The decision to reduce state funding for the upkeep of the vacant Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital is good news for Rome, according to a local lawmaker.
State Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, said a sale is more likely now that her appropriations subcommittee zeroed out the budget line. The move came out of talks, she said, among legislators, the governor, the State Properties Commission and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.
“It’s very important we figure out a way to expedite the sale of this property,” she said before explaining that “When we’re not maintaining a property, it starts to lose value fast.”
The 132-acre state mental hospital off North Division Street closed in 2011 after a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that affected hundreds of patients and employees. The city of Rome tried to come up for a plan to reuse the site, but the amount of debt tied to the facility made every effort unfeasible.
Now there’s hope — in the form of Hope Village. Global Impact International CEO Jeff Mauer and his wife, Mary Margaret Mauer, unveiled a plan in May 2019 to turn the campus into hub for family and social services. Dempsey said that plan is still very much on track.
“We have a proven successful team that has already done so much for foster care through Restoration Rome,” she said. “They had access for 18 months to do due dilligence. They have been doing that, and they are very much interested.”
The nonprofit’s vision for the multi-million dollar Hope Village is a coalition of public, private and faith-based organizations offering supports to preserve and restore families in need.
The agencies — some existing and some new — will address a range of issues from substance abuse, mental health and teens aging out of the foster care system to poverty and homelessness.
Jeff Mauer told local leaders in December they’re on track to submit a proposal to the state by late summer or early fall.
Dempsey said the need to assist people on the path to health and stability will always exist and it’s been heightened by the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state can’t run institutions under the DOJ agreement, she said, but the budget decision was “a big step” toward putting that property back in play.
The next step is a new appraisal.
“It’s going to be done very quickly,” Dempsey said.
Over the past 16 months, the Mauers have brought community members together in subcommittees to work on various aspects of the village concept. Jeff Mauer has said funding will come from a variety of sources.