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Hall County takes on foreclosure program
Residents are concerned about neighboring foreclosed homes
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County agrees to sell old jail

Commissioners approved the installment sale of the Old Detention Center on Main Street to private detention company Corrections Corp. of America, which is currently occupying the building.

When the proposed sale was announced early this week, it drew the ire of Gainesville City Council members, who have said they don't want a jail in midtown Gainesville.

Commissioner Billy Powell offered a modification to the proposal by giving the city of Gainesville the second right of refusal on the building. That means if CCA chooses to sell the building Hall County would first get the right to purchase the building; then the city could weigh in before it could be offered to others.

County officials say the new arrangement will allow CCA to continue operation of the detention center, which employs 125 people.

Lutz proposes a study on city water rates

Commissioner Craig Lutz announced at Thursday's meeting he would not run for an open state House of Representatives seat available due to redistricting.

Instead, he said he's sticking around to challenge the disparity in water rates between Gainesville and Hall County residents.

The city of Gainesville Public Utilities Department charges noncity customers about twice amount of the county water rates.

City officials say that a study performed by an independent firm concluded out-of-city rates should be 2.13 times the rate inside the city since most newer water lines have been built outside the city's limits.

Lutz proposed the County Commission order a new study to review whether the county has standing to challenge those rates. Commissioners agreed to discuss it at the March 5 work session meeting.

Aaron Hale

Hall County government will take over administration of a grant program aimed to stabilize neighborhoods facing foreclosure.

Citing complaints about slow responsiveness from the agency currently distributing the funds locally, the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to bring in-house a $1.9 million grant from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program at Thursday's commissioners meeting.

The program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and distributed through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, is set up to allow local governments to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed residential property for resale to families in an effort to stabilize neighborhoods.

Jessica Robinson, grants manager for Hall County, said the program looks to "slow the decline of neighborhoods due to the presence of foreclosed homes" and "provide affordable housing to eligible low-, moderate- and middle-income homebuyers."

Hall County had hired the nonprofit Home Development Resources Inc. to administer that grant in 2009.

However, commissioners agreed the county needed to take more control of the program after hearing complaints in the community of mismanagement.

Commissioner Billy Powell said all commissioners had received messages from concerned residents about neighboring foreclosed homes.

"Frankly our hands have been tied," he said. "I think this is a tremendous step forward."

By taking over the grant, the county will seek to contract with a private asset manager to help administer the funds, Robinson said. That's similar to what surrounding districts do with their grants.

That's expected to allow more county control than the previous arrangement with HDRI.

County Chairman Tom Oliver acknowledged that the county was also taking on more liability.

"This is very tricky getting involved with this," he said. "But there are a lot of opportunities here this community can use."