The task force working on consolidation of Macon and Bibb County governments cant officially obligate the new government -- or current city and county governments -- on spending issues, but many of its moves would be so hard to undo that the effect is much the same.
Task force members acknowledged that Wednesday, even as they made recommendations that will probably set in motion millions of dollars in commitments.
The group, presided over by Mayor Robert Reichert in the absence of state Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon, and state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, endorsed buying a $1.3 million administrative software package from New World Systems. The existing governments will be asked to make the actual purchase. Bibb County most likely will foot much of the bill, since it budgeted for a large software purchase this year.
The software is expected to take another $432,000 to maintain over the new governments first five years.
And computer hardware to run it on probably will cost another $1 million, Macons interim Chief Administrative Officer Dale Walker said.
But both have to be in place before the new government takes over Jan. 1, so employees can be paid and basic finances handled, said Laura Mathis, deputy director for the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.
And thats just for basic administration, Walker said.
Public safetys another package, he said. Mathis said public safety gear and software will be much more expensive.
To unify city and county computer systems and Information Technology departments, the task force recommended hiring the regional commission. Deputy Director Brent Lanford and senior government services specialist Nick Kouloungis are expected to be in charge of that, working as neutral parties to merge very different systems and philosophies.
That wont cost anything beyond the dues the city and county already pay the regional commission, Mathis said.
Even if the city and county move quickly on the IT recommendations, it still will be a race to get all essential functions running by Jan. 1, task force members said.
The task force agreed that BB&T Insurance Services should be hired as a consultant to work out a benefit plan for government employees. Offering to serve for three years for $72,000 a year, BB&T beat out four other firms.
But paying for an actual insurance provider will have much larger financial implications, Mathis said.
Reichert said the recommendation is for BB&T to be hired by the current city and county, with an open enrollment period for employees in the fall.
The vote was unanimous except for the abstention of Pearlie Toliver, a BB&T vice president.
Councilman Tom Ellington noted that the Macon City Council recently passed his resolution asking that all current employees be allowed to stay in their current pension plans, not just those who already are vested.
More discussion is coming soon in task force committees, but the group briefly discussed whether re-branding the area with new government uniforms and logos should take place a bit at a time or all at once.
Sheriff David Davis wants to do it all at one time, Walker said, but the city cant afford to. Walker and county Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson agreed that it will cost well over $1 million, money which neither the city nor county has budgeted and which would be hard to find.
Whatever solution is cheapest is the one that I favor. Cosmetic stuff can wait, Ellington said.
Toliver said the task force should ask for a joint meeting with the Macon City Council and Bibb County Commission.
Were having to go to the city and county with some very, very big-ticket items, she said. While some city and county officials are on the task force, many are not; and theyll all be asked to endorse major expenditures, Toliver said.
They all need to be in the loop to hash out which body will pay which costs, she said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.