Augusta, GA -
When she comes and goes from her Travis Road home, Essie Brown can't miss it...the rundown home that has sat for years across the street. “It's not even worth living in," she said.
"What needs to be done?" we asked Brown. “It needs to be torn down because, like I said, it brings our property values down,” said Brown.
Augusta Planning and Development Commission officials want these properties down, but there's not the money to do it. But, they are asking Augusta Commissioners for $165,000 extra for demolition, not nearly enough to take care of the problem. There are nearly 300 homes that have been identified as blights and unsafe, and should be demolished.
But, it’s a start.
“If we had the money to do all of them, it would be more like $1.6 million. All of the units, it's 36 to 40,” said Planning and Development Commission director Melanie Wilson.
Planning and Development officials have prepared a list of houses to be torn down, the majority of which are in the inner city. But this time, the city is targeting run down homes all across Augusta.
“We had the strategy that we would go and attack houses in everybody's district so we could make sure we were fair,” said Wilson.
These houses are a problem all over Augusta, but Augusta Commissioners only approved $35,000 in this year’s budget for demolition.
“That money that comes from our 2014 Capital Outlay," said Interim City Administrator Tameka Allen. "So, there’s money for that?" we asked Allen. “Yes, there is,” she said.
That money can be used for tearing down these houses, but also could be used to help balance the budget in other areas.
“That's my biggest scare, right now. We're using Capital Outlay, that takes away needs of the Sheriff, of the Fire Department, big ticket items we can't put in the budget. It is a concern,” says Commissioner Joe Jackson.
“Priority, is it dilapidated buildings or the budget?" we asked Jackson. “Budget right now,” said Jackson.
Included in this year's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, package was $4 million to demolish run down houses. But, those funds would not be available until 2016, at the earliest, and that's only if voters approve the sales tax referendum in May.