The Union Recorder

June 21, 2013

Board gets state property initiative update

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Milledgeville Mayor Richard Bentley updated the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) about the Central State Hospital Legislative Initiative during Wednesday’s board meeting.

The joint City of Milledgeville and CSHLRA strategy plans on delivering an actionable plan allowing faster state property access. 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.

“We are taking this initiative serious, and I think we’ve made a good bit of progress on finding a way to legislatively gain access to these properties,” the mayor said Wednesday.

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, zero hospital buildings are declared surplus by the State Properties Commission (SPC).

The state owns and dictates the use.

“To their defense, this is the way they do things. I’ve made a point that this Central State property is different,” Bentley said. “I doubt they have 2,000 acres of developed property in any other city other than Atlanta.”

CSHLRA Executive Director Mike Couch said the board wants help from the SPC that regulates, mandates and leverages all Georgia property assets and buildings. The bottom line is Central State’s 200-plus buildings aren’t market-ready under the current law.

“The goal in this is to allow us to actually deal directly with the properties commission, which will eliminate having to go back through the legislative process,” Bentley said. “If we are able to do this, we’d like it on a three year basis to allow the authority to do what authorities do and that is to search for building occupants.”

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

“If we could acquire buildings to sell, obviously that’s better for the city and county because of the tax benefit from it,” he 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 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.

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.

Grant said the old conveyance statute hurts CSH redevelopment.

“The current Georgia conveyance law might work well for state parks or forestry land, but it causes a lot of problems for a situation like Central State Hospital,” Grant said. 

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

Grant has a direct line to the governor. He said Deal opened conversations with state agency heads about possible full or partial department relocations to Milledgeville. 

Other key issues for the legislative initiative include finding demolition dollars for correctional buildings, inserting the CSHLRA into a state budget line item and exploring if federal rules of economic development conveyance could apply to CSH.

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

“[Deal] knows a lot of buildings here aren’t economically viable,” Grant said. “We’ll have to do that over a several year span.”

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.

“We could be a positive model if we can make this work,” Bentley said. “Our delegation doesn’t feel it’s something that can’t be done. I think its something that [SPC] is searching for.”

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