The task force committees working on merging Macon and Bibb County government heard from consultants Thursday that theyll have to choose carefully in setting up a pension system for newly-hired employees, to keep them from being more expensive than current plans.
Current plans are likely to be closed to new hires but remain in place for todays city and county employees, according to officials previous statements.
The consolidation task forces Human Resources Committee heard a report about pensions from Ed Koebel of Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting, but the committee took no action.
He only included a soft freeze in his presentation: not allowing new hires to come into existing city and county pension systems while letting employees already in those systems to continue accruing higher benefits. However, committee member Bill Underwood, who is Mercer Universitys president, said he would like to see the financial breakdown of a hard freeze -- limiting existing employees to the amount theyve accrued in current plans by the time the new government starts, but also enrolling them in a new pension system as well for any additional years they work.
Police Lt. Andra Grinstead, chairwoman of the pension board for firefighters and city police, immediately objected to that idea from her seat in the audience; and Koebel said a hard-freeze proposal would result in negative press and possible lawsuits.
Sheriff David Davis agreed that a hard freeze would be a very hard sell. But he noted that even so, workers wouldnt lose any benefits they have already accrued and would be under a new system for earning any more.
Though an initial recommendation was to move Macons Municipal Court into the courthouse when Juvenile Court moves out, other courts need the former Juvenile Court space to expand their own staff, State Court Judge Bill Adams told the task forces Human Resources and Facilities committees.
We withdraw our recommendation that Municipal Court go into the courthouse, he said. Even so, Municipal Court should remain in existence to handle minor traffic offenses and ordinance violations -- and the solicitors office should take over prosecutorial duties there, Adams said. One of Macons current city attorneys would be transferred to the solicitors office for that purpose.
Adams said local courts soon should come up with a new recommendation of how to rearrange court offices.
Architect Bob Brown of the Macon-based BTBB firm went through the various complications of deciding where to put city and county offices. The task force previously agreed that City Hall will be the main seat of the consolidated government. Brown has analyzed space in City Hall itself, the nearby City Hall Annex, the Bibb County Courthouse and county offices in part of the Grand Opera House.
Bibb County Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson said it would be a huge mistake not to include law enforcement needs and the possibility of using many other buildings the city and county already own.
Facilities Committee Chairman Leonard Bevill agreed and asked Brown to come up with a price for expanding his analysis.
When Macons sworn police officers transfer to the sheriffs office, they probably would automatically come under civil-service protections, members of the Laws Committee agreed. Even so, they endorsed a clarification of that, asking state legislators to make it explicitly clear.
When deputies are hired, theyre first considered by the Civil Service Board, Davis said. He sought to reassure city police they wont have to go through that process but will be considered deputies from the moment the new government begins.
To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.