Load of harmonized laws ready for Macon-Bibb government

Spay/neuter law to stay countywide

jgaines@macon.comDecember 16, 2013 

With just two weeks before the Macon-Bibb County consolidated government comes into existence, the committee debating laws for the new entity moved with relative speed through more than a dozen chapters of new ordinances Monday.

The Laws Committee of the consolidation task force held its last meeting, approving the long list of ordinances as recommended by consultants from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government with mostly minor changes.

The group covered code offenses, building regulations, animal welfare, personnel, traffic ordinances and several other topics in a little more than two hours.

Potentially the most controversial section dealt with animal control. Committee members kept the mandatory spay/neuter rule passed in October by both the city and county. The countywide deadline for having an animal altered will be July 1, 2014, said Betty Hudson of the Carl Vinson Institute.

One problem that cropped up is that existing animal control ordinances say an animal seized on suspicion of abuse can be returned to its owner once the owner complies with animal-treatment regulations, Hudson said. The problem is that there aren’t any such regulations.

The county’s Animal Welfare Department is working on a procedure manual, but it’s not finished, said Dawn Lewis, attorney for Bibb County.

“Really there aren’t any regulations, for that matter, on humane treatment,” she said. “They operate under what the state law says and what the county code says.”

The provision was kept in, on the expectation that regulations will be established.

There’s a section of city code that prohibits the public sale of dogs and cats, which Bibb County doesn’t have, Hudson said. She suggested leaving that out, since it might conflict with “adoption fairs” run by Animal Welfare or local rescue groups.

Assistant City Attorney Stuart Morelli said that was probably created to keep from having “out-of-town breeders pop up in a parking lot and sell a box of puppies.”

The committee -- with a no vote from Mayor Robert Reichert -- voted to keep that prohibition but agreed to create an exemption for those local groups.

In many of the code sections there were practically no substantive changes, since city and county ordinances don’t conflict or a rule is found in only one of them, Hudson said.

One suggested change the committee adopted was a uniform standard for school-zone speed limits. The county code says the limit is 15 mph, while the city says 25, Hudson said.

Reichert and Sheriff David Davis, who was in the audience, said they can’t recall seeing a 15 mph school-zone sign. Reichert successfully suggested going with 25 mph unless otherwise posted.

Ted Baggett, also from the Carl Vinson Institute, said the county requires taxis to get licenses from the Bibb County tax commissioner, while the city sends taxi drivers to the Finance Department. He urged consolidating that function in the new Business Development Services office, already a catch-all for licensing and inspection functions. That was adopted.

The proposed ordinances will go to the full task force Thursday and will then be ready for incoming Macon-Bibb County commissioners to adopt as a package at their inaugural meeting Dec. 31.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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