By Joel Hall
For 17 years (since 1993), the deed to the Clayton County Head Start program's South Avenue headquarters has belonged to the county.
But that has changed. The property will be placed into the hands of the Clayton County Community Services Authority (CSA), which has operated the Head Start program since it's inception.
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously, Tuesday, to transfer the county's interest in the property at 667 South Avenue in Forest Park to the CSA, which administers assistance programs to Clayton, Henry and Fayette counties. Since 1965, the CSA has operated Clayton County Head Start, which provides preschool and daycare services to low-income families.
CSA Executive Director Charles W. Grant said that prior to 1993, CSA operated Head Start at several locations, until the county helped them acquire the South Avenue location.
"Up until 1993, we were renting other properties that didn't belong to us, and we were trying to fix up other people's properties, which we couldn't afford," Grant said. "In 1993, the county did an ACCG (Association County Commissioners of Georgia) loan to purchase the property from the [Forest Park] Kiwanis [Club], which we were renting from at the time, with the understanding that we would pay the loan back."
Grant said that in 2004, the CSA paid back the $450,000 loan from the county. Following the repayment of the loan, the building was kept in the county's possession to defray maintenance costs, he said.
However, according to Clayton County Chief Staff Attorney Michael Smith, the CSA provided the county with a letter on June 14 stating that it wished to exercise it's right to take ownership of the building. The transaction was completed on Tuesday night, he said.
Grant said CSA is now in a better position to own the building, which houses Head Start's administrative staff and serves nearly 60 percent of the programs 352 students. He said having ownership of the building will make the Head Start program more competitive when applying for grants, which are vital for its continued operation.
"One of the goals is to be able to serve the children of low-to-moderate-income families," Grant said. "We might not be able to get the funds we need, if we are not able to meet those goals. Part of that is having a building to serve them [the children]. It [ownership of the building] gives us a chance to expand our programs, [and] it gives us some assurity that we have somewhere that we can operate."
Grant said there are no plans to expand Head Start at this time, but that having ownership of the building gives the program the leeway to expand, should the need arise. He said owning the building demonstrates to others, who may invest in Head Start, that CSA is a "good steward of finance."
"There are services that weren't available at one time," he said. "The community [now] knows that we are here to serve the community."