Heated moment at south Huntsville meeting on public housing

By Jeanie Powell - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF)  Talks got heated at a south Huntsville meeting over public housing and our cameras caught it on tape.

It happened as elected officials spoke to the crowd.

The meeting took place Monday night inside the Grissom High School auditorium, a day before the state legislature reconvenes for its 2010 regular session.

South Huntsville Civic Association leaders, who were behind the meeting, told WAFF 48 News the meeting most importantly focused on legislation Rep. Mike Ball and Senator Arthur Orr have drafted that would limit the power of housing authorities.

Most in the crowd were in favor of a more open policy, but another member felt a little differently.

It all goes back last year to the acquisition of Stone Manor Apartments in south Huntsville.

The topic is public housing authority's role in how it purchases property and it was once again front and center at the SHCA meeting Monday night.

"We've got a number of people here, elected officials most importantly, talking about Ball/Orr bill," Mark Drummer, 2nd Vice President of the South Huntsville Civic Association said.

He says the message his organization wants to get out is "that our elected officials have a say to what happens in Huntsville."

Various elected officials addressed the crowd.

Ball talked about the bill he'll introduce in the house that touches on three things:  the fact Huntsville Housing Authority doesn't need power of eminent domain, people in the surrounding area should be notified before the purchase of a property, and the housing authority should submit its annual plan to the city council and/or county commission for approval.

"It doesn't restrict them from them from doing anything," Ball said.  "All it says is do it out in the open."

Mayor Tommy Battle said he's talked many times with the HHA on where the city goes with public housing and his administration has been working tirelessly; he says he has to work with everyone and it never crossed his mind that this would be an issue when he entered office.

Battle updated everyone on the 16 homes as part of the neighborhood stabilization plan, housing that would run across the city of Huntsville as far south as Green Mountain Road.

The mayor also says he's working Huntsville Police's public information officer to pick up neighborhoods.

Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks said the proper role of government shouldn't be flipping houses.

As state Senator Paul Sanford took to the mic, things got more vocal, when a south Huntsville resident who lives near Stone Manor spoke out, saying the meeting was one sided.

"It's amazing how in the whole crowd we just have one disrupter,"  Sanford told the crowd.

Amy Simms, the upset and outnumbered member of the audience stood up and said, "I live near Stone Manor and there is no problem!"

Simms decided to leave the meeting and was met by applause for doing so, as an officer escorted her out of the auditorium.

Simms told WAFF 48 News she's seen no change since the new residents have moved in.  She feels Huntsville City Schools are too segregated and public housing would help solve this problem.

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