Macon City Council unanimously approved leasing the historic Terminal Station to Macon Transit Authority for 15 years, but failed by one vote to allow the transit authority to buy the building at the end of the lease.
This was amended in committee yesterday to remove a purchase option for the transit authority at the conclusion of this lease, Councilman Tom Ellington said Tuesday night.
The original plan was for the transit authority to lease and operate the building for 40 years, its estimated useful life without extensive renovation. Council objected to that lengthy obligation and the deal stalled in committee.
A revised contract cut the lease term to 15 years, but would have given the transit authority an option to buy Terminal Station for $1 at the end of that time.
The rationale for a long lease or purchase option is to encourage the Federal Transit Administration, which heavily subsidizes the transit authority, to fund future building improvements. Council members were told that without long-term control by the transit authority, FTA would be unlikely to put its money into such projects, Ellington said. That would defeat the purpose of the lease, which is to save city money by putting responsibility for any operating shortfall partly in federal hands, he said.
On Monday night, Mayor Robert Reichert said he hoped council would add the purchase option back into the lease.
But Councilman Lonnie Miley objected, saying the city put millions of dollars into the building already and shouldnt essentially give it away. Macon has only another year or so of existence before a unified city-county government takes over, so there should be no great cost even if there is an operating shortfall, he said.
However this Terminal Station sits down there for 13 months is not going to make or break the city, Miley said.
Councilman Henry Gibson joined in, suspicious that information about the FTAs likely reaction has come to council second- or thirdhand.
Council members voting to reinstate the purchase option were Lauren Benedict, Ed DeFore, Tom Ellington, Rick Hutto, Beverly K. Olson, Larry Schlesinger and Nancy White.
Council members Henry Ficklin, Henry Gibson, Charles Jones, Elaine Lucas, Lonnie Miley, Frank Tompkins, James Timley and Virgil Watkins voted against it.
A new liability-splitting agreement between Macon, Bibb County and the Macon-Bibb County Workforce Investment Board Inc. narrowly made it through the Community Resources & Development Committee on Tuesday afternoon, but didnt make the full council agenda that night.
Argument continued over the citys severely limited control of Workforce programs, with Hutto, Jones and Lucas doubting that the agreement actually gave the city any more protection against being asked for reimbursement of federal funds if theyre ever misspent by Workforce or its subcontractors.
It just seems to me that the same concerns we had are still there, Lucas said, repeating her long-standing criticism that Workforce is shifting its emphasis to higher-tech career placement and training instead of running entry-level summer job programs for hundreds of teenagers.
Assistant City Attorney Stuart Morelli said state and federal rules require the city to serve as fiscal agent for about $1.3 million in federal funding that Workforce gets every year, but sharply limit the control city officials can exercise over how Workforce uses the money.
Jones pressed for an answer on whether Bibb County had been asked to endorse the deal.
Has the county agreed to this? Not the chairman, not the lawyer; has the board of commissioners voted on this like youre asking us to do? he asked Morelli.
Morelli said he has a document signed last summer by Reichert and Commission Chairman Sam Hart to split liability, but that the county commission has not voted on the new intergovernmental agreement.
Hutto said hes spoken to three of the five commissioners, who told him they hadnt been asked to approve it.
He argued that Workforce could still refuse to pay the city for insurance and administrative costs, with little city recourse, and that the city would still be responsible for shouldering the bulk of liability for any unauthorized Workforce spending.
The agreement passed committee 3-2, supported by Benedict, Olson and Schlesinger. Lucas and Jones were opposed. The resolution is likely to come before full council Feb. 5.
To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.