Warner Robins RDA working towards beautification; final cost of LEC $9.95 million

chwright@macon.comAugust 12, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Things have slowed down for the Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency since the law enforcement center project wrapped up this summer, but Executive Director Gary Lee says focus has shifted to initiatives that take time to organize.

“This is a lot of paperwork that we kind of have to do to get everything in place,” Lee said. “A lot of places don’t do this.”

The agency’s board on Monday discussed updates to tax allocation districts, a federal beautification grant for Watson Boulevard and improvements to Commercial Circle.

The Commercial Circle work is the closest to becoming reality.

Walter Gray, the city engineer, told the board the plans for Commercial Circle have been finalized, bids for the work will open in the next month and construction needs to be scheduled.

The project began years ago as a venture to improve storm drainage. But officials decided while improvements in the area were being done, they would add better lighting, wider sidewalks and new landscaping.

While the project is needed, Lee said it’s also vital that the city think beyond what’s needed immediately. He told the board that parking is among the needed improvements to make Commercial Circle functional.

“Right now, I got people that want to come in there, but I can’t bring them in that,” Lee said.

The board and Lee agreed a study that the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government is conducting will help prioritize the necessities for Commercial Circle and the rest of the area.

The hope is that the tax allocation district will help pay for some of the redevelopment in the area. The district would allow the city to use a portion of property taxes to pay for projects within it.

Lee said the Middle Georgia Regional Commission is setting up meetings with the school board and county commissioners to present details about the tax allocation districts.

A TAD creation fell through last year after the school board declined to embrace the idea, because they didn’t receive a presentation until December.

Lee also told the board an application for what’s known as a T-grant has been completed. The T-grant is a federal grant for beautification projects in blighted areas.

It may take years to be approved, but Lee hopes it will provide money to beautify the east end of Watson Boulevard, what he calls “the Governmental Corridor.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, Bill Harte, the city’s chief finance officer, gave the final cost of the law enforcement center: $9.95 million. He said all purchase orders have been closed out, and the project “has been put to bed.”

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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