ABERDEEN, MISSISSIPPI MAYOR
Aberdeen, Mississippi- Now serving his second term as mayor of Aberdeen, Mississippi, Cecil Belle is brimming with ideas for his community.
The question is, with the state and federal governments claiming to be financially strapped will he be able to accomplish his many goals without outside help?
He and David Low, Aberdeen’s building inspector, have just returned from a conference that may have provided some of the answers the city needs on housing.
One of the nation’s oldest departments, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture which dates back to 1962) has housing money available if you live in a stand-alone community with a population of one person less than 50,000, and the city is not the suburb of a much larger place.
These are said to be 100% loans with no money down for those who eligible. And apparently many people do qualify.
Expanding the city through more housing is high on Belle’s agenda. He even hopes to get a developer to create a major project of new homes.
Belle explains the city owns many empty lots including some consisting of several acres as well as several run-down houses that should qualify for USDA funding.
He believe the city can sell the lots and houses taken for non-payment of taxes (or donated to the city) for a very modest amount.
The USDA also makes low cost loans for home improvements. So an individual with basic carpentry skills should be able to find a true bargain.
When someone moves into a home they will begin to pay the city the normal ad valorem (property) taxes and so all the people of the city will benefit. Local plumbers and electricians and others with specialized skills would get work as well.
Instead of filing a lien on abandoned properties, past city administrations have carried the deteriorating houses on their list of unpaid taxes. The city also has the ability to forgive past debt so a new owner wouldn’t have to pay back taxes.
In Mississippi after two years the city can claim the property and do whatever it wants to do with it, including tearing down eyesores that reduce the value of other homes in the neighborhood.
Contractors were charging $4,000 or $5,000 to tear down these homes. A city crew with the right equipment can do it for $800, according to David Low, the building inspector.
“We can clean up the blight, give people better places to live, and return the properties to the tax roles,” Low explained.
Tina Robbins, another staff member, who is highly regarded by Belle, not only devotes her time to running the Aberdeen visitor center, she also focuses on helping retired people find a place to live and sees that they know all they need to know about her city, such as recreational activities – including boating and fishing – volunteering, use of the city’s outstanding library, and their individual medical issues.
Belle, a successful businessman, is the first African American to be elected mayor. He grew up in Aberdeen. He has family ties to the city that date back more than 100 years.