The county has decided to take the first steps in trying to get a handle on the blight problem that seems to be almost everywhere. The Bibb County Commission passed two items Tuesday -- a resolution authorizing a “blight” study and a resolution to figure out how to fund the remedies.
Unfortunately, systemic blight will not be solved by a couple of resolutions. The mayor and commission understand they are only part of the solution. And they understand the county has been losing this war on blight for decades. In fact, for all of the resources that have been thrown at the problem during the past four decades, it hasn’t been much of a battle. The present goal of demolishing 100 dilapidated homes per year is inadequate to affect the enemy’s advance. One of the interesting statistics to come out of the blight conference held last week is how insidious blight can become. If six houses in a neighborhood of 100 homes become blighted, it spells doom for the other 94 homes if nothing is done.
While a study is necessary (the Center for Collaborative Journalism is also working on a study), the funding aspect is a more important and difficult question to answer. Some commissioners have suggested a special purpose local option sales tax; others want a bond issue so work could begin sooner. While we won’t know exactly until the study is complete, it will take several SPLOST portions and bond issues to address blight throughout the county. And there are thousands of other questions that will need to be answered before that money can be put to good use. How will the county acquire the properties that need to be razed? There are a few options we will address in the coming weeks. How will the county prepare citizens for what could be seen as an extensive gentrification project? And what to do with the empty lots?
One thing is certain. It took decades for the blight issue to raise its ugly head, even though it had been operating in the shadows for decades, and it will take a long-term effort to erase it and put a mechanism in place -- if that’s possible -- to address the signs of early blight before it swallows other neighborhoods.