Judge approves New Year’s launch for Macon-Bibb government

mstucka@macon.comDecember 6, 2013 

Let the consolidated Macon-Bibb County government begin.

A judge agreed Friday to let the new government launch Jan. 1, overturning some references to Jan. 14 in the state legislation that creates the new consolidated government. That lets the new government start with codes of ordinances, appointed administrators and other necessities.

Superior Court Judge Edgar Ennis Jr. signed the order requested by Macon-Bibb County Mayor-elect Robert Reichert. The current Bibb County and Macon governments supported the efforts, and the state Attorney General and legislators had no objections.

Reichert’s attorney, Jeffery Monroe, argued date discrepancies in the revised Macon-Bibb County charter would lead to chaos and confusion.

Some of the wording, Monroe said, “would literally mean you have one new government ... being controlled or being governed by both the old City Council and the old county commission. We think that produces an absurd result and was not what the Legislature intended. ... We would have a new government created Jan. 1, but no one to lead it, no one to govern it, until two weeks later.”

Ennis’ order calls date differences a “drafting error.”

The order clears the way for Reichert and commissioners-elect to meet Dec. 31 to be sworn into office, adopt ordinances and set a budget. The order also allows the new commission to set a meeting schedule, pick a mayor pro-tem and consider the mayor’s recommendation for county manager, commission clerk, Macon-Bibb County fire chief, county attorney and finance officer.

All those actions would become effective with the new government at the beginning of Jan. 1, while the old governments cease to exist at the end of Dec. 31.

The move does not affect the fight over the District 2 commission seat. A judge has said he will call for a new runoff election in that race between Larry Schlesinger and Henry Ficklin.

South Bibb County resident Daniel E. Lee was the only person in the audience to object to the start date, saying it made sense for the new government to have two weeks’ transition time.

“A new government must get their feet wet and find out what they’re taking control of,” Lee told The Telegraph after the hearing.

Commissioners-elect have been getting briefed on the new government regularly, with several meetings this week alone.

Reichert talked with Lee after the hearing about the new government’s likely meeting schedule, how consolidation won’t affect how much residents pay for fire protection, and how the new county government won’t have any new powers over the Macon Water Authority or Bibb County school system.

Other than news media, Ficklin and Lee were the only people in the audience Friday. Ennis had opened up the proceedings to all Bibb County and Macon residents.

“We’re very pleased that this will provide a seamless transition into the new government, to close out the city of Macon and the government of Bibb County into the consolidated government of Macon-Bibb County,” Reichert said after the proceedings.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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