probably be rolling out some recommendations for the next general assembly after holding the town hall meetings.”

The University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute has a long history of working with communities and government agencies to find what is best for the community as a whole. “UGA is the convener of those types of groups,” Bishop said. “We have a long history of working with communities across the state. We see ourselves as change agents. We like to work with local governments in solving problems of communities through dealing with the leadership in those communities. We have a history of doing these things across the state and UGA’s involvement is a part of the state’s history.”

The Communities of Opportunity Initiative came about as a result of conversations between two state agencies noticing that the state has many programs available to rural communities, but those communities are not able to turn those resources into the kinds of things that would minimize poverty, Bishop said.

“This is starting a conversation with those communities and seeing what the state can do,” Bishop explained, adding, “The pilot study is in region seven, which is the CSRA. We want to talk to the folks in the community. We have already been talking to some of the local leaders as a part of the study.

“We interviewed community leaders to get their perspective on how the community does planning and development and about what the state has to offer. We are trying to get the public’s perspective. We have data, statistics and leaders’ points of view, now we want the public's.”

School board member Michael Gilmer, Commissioner Anthony Griswell and First City Bank President Lee Griffin have already spoken to Bishop about the planned initiative in Glascock County. They are just three of the 65 leaders in the CSRA who were interviewed before planning the town hall meetings.

Bishop said this would give those involved in the initiative an inside track to how citizens see the state of Georgia with their interaction with the community and how the citizens believe the state can improve those relationships. Through the feedback from the community, Bishop said the state hopes to find a better fit for the needs of citizens.

“We recognize the fact that all local communities are unique,” he said. “Each one has different opportunities and we need to provide services in a more unique fashion to them. “The Community of Opportunity Initiative is working with all the folks at the local level for any kind of planning at that level. We are trying to have an effort at local level to do things comprehensively.” Bishop said the state agencies want to find communities in the state of Georgia that have government entities, including commissioners, school boards or any other kind of local government that work together for the good of the community.

“We want to find those places and learn from them,” he said. “We need to replicate this in places that aren’t doing it. To be honest there are some communities where the school system doesn’t talk to the local government. This way we help local communities do planning comprehensively and to bring all facets of the community together.”

Bishop went on to explain that those communities, who do not work holistically, will be at a competitive disadvantage for state grants and loans.

“If it is changes need to be made at the state level, we will talk about those things at this meeting,” he added. The Georgia Rural Development Council, University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs thought that using the CSRA would be a good scale of the state. “If you look at the CSRA and compare it to the state, it is a nice microcosmic state of Georgia,” Bishop said. “You have Augusta, which is similar to Atlanta and then you have Colombia County that is like Cobb County. The other rural counties are similar to counties in South Georgia. The region as a whole looks a lot like the state of Georgia. We will be able to really make some good generalizations for the state as a whole by looking at the CSRA. What we learn in Region 7 will be a good education, a good start. ”

Bishop assured that there will be at least one other meeting to follow the town hall meetings.

“This is one particular initiative that we don’t want to create a report and put it on a bookshelf,” he said. “The Department of Community Affairs will come back in and do a workshop. The state of Georgia will put together a team of resources that will represent agencies that work directly with communities.

“We will work with the local government, school board and folks that do planning and development and have a weeklong workshop. The whole point is that the future looks brighter.”



Wadley homes to be rebuilt

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Wadley resident Nellie Pearl Brown has been in her house since 1959, and, it wasn’t new when she moved in. She later had two rooms added in the 1980s and she was proud of the home she had made.

Over the years, time and moisture have warped walls, rotted beams and generally dampened that pride.

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Today her floors have fallen, her ceilings dip and there are a number of places where the walls are coming apart. Well intentioned but less than professional repairs have made the problems worse.

Rain leaks in, especially around the chimney in the den, Brown said. The leaking is worse in the back of the house where the contractor connected the two rooms. Buckets and trashcans are strategically placed throughout her home to catch the rain, that during storms, pours in.



“It’s a mess,” she said last week, pointing out the problems, problems that city officials say they will be addressing with grant funds.

Sallie Adams, the City Clerk of Wadley, said the most recently approved Community Development Block Grant, the one the city was notified about Aug. 22, will be used, in part, to refurbish Brown’s home and bring it up to code.

The grant, for $500,000, will be used by the city to rehabilitate 11 houses, completely reconstruct one and tear down eight vacant dilapidated structures in the community.

Although the city has received official notification the grant has been approved, the funds will not be disbursed by the state until around late January or February, 2007, she said.

This leaves Brown and the others like her in their homes at their current state for one more winter.

“When we got ready to apply for the grant,” Adams said, “we ran an ad in the paper.” Brown said she heard about the program through a local senior citizens group and called the city.

John Wheeler of Wheeler Consulting Services in Alma, who wrote the grant proposal, brought an application to Brown.

Wheeler, who has been writing and administering grants for 20 years, specializes in housing. “It’s a difficult program to do,” he said. “She does have some seal trouble in the back of her house,” Wheeler said of Brown’s home. “That type of home would typically take approximately $30,000 (to repair).”

Wheeler said the home owner’s cost is based on his or her income. In Brown’s case, she will pay about $750, according to Wheeler. “That’s based on her income reported on her application,” he said. Although Brown is unsure as yet what all will be done to her home, she knows it will be a vast improvement and is eager to see it complete. She tells a particular story to underscore the importance of having her home resealed.

One day last year, she said, she had fallen asleep in a rocking chair in her den, and was awakened by a phone call. She woke up and went into the next room, her bedroom, in order to get the phone despite the fact that she had a receiver sitting next to her in the den. She believes the impulse to use the other phone, rather than the one right beside her, was providence.

“It was the Lord,” she said. “The Lord sent me in here.” As she began speaking on the phone, she said felt as if someone were close by. “I felt a presence,” she said, the recollection fresh in her mind. She pointed to a small gas heater by the door. “I saw the tail,” she said.

A water moccasin had climbed through a chink and settled beneath a heater next to the door.

She said she hung up the phone and immediately called the police.

“They sent an officer,” she said, “but he didn’t have the right shell.”

He told Brown he would be right back and asked if, while he was gone, she could watch the snake.

“I said, ‘Who’s going to watch me?’” she recalled. When the officer returned, the snake was still under the heater.

“‘You reckon if I shoot that snake,’” Brown said the officer asked, “‘it’ll blow that heater up?”’ “I said, ‘Blow it up! As long as you kill that snake.’” The officer killed the snake, without blowing up the heater, and then removed the creature.

Brown said she slept wrapped under extra sheets that night. Brown said there are many places where snakes and other creatures could get into her home. Some of the walls have buckled in; there are holes and tears in the ceiling and along the various seams of the structure. When it rains, she said the water runs down walls and she has to place at least three or four buckets around the house to catch the water.

“If it rains all night, I have to get up and empty it,” she said, pointing to a rather large plastic bucket in her living room.

She can’t let it fill, she said, because then she wouldn’t be able to take the bucket outside and empty it. People have suggested she move.

“I want to stay in my house,” she said. “I like it here.” She is grateful to the city for applying for the grant and helping to repair her home. “That would just be a blessing,” she said about having the renovations. “I could wake up in the morning and not worry about snakes coming in.”



Grants improve properties

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Herman Baker, Wadley’s mayor, is grateful to the state for several reasons.

Funding from Georgia’s Community Development Block Grant program has provided vital money to help residents improve their property and upgrade their homes for several years.



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“(These funds) help our people,” the mayor said, “help our city, too. It helps the looks of the city.”

City residents are very appreciative, he said.

“And they’re pleased with the work. I haven’t had any complaints.” Baker said another factor is providing work for area residents. John Wheeler of Wheeler Consulting Services in Alma said some of the contracts go to out of town contractors who then hire local craftsmen and other workers.

“I would like to see some more contractors on our mail lists,” he said.

Some structures deemed beyond repair are torn down and the lots are cleared, according to Wadley City Clerk Sallie Adams.

“The people are allowed to keep their property,” she said. The program is designed as a means for the city to assist elderly and low-income citizens in maintaining their homes and property. They would have no other way to clear unused structures from their land or repair their houses, Adams said.

One such property owner is Charles Scott. Scott, whose property was approved on the most recent CDBG project, said the mayor contacted him and told him about the program. “I had been wanting to get it torn down,” he said of a house on some property he owns in the city.

On a recent visit to the location, Scott would not allow a visitor to step onto the property or go near the house, saying it didn’t look safe. The property itself was overgrown with weeds and grass; the house was in poor shape.

“You can see where someone drove a car or a truck in there,” he said, pointing from the road toward the house. “There’s no telling what’s in there.”

Willie Mae Tally, another resident of Wadley, is having renovations made to her home under a previous grant. The 2005 funding provided a new roof, new windows, room paneling, a vinyl floor in the kitchen, painting and electrical work; all of which was badly needed.

“I am well pleased with the work,” she said. “I’m happy and satisfied.” The 83-yearold would have had no other means of repairing her home. Mary Lee Thomas and her son Hershel Thomas also received repairs from the 2005 grant. Thomas said she had been living in the same house in Wadley for 50 years. Contractors had already completed work on her home’s roof and floors and sided the home. Work was ongoing to replace the windows. Additionally, some electrical work will be done to bring the house up to code.

Jerome Jackson, a local carpenter working for the contractor on this project, said the majority of the work on Thomas’ home was complete. The rest of the work, including finishing several windows, installing new cabinets in the kitchen, repairing the front porch steps and railing, and installing some electrical components should be complete in two weeks.

“We have a deadline,” Jackson said.

The company has a fiveman crew dedicated to this project, he said. Wheeler, who not only writes the grants but administers them for the city, said the first such grant he was involved with for Wadley was almost 10 years ago.

“We got a CHIP (Community Home I n v e s t m e n t Program). It was funded back in 1998,” he said. “It was a program that required homeowners to pay half the cost of repairs.

We were able to work on 10 homes under that program.” Wheeler said that, although it’s a good program, it isn’t easy finding eligible homeowners. “It works really well for counties, but for cities, unless it’s a big city, it doesn’t work as well. It’s difficult frankly to find people who can pay half of a $30,000 repair project.”

Projects like the Community Development Block Grant program the city is currently using requires less of a financial commitment from the homeowner, according to Wheeler.

“It requires between $500 and $1,500 from the homeowner,” Wheeler said, depending on the homeowner’s income and the need of the house. Funds available for such homes are between $10,000 and $40,000 worth of work per home.

The most recently approved grant will be used to rehab 11 houses, reconstruct one and demolish eight vacant, dilapidated structures. Wheeler said the house that is being reconstructed is simply beyond repair.

“We’ll probably spend between $50,000 and $60,000 to rebuild that property,” he said.

The structures that are being torn down will not cost the city or the property owner and the landowner retains the property, according to Wheeler.

“It sets a precedence that can help a variety of local governments to apply for these funds to address those needs,” Wheeler said. “We’re not taking property from people, just getting money to take care of the clearance cost.”

Wheeler commended the city government for using CDBG funds for housing. “A lot of times communities just use the grants for water and sewer projects and neglect the housing needs,” he said. “But Wadley is really pursuing those (funds).”

Contractors who want to get on the mailing lists for bid information can contact Wheeler at (912) 632-2338 or contact the city.

Residents who want to apply for consideration under the program should contact Wadley City Hall at (478) 252-1116 to have their names placed on the list.




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