Hobby: City should replace public housing

Published 7:23 pm Friday, March 23, 2012

CORDELE, Ga. — Bainbridge City Manager Chris Hobby has presented the Bainbridge City Council with an idea he admitted could be considered controversial: replace public housing projects in the city with more attractive, modern developments that would still serve residents with housing needs.

Hobby, speaking at the city council’s annual retreat meeting Friday in Cordele, Ga., pointed to efforts the City of Atlanta has taken since 1994 to tear down all of its public housing and build new developments that mix townhomes, single-family homes and multi-family apartments and condos. Hobby said both nationwide research and the city’s own data indicate that clustered public housing has become a center for crime and poverty, for which it was never intended.

Demolishing public housing in Bainbridge is only a concept at this point, and would require the cooperation of the Bainbridge Housing Authority, but Hobby asked the council to consider it as a “serious means to address serious problems.”

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“This is not a racial issue, this is a people issue,” Hobby said. “If we truly care about people equally, then we need to address this problem.”

In other presentations, Community Development Director Amanda Glover said the city has purchased Web software that will soon allow citizens to report non-emergency issues to city staff via their smartphone or PC Web browser. Once a report is made through the software, emails are sent to the appropriate city staff who can handle the problem and provide the citizens with feedback. Some of the issues which citizens will be able to report include potholes, non-working street lights and traffic lights and junk cars.

Public Services Director Steve Winburn talked about plans to improve the city’s run-down streets in a more timely manner, using state and federal funding. Winburn said he and his employees are committed to maintaining public right-of-ways and medians through landscaping and mowing, so that they are more attractive to citizens and visitors.
Leisure Services may begin holding a youth summer camp, inspired by the one ran by the late Jack Wingate at his Lake Seminole Lodge. The summer camp would focus on teaching boating safety, hunting safety, fishing and other outdoor-related lessons to local youth. The Department of Natural Resources and other community partners would be invited to be involved.

“The kids would be taken out to the Public Safety shooting range and learn how to shoot and also how to drive a boat,” Hobby said. “If we can’t get it going this summer, we definitely want to introduce the camp in the near future.”

The council’s retreat, being held at the Lake Blackshear Resort and Conference Center near Cordele, will conclude Saturday afternoon.