ACC Commission debates eviction relief; gets arena update

May 12, 2021

An artist's rendering of the Classic Center Arena interior.
Credit Classic Center

The Athens Clarke County Mayor and Commission met Tuesday for a marathon work session, where commissioners differed over an eviction relief proposal and asked pointed questions about the cost of the Classic Center arena.

The meeting started with the first opportunity for public comment on Mayor Kelly Girtz’s proposed budget, but that portion of the evening comprised less than ten minutes of the five and a half hour meeting.

Moving into their work session, Commissioners spent about two hours hearing a presentation on and discussing Project RESET, a program designed to provide relief to people facing eviction. County Manager Blaine Williams told commissioners that a similar program in Gwinnett County has helped thousands.

Commissioners differed over how to move forward with the proposal. District 6 Commissioner Jesse Houle urged their colleagues to vote on the first steps next Tuesday, while District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton expressed concern that a vote next week limits the role public comment would play in the process.

"We normally do a thirty day [public input period]," Thornton told commissioners, "and we are setting a bad precedent when we're ramming stuff through."

The issue remains undetermined at least until Commissioners meet next Tuesday for their agenda-setting session.

Commissioners also heard from Classic Center CEO Paul Cramer on changes to the Classic Center arena project, including a requested $25 million increase in the project’s budget. Responding to a question from Houle, Cramer assured Commissioners that the extra money would come from a variety of private sources.

Commissioners meet on Thursday for a budget review, and again next Tuesday for an agenda-setting session, which will also serve as the second public input opportunity for the FY22 budget.