Community Development Specialist Bekki Fox told members of the Community Development Committee on Wednesday that focusing limited demolition dollars on one community would have a greater impact on that community than taking down one house in South Rome, one in North Rome and another in East Rome.
“The City Commission has already adopted an East Rome Redevelopment plan,” Fox said. “There are so many houses on Maple Street that need to be addressed.”
Fox said that before any demo work is undertaken the Building Inspection office would do a comprehensive code enforcement sweep of the area that would give property owners an opportunity to do more than board up empty homes before the city goes through the lengthy process involved prior to demolition.
“When houses are boarded up, it’s a stop-gap measure,” said Glenn Rubin, a code enforcement officer with the city. “But there are a lot of boarded-up houses that have stayed that way for many years. They still need exterior maintenance. Rotten trim on window sills still continues to rot and decay, allowing moisture into the house, then mold and so on.”
City Commissioner Sue Lee said the city needs to consider the whole community around boarded up homes, what neighbors are forced to look at or live next to on a daily basis.
“I think Maple Street would be a good positive place to start,” Lee said.
Efforts to demolish a home at 7 Cherokee St. in South Rome hit a snag when the State Historic Preservation Office determined that the property was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, largely because it was simply more than 50 years old.
“We can still demolish it, but we will have to mitigate the adverse effect on the neighborhood,” Fox said.
Fox briefed the committee about plans to seek $306,000 in Department of Community Affairs grant money to continue a moderate repair program for low-income elderly homeowners across the city. She said the funds would enable the city to contract for as much as $25,000 worth of improvements for eight or nine homes.
Fox said the program would specifically target homeowners who are least 62 years of age and have a household income of no more than 50 percent of the median income for the area.
“Everybody on our waiting list is already below 50 percent,” Fox said.
By putting the 50 percent limit in the grant request, it will improve the city’s score and enhance approval of the grant.
Fox also said the city is now working with Georgia Power to make energy audits available for both minor and moderate repair grant applicants.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Fox said. “It helps the homeowners and it helps the city score points (on it’s grant application).”
Some of those same homeowners will also be eligible for $700 rebates from Georgia Power. The rebates are available based on installation of digital thermostats, improved insulation, duct sealing, solar water heaters and other energy savings measures being taken as part of the repair work.
Downtown Development Director Ann Arnold reminded commissioners about the Downtown Open House this weekend, from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be walking downtown Saturday and children may have an opportunity to have pictures taken with Santa aboard the Toonerville Two trolley.