After turning down fed money, Pitts proposes spending Fulton dollars

Fulton County commissioners (from left) Liz Hausmann, Bob Ellis and Robb Pitts, chairman of the Fulton County commission, voted to end the county’s administration of federal grants that provide for rehabilitation and infrastructure in poorer areas of the county. AJC FILE PHOTO

Fulton County commissioners (from left) Liz Hausmann, Bob Ellis and Robb Pitts, chairman of the Fulton County commission, voted to end the county’s administration of federal grants that provide for rehabilitation and infrastructure in poorer areas of the county. AJC FILE PHOTO

After turning away federal grant money, Fulton County commissioners could soon decide to spend county money to fill the gap.

For decades, Fulton has received money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that the county would disperse to cities — mostly on the Southside — that didn't have large enough populations to apply for the grants on their own. And for decades the county, like other municipalities, has had trouble distributing the money.

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said the federal dollars come with too many strings attached. For instance, he doesn’t want to make local governments ineligible for other social benefit programs because they took grant money.

READ | South Fulton drama a rude awakening after dream of new city

The county failed to spend more than $5 million over five years, causing HUD to threaten to suspend all 2020 awards in November. The county also had to spend nearly $1 million to repay two cities for projects it thought qualified for the federal grants, but were rejected.

Pitts wants Fulton to spend general fund money to cover the cities’ expected grant awards instead of dealing with grant dollars.

READ | East Point to waive fees related to traffic tickets, marijuana counts

East Point resident Nichole Sloan, one of the 117 people who signed up to speak at a commission meeting earlier this month, said the county should take the federal funds, which help residents with down-payment assistance, housing repairs and other infrastructure needs. She said people could be at risk because of the county’s actions.

“They need to learn how to manage funds,” said Sloan, a mental health counselor who works with people who receive the grant money.

But Pitts said it isn’t that easy.

“If we put Einstein in charge, there’d still be trouble because of the complexity,” Pitts told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

READ | After lawsuit, Fulton agrees to $1M sale of Wolf Creek to South Fulton

He said a relatively small number of applicants get the funds some years — like the one person in 2019 who got home repair money, or the 16 people who got down-payment assistance in 2016.

Each year, the county gets about $2.5 million, but it costs $1 million to manage and administer the funds, leaving $1.5 million for actual use. Pitts said he hopes this new local plan will remove any red tape.

Pitts said he is going to ask commissioners on Wednesday to approve spending $3.1 million of the existing $5 million in unspent HUD money. He said he wants to offer cities a quick path to getting the remaining $2 million. Pitts said he hopes the county can stop taking the federal funds by 2022.

Like North Fulton County News Now on Facebook | Follow on Twitter

In other Fulton news...