City consolidates two overlapping housing programs
by Hilary Butschek
June 22, 2014 04:00 AM | 2917 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin
Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin
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MARIETTA — The Marietta City Council voted last week to eliminate the only remaining city-run housing voucher program in the state, Mayor Steve Tumlin said.

The council voted 6-1, with Anthony Coleman opposed, to allow the Marietta Housing Authority to take over the city’s housing voucher program.

The Marietta Housing Authority was originally created by the mayor and City Council in 1938, but it is separate from the city.

Both of the programs accomplish the same thing with their vouchers. They offer financial assistance to low-income families, the elderly and the disabled with funds provided by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Tumlin said the federal government is urging consolidation of these programs when services are duplicated, so Marietta responded when it saw an overlap in services.

“We were running the same programs a couple blocks away from each other,” Tumlin said.

The housing authority’s program was already bigger than the city’s.

The city’s program received $4.5 million from the federal government in fiscal 2014 — from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014 — said Brian Binzer, the city’s director of development services. The Marietta Housing Authority received $15 million from the federal government during the same period, said Pete Waldrep, the Authority’s director.

The Marietta Housing Authority’s program is almost double the size of the city’s, so some say the consolidation might jeopardize some city employee’s jobs.

The city’s department was operated by seven employees, and the housing authority has 11. The authority is looking to hire two more people after its takeover. The takeover leaves five city employees without positions.

Coleman said he voted against the consolidation because he wanted to save employees’ jobs.

“I never got an understanding as to how we were going to take care of these employees,” Coleman said. “I would love to see the mayor and council do everything we can to help these employees get jobs.”

Waldrep said he hopes to see those five people find positions in other departments of the city.

“We will certainly look at the people the city of Marietta has on staff and give them an option to apply,” Waldrep said. “I imagine the city will look to see if there’s places they can absorb anybody that we might not feel can come with us.”

Because the city’s program was funded by the federal government, there is not a clear dollar amount it will save, Binzer said.

“Due to the uncertainty of federal funds, the city could realize savings from the transfer of the program,” Binzer said.

He said savings depend on decisions the federal government will make about how much money to give the city.

The uncertainty of saving money was another reason Coleman said he was against the consolidation.

“No one ever showed me a cost estimate of whether it was going to be an astronomical cost savings,” Coleman said.

Councilman Andy Morris said he thought the consolidation was necessary because of internal problems at the city’s department.

“There was a large supervision problem at the city’s program,” Morris said. “I’m looking in from the outside, and it seemed like there wasn’t any supervision.”

Problems came to light in April when two former employees of the city’s voucher program were charged with embezzling money from the voucher program after police say they were reactivating old customers’ accounts and accepting funds from the program.

The scandal pushed the process of consolidation along quickly, which had already been in the works for months.

“It showed that in the long term, going forward, the program is probably better in the hands of people that that’s all they do. With (the city), it was just another department,” Tumlin said.

Now, the housing authority’s 11 employees will take on the city’s customers.

“We’ve got three times as many (customers) as they have,” Waldrep said.

The mayor said the city and the housing authority have a close relationship, and he thinks this is a step toward savings.

“We cover the same geographic territory,” Tumlin said. “So, with more people (at the Marietta Housing Authority), you can have more training, more supervision. This will free up free time for us.”

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June 23, 2014
re: "Coleman said he voted against the consolidation because he wanted to save employees’ jobs."

Coleman just doesn't understand Taxpayer expectations. There is a clear opportunity to reduce Marietta's bureaucracy and Coleman does not want to maximize Taxpayer interests.

I think that he is PANDERING for votes from the Marietta bureaucracy!

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