Downtown Development

Downtown Development Director Amanda Carter (from left), Building Inspection chief Howard Gibson, and commissioners Bill Irmscher and Evie McNiece listen to reports about changes to a housing repair program in the Rome Community Development committee meeting Tuesday. / Doug Walker

The program, funded through federal Community Development Block Grant money, will now be known as Rome Housing Rehab program and the $5,000 cap has been upped to $20,000.

Rome Community Development Director Bekki Fox told the Community Development committee that it may cut down on the number of homes that get assistance annually, but the change will be able to provide badly needed assistance to people who may not have been able to qualify previously.

The Community Development committee also heard about the almost overwhelming amount of construction activity taking place in the city, including plans for a new RaceTrac on Shorter Avenue and a new Chicken Salad Chick restaurant on Martha Berry Boulevard.

Fox said the increase in funding for the housing repair program will broaden the impact from putting a Band-Aid on a problem, to creating sustainable change for the homeowner.

"In order to continue we need to change," Fox said.

One of the big problems the program has faced involves a federal requirement that if repairs exceed $5,000, even by just $1, it kicks in a lead paint assessment requirement which eats up money.

The program has $105,000 budgeted from the 2018 CDBG grant and Fox hopes to up that to $155,000 for 2019.

Her report to the committee also showed that a Revolving Loan Fund has $364,000 in the bank, but federal requirements for potential borrowers have sent prospects elsewhere for assistance.

She said that if some of the funds aren't allocated quickly, as much as $200,000 may have to be returned to the state.

Gibson said civil drawings for the new RaceTrac on Shorter Avenue across from Winslette Pharmacy as well as the Chicken Salad Chick, which will be just north of the Bojangles on Martha Berry Boulevard, are each being reviewed by the city engineering department at this time.

Gibson also told the committee that 68 homes were demolished by homeowners in Rome last year as the result of code enforcement action by his office.

Still others are in the environmental court process to get formal condemnation and may be demolished with funds that are in the CDBG budget.

Gibson also confirmed site work on John Davenport Drive will pave the way for a new home for the Builders Hardware shop which is now on Shorter Avenue.