The Union Recorder

February 21, 2014

First vote of confidence for CSH bills

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder


Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) Chair Quay Hurt Fuller described the House State Properties Committee meeting accurately during Wednesday's board meeting.

“It's been a good day in Atlanta for us,” she said.

House Bill 495, with sponsorship by state Rep. Emory Dunahoo, was introduced and successfully passed through the House properties committee Wednesday afternoon.

The bill now moves to the House Rules Committee and should be on the floor for a vote next week.

CSHLRA Executive Director Mike Couch called HB 495 “our market ready bill.” He thanked Dunahoo and state Rep. Rusty Kidd for helping the legislation.

State Properties Commission (SPC) director Steve Stancil said the current process to transfer state-owned property to a private entity carries an average closing time of 520 days.

“Once the bill gets passed by the House and the Senate, we have the ability to go out and actually look at these properties to a threshold of a half-million dollars after appraisal,” Couch said. “We can work and make deals directly with the State Properties Commission. They can be approved out of session, which is a significant change in the way we do business. It's not just going to be effective for Milledgeville. It's going to be effective for the entire state of Georgia.”

HB 495 was submitted as constructed last session with one amendment.

In the language as written, any Georgia Representative or Senator could veto a state property transaction.

The accepted change lets only the state delegates that have the particular property in their district veto the action.

“It will keep it more or a pure transactional basis, and for lack of a better term, keep politics out of it,” Couch said Wednesday.

The second key to unlock stagnant Central State campus land totaling 2,134 acres is Senate Bill 788 or the State Property Omnibus legislation.

This covers all the anticipated property transfers between the 2014 and 2015 Georgia legislative sessions.

Couch said SB 788 passed through the Senate as well Wednesday and should be in House Committee next Wednesday.

The Omnibus Bill will be used to declare certain properties surplus to the current missions of the Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) and Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) 

“We are going to declare the entire campus less the buildings that DBHDD reserves for their use as surplus and able for repurposing,” Couch said.

HB 495 and the Omnibus Bill go as a package deal for the CSHLRA efforts.

“We have to have (the property) surplus for us to be effective in using HB 495,” Couch said.

The Men’s, Rivers and Scott state prison land is included in the omnibus bill.

Presently, DBHDD sent a request to the SPC to continue using and maintaining a total of 164 CSH acres such as the Allen, Kidd, EWAC and Cook buildings among others. The rest would be available for future development applications.

The authorization through SB 788 to convey the surplus CSH property interest gives the CSHLRA three years to make true real estate transactions brokering with the SPC instead of waiting forever for legislative approval.