The Union Recorder

September 11, 2013

CSH redevelopment awaits legislative push

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber Eggs & Issues Fall 2013 series launch Wednesday morning at Crockett's Cafeteria explained current Central State Hospital reuse initiatives hinging on three legislative pieces going before Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal Oct. 9.

Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) Executive Director Mike Couch detailed the legislative task force working to create an adequate mechanism for repurposing Central State Hospital’s 200 vacant buildings and 1,900-hospital campus acres. The package features language for the 2014 State Property Omnibus Legislation, proposed changes to House Bill 495 and a new piece of legislation that would be extremely effective in the CSHLRA mission, according to Couch.

Returning the expansive grounds to income-producing status is vital considering the property’s continued degradation. Milledgeville's economic success dangles in large part over the CSH plan.

“That project is an asset to all taxpayers, and to me it's something as a city, county and region we've got to look at as an opportunity that exists,” Couch said. “The issues sitting in front of us the next few months are that we are going to lose a 1,000 more jobs. We have to accept reality. How do we marry the opportunity with the issue?”

The CSHLRA understands the previous mental health use isn't possible based on DBHDD's belief in deinstitutionalization. No single use will cover the entire campus.

“We won't fix what we can't change. We've accepted the fact Central State Hospital can't stay open,” Couch said Wednesday. “It's a rough jewel in hiding. We have land mass, historical buildings and a campus-like setting.”

Establishing easier property conveyance procedures will give the CSH redevelopment team the ability to negotiate and act on a potential tenant. 

The CSH initiatives work details easier real estate transactions under the termed Economic Development Conveyance for mostly Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) and Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) owned buildings. These proposals would allow the State Properties Commission to better facilitate and increase reliability of state property conveyances outside of the General Assembly.

Currently, it takes legislation passed during a three-month session at the beginning of each year to transfer property. 

These three documents and other campus related development points such as DOC building demolition dollars and home renovations for war veterans are included in a scheduled briefing with Gov. Deal next month.

Georgia Senate and House State Property Committee members are meeting at CSH this Monday, which should speed the legislative push.

“With their help, we will be able to transition this property to viable, tax paying businesses in the near future, “ State Rep. Rusty Kidd said Wednesday.

Currently, the CSH authority has three business proposals on the table. These and others depend on the legislative result.

The CSHLRA is working on a “Film Ready” designation to bring awareness to the cause also. CSH property provides countless movie options.

“All the activity a film production crew brings to a site is remarkable,” Couch said. “It's a tremendous boost to film in Georgia right now.”

Couch said every taxpayer in the state has interest the CSH.

“We have to maintain and have the appropriated support to keep those buildings in some sense of stability. Anything we do as a development authority has to be in the best interest of taxpayers,” the CSHLRA director said. “We'll keep pushing.”

The next Eggs & Issues gathering Wednesday, Oct. 9 will discuss Unification. 

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