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Bids for Rockdale NSP grant firm open

CONYERS - Proposal review began Monday for an asset management firm to run Rockdale County's $2.7 million federally funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

However, questions over the parameters county staff will use to select a firm to recommend to the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners remain.

Chief of Staff R.J. Hadley told commissioners during a BOC work session Monday there were about 75 bids received for the program, which were to be accepted through Monday. Hadley said he, county Grant Administrator Alice Cintron and two Department of Finance employees will form the review panel to select the top proposals for the job.

The grant was awarded in March and is part of the federal economic stimulus efforts through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered by Georgia's Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

Rockdale County is seeking one or more firms to identify and acquire foreclosed or abandoned houses, rehabilitate them and develop and implement a process that leads to lasting home ownership, according to the county's advertisement for proposals.

The county's goal is to select 20 houses to purchase, repair and then find families to move in. Commissioners JaNice Van Ness and Oz Nesbitt expressed concern over the selection process during Monday's work session. Van Ness said she wondered why there was no pre-bid meeting for prospective firms as had been done with other county contracts. She also asked Hadley how each firm was being considered.

"It's like you're comparing apples, oranges, grapes and cherries and not really having a process in place to determine who can do what," she said.Van Ness said she has heard a lot of questions about the NSP process from residents and firms submitting proposals, concerns she said showed that most are unclear how the grant is supposed to work.

Nesbitt agreed. He said he believed there were "so many things open to interpretation" the way the process was currently set up.

Hadley told the commissioners he was working with the county's finance department to develop a scoring system to be used in the review process. He said the review process could continue through this week and he plans to have a recommendation ready for the BOC's June 23 meeting.

Hadley admitted the selection process was unusual in comparison to past county contracts, but the aggressive timeline is in accordance with federal and state guidelines."It's a tough balancing act to work with the strings put on this money to satisfy HUD and DCA," Hadley said.

In response to questions over cost, Hadley said there was no way to put a price per house rehabilitated, but the NSP had a fixed budget and a stated goal that any firm hired must meet.

Nesbitt suggested delaying the process to allow more time to respond to concerns, and Van Ness suggested adding two citizens to the review panel.Hadley said though the commissioners could decide these particulars, they run the risk of having funding taken away if the county does not show progress or have a plan in place by the end of the year.

Other communities have already moved forward with their NSP grants. Newton County has selected Fairview Estates as its target for $1.74 million in NSP funds. Elsewhere, the city of Atlanta has begun allotting $14 million to 15 construction firms to begin purchasing and rehabilitating foreclosed or abandoned houses, according to the city's Web site.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.