More than the budget: ACC Commissioners to vote on homeless encampment; Costa building improvements

Jun 14, 2021

The Costa Building in downtown Athens.
Credit Athens Welcome Center

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission meet Tuesday for a special session where lawmakers are expected to approve the county’s budget, but that isn't the only major item in front of the Commission this week.

While the county’s $271.5 million dollar budget is the biggest item on the agenda, at least in financial terms, Commissioners will also be considering a resolution addressing homelessness in the community.

That resolution officially directs county staff to identify a site for a legal encampment for the homeless, and to seek out qualified non-profits to help the government develop and operate the site. Among the items that would be mandatory in any sanctioned encampment are water, sewer, and electricity access, as well as basic sanitary and health supplies. The resolution further requires that the site be served by public transit and garbage and recycling services.

It’s possible that a proposed site could be named by mid-July, and Commissioners specifically want county staff to consider a parcel already owned by ACC, located at 395 Willow Street. That parcel, at the northeastern end of downtown, abuts the Whistlebury apartment complex.

Commissioners will also take a look at potential fixes to the Costa Building, which has been owned by the county for nearly 50 years. That building, located next door to the Clarke County Elections Department and down the street from City Hall, is currently unused, although in the past it has served as a police station.

Fixing the building up will be expensive – the site needs completely new electrical and plumbing, as well as lead and asbestos abatement and ADA-compliant restrooms and entrances. County staff say that the $2.2 million construction budget isn’t enough to do all the work, and they’re asking commissioners to reallocate about $1.4 million in leftover funds from the SPLOST 2011 jail expansion to cover the additional costs.

Commissioners will also vote on the first steps for TSPLOST 2023, a transportation sales tax. Those first steps include approving the selection criteria for projects to be funded by the tax, an implementation timeline, and instructions for the TSPLOST Advisory Committee.

The 5:30 pm special session will be livestreamed on the county's YouTube page.