Athens-Clarke County commissioners voted 7 -1 to move ahead with a local eviction relief program at a special called session on Tuesday. The creation of that program has been a topic of discussion and debate at several commission meetings in recent months. In late August, commissioners voted to issue a request for proposals for a nonprofit agency to manage the potential program. Only one agency, Athenian First Development Corporation, responded to the RFP. That low response rate led to a recommendation from county staff to reissue the request with a longer time frame.
At Tuesday's meeting, however, most commissioners seemed eager to move forward with the bid submitted by AFDC. District 5's Tim Denson urged commissioners to award the contract to AFDC so they could begin work.
"Looking over the application myself and being able to meet with the applicants and have them answer questions, which I know a number of us did, I feel like we're in a good place to go ahead and move forward with this program rather than delaying this by sending it back to an RFP with absolutely no certainty that we would get new applicants," Denson said.
That was a sentiment echoed by District 9's Ovita Thornton, who told commissioners, "at the end of the day, the longer we keep dragging this out, people are going to be evicted. I think we can work out the glitches as we go along, if there are any glitches, but we need to not let people have to face the holidays and eviction at the same time."
District 4's Allison Wright opposed the motion because only one organization responded to the county's RFP.
"Typically we have at least three proposals that we weigh against each other, and we end up with the lowest bid," Wright said. "At this point, the price. I think on this current bid is is awfully high, especially without a comparison."
Wright was the only commissioner to oppose awarding the contract to AFDC, and commissioners are expected to vote on the terms of the contract itself on November 2nd.
Commissioners also debated a plan floated at a work session last week to turn local redistricting over to the county Board of Elections. Some commissioners made that suggestion as a way of separating the process of drawing new political boundaries from the members of the commission, although commissioners would still have to vote on a final map to propose to state lawmakers. The members of the Georgia General Assembly have the ultimate say over ACC Commission districts.
District 2's Mariah Parker supported the idea, calling it, "the most neutral way for us to move forward given how political, the nature of the work is." But Allison Wright expressed concern about straining the county's elections resources. She noted that, in addition to preparing for sweeping and controversial changes to election laws that took effect this summer, elections staffers are also in the midst of early voting for an election on November 2.
"We are basically dumping a workload on people who already have more than full time work already assessed with our electionsq," Wright said. Commissioners voted six to two to move ahead with assigning the drawing of a proposed map to the Board of Elections.
Commissioners also unanimously approved the purchase of $213,000 in new turnout gear for ACC firefighters, and a transfer of up to $150,000 from the County General Fund to the Sheriff's Department to meet cost overruns for overtime and medical care for inmates at the jail.