Slow going for Macon-Bibb laws group

jgaines@macon.comDecember 9, 2013 

Macon and Bibb County governments are scheduled to merge in three weeks, and there’s still an awful lot of work to be done -- even on the basic laws that will guide the new government’s operation.

That was clear Monday afternoon when the Laws Committee of the task force working on consolidation plowed through several chapters of proposed ordinances. But after two hours, County Commission Chairman Sam Hart and Mayor Robert Reichert had to leave, and the group fell below a quorum necessary to make a binding decision. So Macon Councilman Tom Ellington -- presiding in place of Chairman Jeffery Monroe, who had a scheduling conflict -- adjourned with the hope of meeting again within 10 days.

There remains at least half a dozen major code sections to be reviewed in order to have a package ready for adoption by the new Macon-Bibb Commission on Dec. 31, said consultant Betty Hudson from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. She and other consultants have been working on reconciling differences between existing city and county ordinances.

Among the items the committee did wade through Monday were rules governing solid waste handling and collection.

“The draft ordinance is based on the Macon ordinance,” Hudson said.

But the proposal for garbage collection, which the county contracts out but the city does in-house through its Public Works Department, proposes maintaining “general” and “urban” districts with no service or rate changes until the new Macon-Bibb Commission gets around to deciding the issue.

One proposed change is standardizing the charge for replacing damaged garbage carts. The city now charges $35, while the county charges $45, Hudson said. The committee agreed to make that charge $45 countywide, which is closer to the actual replacement cost, Ellington said.

Bibb County Engineer David Fortson noted that county crews pick up dead animals only if they’re in the public right-of-way, while the city has a policy of picking up small dead animals on request.

“We think that the city could still continue that policy without it being in the ordinance,” he said.

That would let the former unincorporated area maintain its current policy as well, Fortson said.

Or, Reichert suggested, the new ordinance could make pickup a possibility rather than a promise, leaving the choice to officials on a case-by-case basis.

“Or they can do what I do – you know, just bury it in the back yard,” he said.

Committee members opted to leave most fees out of the ordinance, preferring to let Macon-Bibb commissioners set those. On several more subjects, such as cemetery standards and tree ordinances, there are no real conflicts between existing city and county ordinances.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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