A plan to allow tailgaters to have open alcoholic-beverage containers in downtown Macon when Mercer University plays home football games has been tabled by a City Council committee. Some council members want Mercer to pay for the security and cleanup costs expected from tailgating events, as organizations such as Bragg Jam and the Cherry Blossom Festival do when using city streets.
The Public Safety Committee voted 4-1 to table the ordinance, with Councilwoman Nancy White opposed, in hopes of having talks with Mercer about paying for cleanup.
Mayor Robert Reichert proposed allowing open containers -- plastic cups or aluminum cans, but no glass bottles -- from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on the eight Saturdays this fall that Mercer will host football games.
Were very excited to have football back in Macon at Mercer, said Keith Moffett, assistant to the citys chief administrative officer. Main Street Macon plans to host tailgating activities next to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, promoting downtown to the thousands of alumni expected to visit Macon for Mercer games, he said.
The proposed district includes Stadium Drive leading to the football stadium -- the only city-controlled street on Mercers campus, according to Assistant City Attorney Stuart Morelli -- and an area bounded by Ash, Fifth, Walnut and College streets, plus Tattnall Square Park next to the campus.
People could park downtown for free, do some tailgating and then catch shuttle buses from two downtown locations to the game, said Mechel McKinley, Main Street Macon director.
Answering Committee Chairman Virgil Watkins, Moffett said Mercer will allow alcohol in some on-campus areas as well, but thats a total Mercer decision.
Watkins, councilmen Henry Gibson and Rick Hutto, and Council President James Timley all said there are sure to be big cleanup and policing costs from downtown tailgating and open drinking, and urged that Mercer pay for Sunday overtime from city crews.
Moffett said Mercer didnt ask for the parking access and tailgating permission. The administration saw this as a chance to promote downtown and get more business for restaurants and other establishments, since thousands of people will be coming anyway, he said. Bragg Jam, Cherry Blossom Festival and other events actually use city streets, and take out event permits for that, which require payment of cleanup costs, Moffett said.
Councilwoman Nancy White said revenue from the increased business might well offset the cleanup cost, and that could be monitored. Even so, other council members reiterated that Mercer should bear the expense of cleaning up for its tailgaters.
Shortly afterward, a resolution allowing Bragg Jam patrons to carry open alcoholic-beverage containers downtown from 5 p.m.-midnight during the July 27 music festival passed the committee unanimously.
This is just the annual Bragg Jam resolution that we approve every year that enables the event to take place as desired, said Councilman Larry Schlesinger, the sponsor.
That resolution includes the stipulation that Bragg Jam will pay for security and cleanup.
Councilman Rick Hutto asked to add a stipulation that the cleanup occur Sunday, despite overtime costs. Last year much of the cleanup from the Saturday festival took place during regular work hours Monday, leaving the streets really trashed, he said.
That change was accepted, but Moffett said this year Bragg Jam organizers already intend to begin cleanup at 3 a.m. Sunday. The resolution will be up for a full council vote Tuesday.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.