A look at how Second Street could appear in the future may be coming to the block between Cherry and Poplar streets. Macon City Councils Appropriations Committee voted 3-0 Monday to authorize planning and bidding for a model block in that area. Committee members Elaine Lucas and Beverly K. Olson were absent.
The resolution also authorizes planning and bidding for rerouting part of Second to link with Little Richard Penniman Boulevard, a key part of Mayor Robert Reicherts plan to turn the joined streets into a landscaped, pedestrian-friendly corridor. Local voters approved putting $8 million into the project from the special purpose local option sales tax passed in November 2011.
The main thing we want to do is create jobs and promote investment, grow the tax base inside the city, said Walter Huntley, president of Huntley Partners, one of the consultants hired by the city to plan the Second Street project.
That will be done by connecting the major economic drivers -- two hospitals, downtown and Mercer University -- and several developers have already said theyre just waiting for this transformation to take place before investing, Huntley said.
Rick Padgett, senior partner at Huntley Partners, said their estimates say the corridor could draw $150 million in private investment within five years and $800 million in a decade, dozens of new businesses, expansion of The Medical Center of Central Georgia, 3,000 construction jobs and 5,200 permanent jobs.
By 2015 the city -- or, rather, the consolidated Macon-Bibb County government -- should be able to issue $16 million in bonds to build infrastructure for that investment, he said. Every four years after that could see another $40 million in bond issues, to be repaid by future higher tax revenues from within the designated development district along Second Street, Padgett said.
Bill Solomon, senior vice president of Mercer, said the universitys new athletic facilities should draw thousands of people a year to the Second Street area.
Councilman Henry Ficklin objected to the way the resolution was written, authorizing construction contracts as a lump sum deal.
I support the program, but I dont support the process, he said.
Chairman Tom Ellington noted that the resolution would give Reichert power to approve contracts for the work himself, without getting them individually approved by council. The resolution was amended to maintain councils oversight on those contracts.
Council President James Timley, present though not a committee member, scoffed at consultants estimates for new development in the area.
I call it a corridor to nowhere, he said. But all three committee members present voted for it, making the resolution likely to get a full council vote Tuesday night.
A request to spend $374,700 of SPLOST funds and a related reallocation of $712,900 on renovations to the City Auditorium and Macon Coliseum foundered on the news that the administration hadnt told council about spending nearly $70,000 on stopping mold in the coliseum.
The $374,700 is for waterproofing the auditorium. Councilman Rick Hutto said hed recently been in the building and seen work already going on, such as removal of large sections of stucco.
That was for mold remediation work, begun some time back on an emergency basis, said Randy Urben, director of property operations at the auditorium and coliseum.
The building at that point was uninhabitable, Urben said.
Council members asked when the work started, and why they hadnt been told about it.
The mold problem was noticed in August, and work began in September, Urben said. Answering Ficklin, he said it cost less than $70,000.
Interim Chief Administrative Officer Dale Walker took the blame for not telling council about the work and spending, but Ficklin said he wouldnt vote for any related item before he got estimates on the mold remediation.
Since only three committee members were present, one negative vote would make an item fail; so both the waterproofing and renovation items were postponed for two weeks.
Councilman Henry Gibson continued his pressure to get all front-line Macon police officers equipped with Tasers, winning 3-0 committee approval on his resolution to do so.
City police already have 60 Tasers on order for this year, but Gibson wants two or three times as many, and he wants them to go to street-level officers, not higher-ups who rarely respond to calls.
Ellington noted that when Macon police merge with the Bibb County Sheriffs Office in January 2014, city officers will carry Tasers anyway, as deputies already do.
Its a question of when rather than if, Ellington said.
Gibson, however, said he wants city officers equipped and trained as soon as possible. Each day of delay allows for a potentially lethal incident that Taser use might prevent, he said.
Ellington wondered whether the SPLOST money designated for law enforcement needs could be used for Taser purchase, while Councilman Virgil Watkins suggested buying them through the Georgia Municipal Association lease pool.
Both methods would keep the cost out of the citys already tight budget for this year.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.