Macon City Council remained skeptical Tuesday of Mayor Robert Reicherts contention that all buildings in Central City Park should be handed over to Bibb County on July 1, but council members indicated they plan to take up the issue again within two weeks.
The council tabled an ordinance last week to change the city charter and allow handover of the park. The service delivery deal city and county signed last year stipulates that the park and all recreation-related buildings in it be turned over as part of a larger transfer of land, employees and responsibility from the city to the county.
The service delivery agreement says the transfer is to exclude buildings in Central City Park that arent used for recreational purposes. Tuesday, a dozen of the 15 council members heard Mayor Robert Reicherts justification for not exempting any buildings. Council members Henry Ficklin, Lonnie Miley and Nancy White were absent from the non-voting work session.
It is the mayors position that all buildings in Central City Park should be considered as recreational use, Internal Affairs Director Keith Moffett said.
If thats the case, Council President James Timley asked, why did the service delivery agreement include an exemption at all?
Reichert said at that point the administration hadnt decided whether some might be exempt. But upon examination, he decided it would be cleaner and easier for the county to take and maintain the whole package.
Answering Councilwoman Beverly K. Olson, Reichert said Luther Williams Stadium doesnt fall under that specific provision, but the stadium also is to go to the county under a different part of the agreement.
Moffett said if the city needs storage space in the park, the county has agreed to lease unused buildings there back for $1 per year.
Reichert asked the council to take up the ordinance at its next meeting. There was debate over how to get it back before a committee for discussion. Timley and Councilman Ed DeFore indicated that a special Public Properties Committee meeting could be held just before the regular April 3 council meeting.
Minority contracting push
Reichert touched off a long debate by suggesting he would veto an ordinance that makes it easier for women and minorities to get city contracts. He said he actually favors the goal, but he noted that a proposal by Councilman Frank Tompkins didnt include an effective date.
Im more than happy to put this in place and implement this, but its going to take some time, Reichert said. The policy would require hiring a couple more employees, and cost perhaps $100,000, which must be found somewhere, he said. Reichert wanted to veto it and ask the council to once again pass it with a specific implementation date -- after the July 1 start of the next fiscal year.
Im suggesting Sept. 1, he said.
That drew quick complaint from some council members, notably Councilwoman Elaine Lucas.
I cannot understand why there would ever be an administration that would have a problem with going ahead and accepting this kind of legislation, especially in light of the fact that this is long overdue -- and you know it, she said.
Lucas scoffed at Reicherts professed agreement with the ordinances intent, suggesting that he was acting at the behest of some entities in this community that get every single contract.
I just dont believe youre being sincere with us, she said.
Tompkins, the ordinances primary sponsor, delivered a long, prepared speech that boiled down to emphasizing how much he cared about the issue. He asked Reichert if it could be implemented by Aug. 1.
Reichert said the administration would make every effort to do so, preparing to hire the necessary compliance officer by July 1. Afterward, he said he probably would not veto the ordinance, but would leave it unsigned, thus giving himself a few extra days before it formally goes into effect.
CAO, finance reshuffle
Macon Finance Director Dale Walker is getting a semi-permanent promotion, according to a letter that Reichert gave council members Tuesday.
Since late September, Walker has been both finance director and interim chief administrative officer. As of April 1, however, he will serve exclusively as interim CAO, while Assistant Finance Director Megan McMahon will move up to the interim finance directors job.
Walker became city finance director in May 2011, but a few months later CAO Thomas Thomas left for another job, and Reichert appointed Walker to the CAO position as well.
Council members questioned whether it was possible, or even legal, for him to hold both jobs. For the past couple of months the administration has maintained that Walker would wear both hats indefinitely.
Reichert has said the city did search for a new CAO, but several promising prospects backed away after learning the job might only last a couple of years if the city and county consolidate.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.