Harlem officials were confident they would get into the exclusive club of 52.
On Monday, five cities were allowed past the red velvet ropes.
Harlem wasn't one of them.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs announced that Camilla, Cornelia, Gordon, Hampton and Pelham were accepted into the Better Hometown Program. It was the second consecutive year Harlem has been turned down.
"We are very disappointed that we didn't get in," Mayor John Bentley said. "All we can do is try again next year."
Program Coordinator Alan Dickerson listed five reasons Harlem was rejected by the review panel.
The reason that most upset Bentley was the first. According to Dickerson, the panel said Harlem appeared to be waiting instead of preparing to be accepted.
The panel said it could find no effort to organize and no vision for downtown.
"We don't necessarily agree with what they said," Bentley said. "Better Hometown is supposed to help you move forward. This is reading like they want us to have everything in place."
The panel also cited a lack of evidence of local support and uncertainty over whether money raised for the program is pledged or received.
"The concerns are somewhat minor," Dickerson said. "But in competitive round, a minor concern is all it takes to knock you out of the top five."
Bentley said the city had begun to prepare by budgeting a part-time employee to handle the program. Having someone on-site is required for acceptance. That person was also going to serve as curator of the Oliver Hardy Museum. The selection panel, Bentley said, expected that person to be in place before being accepted.
"Why have someone already on board if you aren't part of the program?" Bentley said.
The Better Hometown program assists small Georgia cities - with populations of 10,000 or fewer - in improving their quality of life by helping them to develop a vision and implement it. Twenty-one applications were submitted this year.
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