Macon retirees to get pension hike

jgaines@macon.comDecember 3, 2013 

Macon’s retirees -- those covered by the police and firefighters’ pension fund and the general employees’ fund -- are assured of getting their annual 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase under a resolution that Macon City Council passed 13-0 Tuesday night.

Councilman Rick Hutto was absent, and Councilman Henry Gibson said he favored the resolution but couldn’t vote since as a retired city police captain, he is a beneficiary of the pension fund.

The question has been weighing on the minds of police and firefighters, Gibson said.

“I was at (a Fraternal Order of Police) meeting Friday night, and that was one of the main concerns,” he said.

The resolution is sponsored by Councilman Charles Jones.

The annual increase normally would go into effect automatically Jan. 1 unless the council specifically acted to stop it. But with the impending consolidation of Macon and Bibb County governments, paperwork to implement the hike at the last minute would take a lot of effort, Human Resources Director Ben Hubbard said. His department already is occupied with consolidation-related work, including an office move, he said. So Hubbard notified council members they could confirm the increase early and get it taken care of before the new government starts.

On the same subject, the council gave the second required round of approval to changing the structure of city pension plans to accommodate the new government. The first approval was given Nov. 19, but a second vote was needed because the ordinances change the pension-related segments of the city charter.

Under the new standards, all current city employees will stay in the existing plans, but anyone hired after Dec. 31 will enroll in a new system similar to Bibb County’s current plan.

The changes do not affect any benefits for current employees or retirees, interim City Attorney Judd Drake has said.

Also, in the future the new government will take over the city’s current power to appoint some members to each board.

New government

Council members voted 14-0 to endorse a consent order, proposed by Mayor Robert Reichert, to swear in the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government on Dec. 31.

Bibb County commissioners also approved the consent order Tuesday. A Friday hearing on the matter is scheduled before Bibb Superior Court Judge Edgar Ennis.

If accepted, the consent order would swear in Reichert as countywide mayor and eight of the nine new commissioners before current city and county governments dissolve, correcting a lapse in the consolidation legislation.

The consolidation charter sets the new government to begin Jan. 14, though the city and county are to dissolve Jan. 1.

The ninth commission seat is still in contention between Councilmen Henry Ficklin and Larry Schlesinger. A new election for that seat, prompted by a lawsuit from Ficklin over voting problems, is expected sometime in January.

Street work

Thirty streets are to be repaired with an annual state grant that council members agreed unanimously to accept.

A Local Maintenance & Improvement Grant would provide $715,873.87, which requires a $214,762.16 local match. The match is to come from the special purpose local option sales tax voters approved in November 2011, according to the resolution.

The document calls for repairs to 6.16 miles of streets, with actual work to begin in April. Construction should take about four months, said Danny Tavacol of the Bibb County Engineering Department.

Disability plan and historic markers

The office reshuffling that accompanies the pending Macon-Bibb County consolidation requires the shuffling of paperwork as well. The council voted 14-0 to approve a transition plan for the city’s Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

The city of Fitzgerald will be able to place two historic markers in Macon, as stops on the Jefferson Davis Heritage Trail and the Georgia Civil War Heritage Trail. Fitzgerald is the sponsor of the trails project.

The council voted 14-0 to allow the placement at no cost to Macon.

One marker is to be placed at the corner of Walnut and Second streets, and the other in the median of Mulberry Street between Second and Third streets.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, all 744-4489.

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