Macon council endorses downtown grants, land return at last meeting

jgaines@macon.comDecember 17, 2013 

Macon City Council members ran quickly through a short agenda Tuesday night at their last regular meeting, unanimously approving all seven items, but taking time to commemorate the occasion.

In two weeks, the council will disband, and it and the Bibb County Commission will be replaced by the new Macon-Bibb County Commission. The new governing body will include four of the 15 Macon council members.

Tuesday, council members endorsed two grant applications to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for revolving loan fund money totaling $340,000 for two projects.

One request is for $90,000 to Ocmulgee Traders, to put a grocery store in the Dannenberg Building at 455 Poplar St., which has been converted into apartments.

The other is for $250,000 for Massimo Danese Real Estate to develop the building in the 300 block of Cotton Avenue as 12 loft apartments and four retail spaces, according to the resolution. The building has two facades. It also will open onto Second Street, said Alex Morrison, executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority.

“We are very excited about both of these, because in each case it will provide something unique for downtown,” Morrison said.

If received, both grants would be funneled to the projects through the Urban Development Authority at no risk to the city, Morrison said.

Land handover

The city accepted reversion of two parcels of land, at 801 and 815 Riverside Drive, from the authority and back to city ownership. The handback, triggered by the expiration of year-old contract, passed the council’s Public Properties Committee a week ago.

“Because I’ve been repeatedly asked, I need to say, no, the committee was not informed of the background, of what was reported in the paper on Sunday,” said Councilman Rick Hutto, Public Properties chairman.

Those two parcels were part of the site for a major mixed-use development by Renaissance on the River LLC. But Kirby Godsey, the principal figure behind Renaissance, told The Telegraph last week the project essentially is dead after discovering the city administration knew about contaminated soil on the site that may cost millions to clean up for residential use.

In other business, council members:

• Gave city employees an extra day off Christmas Eve, via a resolution sponsored by Council President James Timley.

• Approved a $38,675 contract with BIE Media Group LLC, of Lithia Springs, to install fiber optic cable from the Macon Coliseum to the fire station at 195 Coliseum Drive.

• Authorized a grant agreement for $30,000 with the Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Council. The money, from federal funds, will be used for minor house repairs for homeowners age 55 and up, said Sarita Hill, EOC executive director.

• Adopted financial policies in compliance with federal laws that recently went into effect.

As Tuesday’s meeting started, Bibb Commissioner Bert Bivins presented Councilwoman Elaine Lucas with a plaque from the county in recognition of her 27 years on the council, many social and other political involvements, and election as the first woman to the new Macon-Bibb Commission.

Then Mayor Robert Reichert recapped the history of Macon and his six years of interaction with council, before giving out commemorative plaques to each member and to Clerk of Council Joyce Humphrey.

Following the meeting, council members stayed to pose for final group photographs.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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