The Union Recorder

July 18, 2013

Mayor encouraged by state property initiative progress

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Milledgeville Mayor Richard Bentley returned to Wednesday’s Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) meeting to brief the board on the Central State Hospital Legislative Initiative’s progress.

The joint City of Milledgeville and CSHLRA strategy plans on delivering an actionable plan allowing faster access to 200 buildings and 2,000 acres on the hospital campus. The authority needs the ability to expeditiously access properties, either by change in Georgia statute or administrative rule, allowing true privatization of CSH real estate. 

Right now, the State Properties Commission (SPC) declares zero hospital buildings surplus. The bottom line is Central State’s 200-plus buildings aren’t market-ready under the current law.

Through a committee of key players led by Bentley, the initiative aims to have a decision briefing prepared and presented directly to Gov. Nathan Deal by Aug. 15.

“I fully expect that when we tell him what we’d like to do and what we need here that (Gov. Deal) will be supportive of that,” Bentley said.

The CSH Legislative Initiative task force includes Baldwin County Commissioner Sammy Hall, Johnny Grant, community engagement and economic development director for Georgia College and CSHLRA board member, CSHLRA Chair Quay Fuller, city attorney Jimmy Jordan, Rowe, CSHLRA board member Russ Walden, Couch and attorney David Waddell. Other influencers such as state Rep. Rusty Kidd, state Sen. Burt Jones, law firm Troutman Sanders, Central Georgia Technical College President Dr. Ivan Allen, Georgia Military College President Emeritus Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan (Ret.) and the SPC commissioner will assist the effort along with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, Georgia Trust and the state Chamber of Commerce.

Allowing property sale or a long-term 40-year lease similar to the Riverbend Correctional deal are welcome outcomes, according to the mayor.

Though the SPC just approved three Central State leases, that structure isn’t enough for every building.

“We can lease buildings for three years. We can’t renovate some of those buildings on a three-year basis,” Bentley said Wednesday. “The GEO prison is on a 40-year lease. We’ll accept that, but we have to have some kind of long-term agreement in order to do that. We are really hamstrung right now.”

The initiative’s delegation hopes this will pass in the form of an omnibus bill that packages together several measures into one or combines diverse subjects. 

The goal is to allow the CSHLRA to deal directly with the SPC, which will eliminate going back through the legislative process. 

Bentley said the group is “going to ask for all 2,000 acres to be surplus.”

If successful, the authority could search for state and federal monies to renovate vacant buildings to put someone in them.

Bentley cited House Bill 495 that didn’t survive this year’s General Assembly Legislative Session as another method for success. The bill would have allowed the SPC to better facilitate and increase reliability of state property conveyances outside of the General Assembly.

The Milledgeville Mayor said that bill hasn’t been abandoned. The SPC supports both pieces of the state property conveyance puzzle.

CSHLRA officials think opportunity for state agency relocation to the campus exists as well. The Georgia Department of Corrections and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities are two possible candidates.

Another key issue for the legislative initiative includes finding demolition dollars for correctional buildings to make way for a community solar farm. 

Three areas around the Scott State Prison grounds are targeted for destruction to make a marketable canvas.

CSHLRA Vice Chair Dudley Rowe said adding a solar farm timelines to the package presented to Deal next month could only help the cause.

Grant said the governor is aware of that initiative.

“Gov. Deal is aware of the connection between the demolition of the Scott buildings and the solar initiative. I think it behooves us to bring him some details about what we are looking for as far as help and permission from the state to bring those buildings down,” Grant said.

If the properties can’t be accessed via administrative rule and require statute modification, documentation must be in Atlanta by Oct. 15 to be introduced into the 2014 legislative session.

Bentley said the delegation will request Deal to sign the legislation early.

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