Atkinson Co. watchdog group sues over health clinic - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Atkinson Co. watchdog group sues over health clinic

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PEARSON, GA -

An Atkinson County county commissioner and his family donated land for the clinic, but critics say it's for his personal gain. They also say the public wasn't involved in the process.

A complaint filed by the Atkinson County Government Oversight group claims nearly $460,000 in Community Development Block Grant money was in place to expand and renovate the Health Department on Austin Avenue.

The group says months after Chairman Tommy Guthrie came into office he contacted the Southern Regional Commission to change the scope of the project to new construction.

"At Mr. Guthrie's request it was changed to build this new facility and we're in the 19 month of the project and nothing's been done and I'm afraid we're going to lose the money because they didn't comply with the law and follow the right procedures," said Shea Browning, the Atco-GO, Inc.

After a public hearing in October 2010, the county attorney says a motion was passed to use the money to build a new building instead of update the old one. The county isn't worried about losing the grant.

"We have several months," said Brenda Carver, the Atkinson County Attorney. "We can get the project completed in the time required."

The county says it's beneficial to have a brand new health facility on highway 82. Two acres were donated and Browning says that donation is a conflict of interest.

"An elected official is going to gain some type of benefit from this project and his property value will increase," said Browning. "He owns property that will be covered by sidewalks drainage sewage that will benefit future sale if he wants to sell it."

"If they property is bad as they claim it is, how is it going up in value?"questioned Carver. "We don't believe the property's that bad but there's no evidence the property's going up in value."

She says the land was donated by the chairman's family and he's not the only owner.

The complaint also argues that the commission didn't look at alternatives. The county attorney says other alternatives were looked at during the initial stages of the grant in 2008.

The Atco-Go group says the proposed sight is swampy but not considered a federal wetland.


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