Stone Mountain considers new round of COVID-19 residential relief

FILE PHOTO: The Stone Mountain City Council discussing offering additional money to help residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain City Council is considering opening up a new round of relief for residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city distributed $150,000 to 63 families to help with mortgage, rent and utility payments earlier this year. A second round of funding in the amount of $92,000 was discussed at a council work session on Tuesday.

The city is still awaiting receipt of some $2.4 million in pandemic relief funds as part of the American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in March, according to City Manager ChaQuias Miller-Thornton. This is an increase over the $1.9 million the city originally expected to get. Miller-Thornton recommended that the council hold a special called meeting to discuss how to allocate the funds, so the city is ready to distribute them once received.

“We want to make sure every possible need we have can be met with these funds,” she said.

The money has to be spent by the end of 2024.

Several council members voiced concerns about a plan to return to in-person meetings next month, citing the increasing number of COVID-19 infections due to the Delta variant.

“Are we setting ourselves up for a super-spreader event?” Councilmember Clint Monroe said.

The council will consider having a special called meeting to delay starting in-person meetings in light of the concerns. They originally planned to return to in-person meetings on Aug. 3. The meetings will continue to be livestreamed either way, according to Miller-Thornton.

The council voted unanimously to move forward with consideration of a blight tax on derelict properties in the city. The tax will help the city fund the restoration of such properties and encourage owners to maintain their properties, according to Miller-Thornton.

The Stone Mountain Police Department and the city are preparing to get more aggressive about nuisance properties, according to Sgt. Bob Hillis.

“The city manager and I met with the solicitor and we’ve decided to hardily move forward with bringing some of these properties before the court with nuisance abatement,” Hillis said. “We’ve got a few that are historic buildings that are falling apart and we can’t have that.”

They will make one last effort to give owners of an unspecified list of properties the opportunity to address the issues.

“This is something that we now are going to take very seriously and we intend to push forward really hard to get some of these properties taken care of,” Hillis said.

Kayla Johnson, the city’s new Downtown Development Authority director, reported that the DDA approved holding the Tunes by the Tracks concert series downtown on Fridays and Saturdays in September and October. The DDA also approved a contract for a Mardi Gras festival and parade in February. Johnson gave the council the contracts to review.

In a special called meeting before the work session, the council voted to approve paying $26,300 to a contractor to replace a pipe on Stonedraw Court.

“They have to dig up the whole pipe and replace it from end to end,” Parks and Recreation Director Jim Tavenner said.

The vote increased the existing contract for work at the site from $107,100 to $133,400.

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