Augusta committee members approve $2.5M loan

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Aug. 26, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A $2.5 million taxpayer loan could be headed to Augusta's Housing and Community Development. The money will be used to continue work on revitalizing the Laney Walker Bethlehem area.

Committee members approved giving them the money, but questions remain about where the money will come from.

"The more development you have, the more you have to spend," said HUD Executive Director Chester Wheeler.

Wheeler is talking about the more than $8 million his office has spent on revitalization in the Laney Walker neighborhood. Now an Augusta Committee has awarded him another $2.5 million.

"Where is the additional funding source to keep this project alive? If you don't have additional funding, this program will come to a halt," said Commissioner Joe Jackson.

"He asked for the funding now because he knows in two years the funds will be depleted. They want to continue the process," said Commissioner Corey Johnson.

Advocates say the 30 new homes built, more than 90 properties demolished and 300 lots purchased are not the problem, but funding could be.

The hotel and bed tax is supposed to fund rebuilding homes, but it might not be enough for the 15-year project.

Raising fees is on the table for some.

"I can't answer that; you need to ask that question to the finance department," Wheeler said.

"Would you ever be in favor of raising more fees for this program?" asked News 12's Ryan Houston.

"No, I wouldn't. We need a 100 percent reassurance that any money that's loaned out can be paid back," said Commissioner Mary Davis.

HUD officials will have to come back with a funding source in six months.


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