Reichert: Judge may be needed to launch Macon-Bibb County government

mstucka@macon.comNovember 12, 2013 

Macon-Bibb County Mayor-elect Robert Reichert said current governments may have to go to court to get the new government properly emplaced.

MACON TELEGRAPH

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said current governments may wind up going to court to ensure that the new government will be ready to go.

The city attorney’s office and the Bibb County attorney may have answers this week, he said, on how to get a judge to sign off on some important details of the new Macon-Bibb County government, which is scheduled to launch Jan. 1.

The new leaders, however, aren’t scheduled to be sworn in until days later, and they’ll be needed to enact a code of ordinances and appoint top administrators.

Speaking Tuesday to some of the same legislators who approved the consolidation charter, Reichert said he may seek what he called “a friendly declaratory judgment action” in court, which he invited legislators to join. The legal move might be necessary “so that somebody will be in charge.”

The discussion came during the Bibb County legislative delegation’s annual meeting with local officials, held at the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce.

Reichert told reporters later he wants legislators, Macon and Bibb County to sign on to seek a declaratory judgment from a court. That’s a remedy to determine one’s legal rights before any damages have occurred or any laws have been broken.

“We’re in the process of trying to organize and prepare for a seamless transition from Macon and Bibb County to Macon-Bibb County, so that at the stroke of midnight we won’t turn into a pumpkin but instead we’ll turn into a more efficient and effective local government for all of our citizens,” Reichert said.

The legislative delegation’s chairwoman, state Rep. Nikki Randall, said legislators would sign on to a court action before the new government launched.

Reichert said he’d like to have a judge allow the new Macon-Bibb County commissioners to be sworn in around 11 a.m. Dec. 31. The commission could then approve the administrators and ordinances needed to have a functioning government as the clock strikes midnight.

Reichert, who is also the Macon-Bibb County mayor-elect, said he wants to meet with Payne City residents in a few weeks for a town hall-styled meeting. Payne City residents were able to vote for a Macon-Bibb County mayor, but not for any district commissioners. The tiny city off Vineville Avenue did not vote to join the new government. Reichert said residents could wind up paying 6 mills of city taxes, plus whatever the new government charges.

State Sen. David Lucas pressed Reichert to commit to helping Payne City defend itself in a lawsuit over a medical waste disposal company that wanted to move into the city. Reichert would not commit, but he agreed Payne City didn’t have the capacity to defend itself.

Separately, Sheriff David Davis said efforts to consolidate the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office and the Macon Police Department are moving well.

“Somebody will be answering the calls out there at 12:01 Jan. 1, and they’re going to be a deputy sheriff,” Davis said.

Randall noted that Tuesday’s proceedings -- which ranged from the county school board to NewTown Macon -- was relatively undemanding.

“For the most part, no one had a big wish list,” she said.

Bibb County school officials asked legislators to partition new education money up into a 1-percent raise for teachers and a 1-percent increase in program spending.

The Macon Transit Authority asked legislators to continue supporting it as it explored offering service outside the Bibb County lines.

The Chamber of Commerce and NewTown Macon both asked legislators to look again into transportation funding, since a transportation sales tax referendum failed in Middle Georgia and across most of the state.

The Medical Center of Central Georgia and its parent organization, Central Georgia Health System, asked legislators to support an expansion of Medicaid that Gov. Nathan Deal has rejected. Hospital officials said that issue alone will cost the health system an estimated $109 million over 10 years, while other Medicaid cuts will cost about $338 million. Legislators made no promises on those issues.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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