Bibb commissioners sworn in for one-year terms

pramati@macon.comJanuary 2, 2013 

Bibb County commissioners took their oaths of office for the final time Wednesday morning -- at least in the county government’s current form.

After Bibb County Superior Court Judge Phillip Brown administered the oaths to incumbent commissioners Sam Hart, Lonzy Edwards, Joe Allen and Bert Bivins, and newcomer Gary Bechtel, Hart noted the commissioners would have just one year in office. The county will consolidate with Macon and Payne City to form a new government in January 2014.

“I look forward to my one year in office as we move toward consolidation,” said Hart, the board’s chairman. “We need to keep the county running for a full year. We have that responsibility. And we are working to bring this government into a new government. We have that responsibility as well. ... We’ve got challenges ahead, but we have those people in place to meet those challenges.”

Bechtel, a former member of the Bibb County school system, said even though his term in office will be just 12 months, “it’s probably the most important year in the life of this county.”

Brown and the commissioners also took time to note the service of former Commissioner Elmo Richardson, whom Bechtel replaced. Richardson decided last year not to seek re-election.

Bivins said he didn’t really think about the fact it would be the last time he would be sworn in as a member of the five-member commission.

“That really didn’t enter my thoughts,” he said. “It felt pretty much the same as it always has.”

But Hart said the historic moment wasn’t lost on him when Brown swore him in.

In the past, Hart said, commissioners had four years to come up with plans to put into place. Now, they have just a year to carry out any plans.

Hart said executing the special purpose local option sales tax would be the commissioners’ most immediate responsibility. Commissioners were informed Wednesday that roughly $2.4 million in SPLOST funds were collected through the end of November. About $943,500 went to servicing county debt, while $753,750 went toward the city’s debt. The rest of the money collected -- about $653,000 for the county and $50,700 for the city -- will be spent on various SPLOST projects.

During Wednesday’s committee meetings, Sheriff David Davis told commissioners he is in the process of making changes to the structure of his staff.

Citing a new Georgia law that requires a chief deputy to become the interim sheriff should a current sheriff not be able to fulfill his duties, Davis said he is moving from having two chief deputies to just one.

Chief Deputy Russell Nelson will serve in that role, while Davis has named Maj. David Montford to the newly created chief of staff position. As Davis and Nelson work on consolidating with the Macon Police Department, Montford will oversee much of the day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s office, Davis said.

Commissioners also approved Wednesday the qualifying fees to run for office in the new consolidated government. It will cost $3,000 to run for mayor, which pays $100,000 annually; $450 to run for one of the nine commission seats, which pays $15,000 each; and $162 to run for chairman of the Macon Water Authority, which pays $5,400 a year.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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