County Administrator, Commissioner Respond To Century Mayor’s Housing Assistance Allegations

August 10, 2018

An Escambia County Commissioner and the county administrator are responding after Century Mayor Henry Hawkins raised allegations that a former candidate for mayor improperly received a replacement house after an EF-3 tornado in 2016.

Felic Fussner went through the application process and was approved by Escambia County for housing assistance. But Hawkins claimed Fussner was “jerking people around the chain” and never lived in Century, as reported Thursday by NorthEscambia.com [read here...].

“I take any mention of impropriety or unfair treatment by Escambia County very seriously, whether from a citizen or another elected official. If the Mayor and the Town Council will take the time to read the…memo outlining the entire process, and more specifically Mr. Fussner’s application, then I believe they will determine that the process was both fair and equitable,” Escambia County Commissioner Steven Barry said Thursday.

After the NorthEscambia.com article and a phone call from Hawkins, Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown wrote a three-page letter to Hawkins detailing the housing program, the application process and refuting the mayor’s claims.

Escambia County accepted applications for state housing assistance funding administered by the county, according to Brown. The application phone number was published on NorthEscambia.com, in the Tri-City Ledger and the Pensacola News Journal, the county website and included in a county press release. The county also provided resource information hang tags which were put on residential doors in the town and placed at the Century Town Hall. County staff took applications at town hall on several occasions (pictured below) during an application process than continued from April 4, 2016, until December 31, 2016. NorthEscambia.com published over a dozen articleawith information about the application process.

(article continues below photo)

The county Neighborhood Enterprise Division handled and reviewed all applications for disaster repair and replacement housing. Applicants were pre-screened on the phone, including income eligibility and property ownership information.

“Those who met pre-screening requirements were instructed to provide further information for staff to review and determine program eligibility. Our staff reviewed the property to determine the feasibility of the home for repair or replacement depending on the damage to the home,” Brown wrote.

The requirements stated that “applicants must be owner occupants with homestead exemption…” As part of the application process, the county looked closely at all the eligibility requirements before approving an applicant for assistance.

Fussner’s home was identified during a tornado damage assessment as having “major” damage, and a structural engineer found the home was “unsafe and dangerous” and suffered “significant structural damage to virtually every part of the home,” including separation of the home from its utilities. County staff also inspected the home on June 2, 2016.

“In the case of Mr. Fussner, he called into the phone line the County set up on April 4, 2016. County staff returned his call and took a preliminary application over the phone. County staff took Mr. Fussner’s application in person on May 10, 2016, where he provided the backup requested for his application. Staff independently reviewed the documentation via third party verifications of income, title search information, and review of the property ownership information. Regarding property ownership verification, the title search shows that Mr. Fussner received the home via special warranty deed on December 28, 2007. Mr. Fussner had homestead exemption on the property at 402 Front Street at the time of application as documented by staff. Mr. Fussner was approved for the program in on July 14, 2016,” the memo states.

After Hawkins raised his concerns this week, the county reached out to the property appraiser’s office for further review. They found:

“Mr. Fussner had homestead exemption in 2008 and 2009, but it was dropped until he reapplied for homestead exemption on the property in January 2015. Homestead exemption status is one resource our office uses to verify owner occupancy as the property owner has to demonstrate proof of residency to the property appraiser’s office. Additionally, the driver’s license for Mr. Fussner showed 402 Front Street as his residence. Utility bills were provided by Mr. Fussner at the time of application that show that he had water, sewer, and garbage service on the home prior to the tornado. Income verification documents in the file show the mailing address for Mr. Fussner as 402 Front Street. Staff has no reason to doubt the veracity of Mr. Fussner’s occupancy of the home at the time of the tornado and has performed the usual due diligence to verify his eligibility for the SHIP program.”

Under the program, the county provided replacement assistance for 13 homes within Century town limits, along with repair assistance for four homes. Demolition assistance was provided for four structures. The county also provided funding to Legal Services of North Florida specifically to assist with property titles, which was an issue for many residents in the area.

Pictured top and bottom: A tornado damaged house belonging to Felic Fussner on Front Street in Century. The top photo was taken less than 24 hours after the tornado. Pictured middle: Escambia County Neighborhood Enterprise Division Manager Meredith Reeves takes housing assistance applications from unnamed residents at Century Town Hall on March 4, 2016. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Comments

13 Responses to “County Administrator, Commissioner Respond To Century Mayor’s Housing Assistance Allegations”

  1. Well on August 10th, 2018 10:57 pm

    @concerned citizen
    You prefer to be ignored and treated as an idiot to being treated like a red headed stepchild.

    Well difficult choice either way I suppose.

  2. Bryan on August 10th, 2018 4:56 pm

    Well, i guess that’s what you get when only 333 people vote. If you can vote and didn’t, you can only blame yourself. There are 1,100 registered voters, only 333 voted. Can’t win a battle you don’t show up for.

  3. tg on August 10th, 2018 2:11 pm

    Robert Muller has been asked to investigate this as soon as he gets through with the Russia Collusion case.

  4. Michelle D. on August 10th, 2018 1:17 pm

    Maybe, since he is being so accusatory, and it seems the accusations are unfounded, he needs to step up and resign. He is not being the Mayor residents voted for.

  5. Curious on August 10th, 2018 11:16 am

    Why has Hawkins not committed?

  6. Jjohnson on August 10th, 2018 10:08 am

    Mayor Hawkins needs to have a Fresh Cup of Shut the Hell up and a slice of Humble Pie .

  7. bowhunter on August 10th, 2018 9:26 am

    @ DAVID S YOUR 100% CORRECT ABOUT THE ARTICLE – HAWKINS HAS POKE THE WRONG BEAR AS MUCH AS ESC. CO. HELP’S THE PEOPLE OF CENTURY

  8. Concerned Citizen on August 10th, 2018 9:10 am

    We do not in no way want to go back under county control!! We have been there, done that and were treated like red headed step children. The south end of the county was forever getting all it needed while we in the north end received nothing! I agree that there is a lot of problems with our town government that need to be fixed, but we do not want the county butting in! I have lived in Century for nearly seventy years and I know how neglected we were with county supervision! I am all for a Special Council investigation to clean house in the City Hall to weed out rogue politicians, but we still need our own governing body!

  9. Dave S on August 10th, 2018 7:30 am

    Excellent reporting. It’s refreshing to read a well researched article. No slander, just facts. Nice job!

  10. Merry on August 10th, 2018 7:24 am

    @mel Yes, the program requires property insurance and for property taxes to be paid

  11. Bob C. on August 10th, 2018 7:08 am

    Century Mayor Henry Hawkins appears to be trying to divert attention from being focused on himself and the other leaders of Century for their poor actions on the part of the People they have sworn to Serve.
    Mr. Hawkins, Council, it’s time to Stand Up and Do what’s Right….You are to Serve the People not a select group or just your own special interests.
    Special Council Investigation needed.

  12. mel on August 10th, 2018 5:42 am

    just curious if the free house requires the owner to have insurance and pay taxes on it ? my homeowners insurance would have replaced my home .

  13. Century Resident on August 10th, 2018 1:25 am

    Thank you to Commissioner Barry and Administrator Brown and others. Now If the town leaders or would ask how to do this I think we will all be better off. see if it comes from the council first..

    165.051 Dissolution procedures.—
    (1) The charter of any existing municipality may be revoked and the municipal corporation dissolved by either:
    (a) A special act of the Legislature; or
    (b) An ordinance of the governing body of the municipality, approved by a vote of the qualified voters.
    (2) If a vote of the qualified voters is required, the governing body of the municipality or, if the municipal governing body does not act within 30 days, the governing body of the county or counties in which the municipality is located, shall set the date of the election, which shall be the next regularly scheduled election or a special election held prior to such election, if approved by a majority of the members of the governing body of each governmental unit affected, but no sooner than 30 days after passage of the ordinance. Notice of the election shall be published at least once each week for 2 consecutive weeks prior to the election in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality.





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