After tabling the question two weeks earlier, Statesboro City Council on Dec. 20 unanimously approved a two-year extension of U.S. Rep. Rick Allen’s rent-free lease for a constituent services staff office inside City Hall.
On a motion from District 3 Councilwoman Venus Mack, seconded by District 4 Councilman John Riggs, council members voted 4-0 to renew the lease after being informed that the cities of Dublin and Vidalia also provide rent-free office space for Georgia’s 12th District member of Congress. District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum was absent due to illness.
All members had been present Dec. 6 when they voted 5-0 on a motion from District 2 Councilwoman Paulette Chavers, seconded by Mack, to table a decision on the lease renewal while seeking more information. The question initially posed by Chavers was why the office was provided for free. Boyum then reframed it as, “Is he getting free resources across the district?”
In fact, Allen receives the Dublin and Vidalia district office spaces for free but pays rent for a larger office suite in a privately owned complex in Augusta, as his Communications Director Michael Plummer told the Statesboro Herald in a phone call Dec. 6.
Allen’s office space in Dublin is within Dublin City Hall. The Vidalia office is in the Vidalia Community Center, which also houses the Toombs County Senior Center.
The rented Augusta location, which serves as Allen’s in-district headquarters, is in the Augusta Corporate Centre.
Olympia Gaines, assistant to the Statesboro city manager, contacted the Dublin and Vidalia city governments and confirmed that they do not charge a fee for use of the space, she indicated in a memo, also dated Dec. 6, provided to the mayor and council.
If any rent were involved, it would be a U.S. taxpayer expense paid through the Office of Finance at the U.S. House of Representatives, which is identified, for settlement of any disputes, in the terms of the new lease. Rent-free arrangements are common around the country, with members from both parties, when space is offered by local governments, Plummer explained in the Dec. 6 interview.
“It would make sense that governments would sort of pool their resources and help one another. …,” he said. “On top of other things, it would save taxpayer money, so those are resources that are better put to use serving the residents of the district.”
Plummer and Riggs had both noted that the Statesboro arrangement extended back to the tenure of previous 12th District Rep. John Barrow, a Democrat.
Allen, a Republican from Augusta, has represented Georgia’s 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives since Jan. 3, 2015. He was re-elected Nov. 8 for a fifth two-year term, now covered by the period of the renewed lease: Jan. 2, 2023 to Jan. 2, 2025.
The Statesboro District Office, across the City Hall lobby from the mayor’s office, is assigned to Allen’s regional representative, Austin Stacy, who maintains office hours here and conducts periodic “community office” sessions at various sites in smaller counties, which do not have district offices.
The Statesboro office phone number is (912) 243-9452, and contact info for all of Allen’s office locations can be found on his website, https://allen.house.gov.