Council committee approves new Macon police car purchases

jgaines@macon.comMarch 4, 2013 

Macon City Council is moving toward spending more than $740,000 on 26 new police cars and associated equipment.

The council’s Appropriations Committee voted 5-0 Monday to buy the cars, lights and other items, after hearing from Sheriff David Davis that he approved of the purchase. Committee members noted that the new cars, like other Macon Police Department equipment and all personnel, will transfer to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office in about 10 months when city and county governments consolidate.

One resolution proposes buying 21 V-6 Dodge Chargers for $479,220 and five V-8 Chargers for $116,190, all from Five Star Chrysler Dodge. The second resolution called for spending $145,409.84 with West Chatham Warning Devices Inc. to equip the cars.

Councilman Henry Ficklin said he didn’t want to vote on the purchases until hearing Davis’ opinion, since the cars will soon be used by the sheriff’s office. In a few minutes Davis himself arrived to endorse the purchase.

“These are going to be comparable to what we’d be getting anyway,” Davis said.

The resolutions are expected to get a final vote at the full City Council meeting Tuesday night.

Garbage franchise fees

An ordinance sponsored by Council President James Timley would require all private garbage haulers to pay a $300 annual franchise fee to work in Macon. It got 5-0 committee approval, also heading for full council.

Timley said privately owned waste trucks cause heavy wear on city streets and other facilities and should pay extra. Ficklin agreed.

“Not only do they use our streets, but the type of vehicles used for this hauling, they really contaminate our air. And that’s why we have one of the highest ozone levels around,” Ficklin said.

Interstate vandalism

The city’s Central Services Department seeks to spend $12,100 on repairing vandalism to lights on Interstate 75. The damaged area is just north of I-75’s juncture with Interstate 16, committee Chairman Tom Ellington said. Timley wondered why the city was responsible for the repairs, so Assistant City Attorney Stuart Morelli read off the contract under which the city takes all responsibility for maintenance and repairs, as well as paying the power bill. The ordinance passed 5-0.

Rose Hill Cemetery work

A resolution to spend $43,500 on renovating the Rose Hill Cemetery gatehouse also passed, after questions from Ficklin and Councilman Rick Hutto about whether it or the also-crumbling cemetery wall should take priority.

The wall work will probably cost $220,000, Public Works Director Richard Powell said. Amanda Deaton, assistant chief administrative officer for budget and planning, said the gatehouse roof is deteriorating, which may endanger anyone working in the building.

The proposal to hire Ogles Construction for the work passed 4-1, with opposition from Councilman Virgil Watkins.

He doesn’t object to the work, but rather to the procurement process, he said. Watkins’ concern is the lack of bids from minority- and women-owned businesses. The council has urged greater efforts to find such firms for city contracts, but the administration consistently presents just a few bids from a few frequent bidders, he said.

“I’ve been going round and round with the administration on this,” Watkins said.

Taser proposal

It didn’t make the committee agenda for a vote Monday, but Ellington let Councilman Henry Gibson talk about his proposed resolution to speed up police purchase of Tasers.

City police answer about twice as many calls per year as Bibb sheriff’s deputies, Gibson said, and most of the street-level officers are under age 30.

With less experience than senior officers, those privates and sergeants should have Tasers as a nonlethal option, he said.

Police Chief Mike Burns has said 60 Tasers have been ordered, with plans to equip all officers in five years. But Gibson wants that accelerated.

Right now only the 17 members of the SWAT team carry Tasers. Gibson said they should really be in the hands of first responders.

Ellington said he expects Gibson’s resolution to be formally discussed in two weeks. By then council members should know where money for Tasers might be found. By then they should also know Davis’ opinion since city officers will soon work for him.

Councilman Virgil Watkins has referred to an e-mail received by the Public Safety Committee, of which he is the chairman, putting the cost of buying Tasers and training officers at about $400,000.

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