Finishing touches: Macon-Bibb merger near, but plenty still to do

jgaines@macon.comDecember 21, 2013 

  • How to reach Macon-Bibb’s public officials

    Macon City Hall, 700 Poplar St., will be the seat of the Macon-Bibb consolidated government. The main line for the new commission will be the former City Council number, 751-7260. Here are phone numbers for the mayor and nine commission members.
    Mayor Robert Reichert, 621-6020
    District 1 Commissioner Gary Bechtel, 955-5506
    District 3 Commissioner Elaine Lucas, 737-2829
    District 4 Commissioner Mallory Jones, 745-3991, ext. 268
    District 5 Commissioner Bert Bivins, 747-0580
    District 6 Commissioner Ed DeFore, 474-0754
    District 7 Commissioner Scotty Shepherd, 808-3997
    District 8 Commissioner Virgil Watkins, 335-7809
    District 9 Commissioner Al Tillman, 261-0000

The clock is ticking down on Macon and Bibb County as separate governments, which will be replaced Jan. 1 by Macon-Bibb County.

But the government merger -- creating not an amalgamation but a wholly new structure, as officials have frequently stressed -- is a work in progress.

Some city and county departments combined more than a year ago under the Service Delivery Strategy deal signed in 2012. Others moved in together in the past few weeks, while the rest will continue operating separately until space is freed up for them and until the new city-county commission decides who will be in charge of each division.

That could take weeks, and in some cases months. Planners and architects shuffling offices have likened the work to toppling a row of dominoes. They must move in a particular order, with one consolidation freeing up room for the next round of renovation.

“Not everything’s going to change overnight,” said Chris Floore, the city’s public affairs director. While many people will undoubtedly have questions, they can be assured that old city and county contact information will still work unless it’s been announced otherwise, he said.

A combined phone list is being put together, so when someone calls familiar city or county numbers, whoever they reach probably will be able to direct them to the correct office immediately, Floore said.

That will continue for some time, with changes waiting on the new organizational chart being put into place and the rearranging of offices, he said.

The consolidation charter says all city-county department heads essentially will have to reapply for their jobs 90 days into the new government, at which point Mayor-elect Robert Reichert and the nine new commissioners can pick leaders for the merged departments and some reorganized functions -- such as the office of Business Development Services, which will combine the former Inspection & Fees with the property code enforcement that has been handled under the city’s Economic & Community Development Department.

Some contact information for government functions has already changed, but much will remain the same, at least for now. Below is a compilation of important numbers for various needs.

Law enforcement

Macon police officers have already been sworn in as Bibb County sheriff’s deputies, and their status will change automatically at midnight Dec. 31, as many of them are on the job. While the police department will go away, its phone number won’t do so immediately, Sheriff David Davis said.

At least for a few weeks, maybe for several months, the accustomed numbers of 751-7500 for Macon police and 746-9441 for the sheriff’s office will still work, routed through the 911 dispatch center, he said.

“Either number will get you help, and obviously (calling) 911 will get you help,” Davis said.

Patrol shifts are scheduled through the turn of the year, so there should be no interruption in service, he said.

“The officers already know who’s going to be working through the holidays,” Davis said.

Trash and recycling pickup

There’s plenty still to work out on how garbage eventually will be handled: whether to go with the county system of contracting out pickup service, or do it in-house like the city; and whether to make recycling countywide. But those decisions will likely be months away and will be announced well in advance, said David Fortson, Bibb County engineer.

“For now, the county garbage is still going to be handled separately from the city garbage, and the same contacts that people had before, they’ll continue to use until such time as notice is given that changes have been made,” he said. “After the first of January, things will still be the same until the organizational changes take place, and I don’t know when those will be.”

Macon now provides garbage service to about 170 houses in Jones County, an area of the city that will de-annex on Jan. 1, Floore said.

“We are going to continue providing them trash service for 90 days,” he said. Customers are billed for service three months at a time, so that’s only fair, Floore said. Those residents will get a letter announcing the end of service in advance, and the city has talked with Jones County about the change, he said.

Business licenses

Inspection & Fees is one of the departments that has already merged, but the new government’s proposed organizational chart calls for more change. It’s expected to transform into Macon-Bibb Business Development Services, handling all business licenses and permitting, plus taking over code enforcement from the city Economic & Community Development Department.

But, as in other cases, those changes will wait, said Tom Buttram, Inspection & Fees director.

“For right now, the numbers are pretty much going to remain as they were for business licenses and zoning and that kind of thing,” he said.

There is new phone number for various permits: 803-0470, Buttram said. Eventually that’s intended to become the go-to number for all business licenses, but for now, business licenses will still come through the Bibb County Tax Commissioner’s Office and the city’s Finance Department.

Likewise, code enforcement will stay with ECD at 751-7190, at least until the 90-day reorganization period is up, Buttram said.

Website

The new government will have a new website, which is expected to be up and running before Jan. 1, said Nick Kouloungis, director of technology services at the Middle Georgia Regional Commission. He’s been working on it with city and county Information Technology staff.

All of the information that people are accustomed to finding at www.bibb.co.us and www.cityofmacon.net will be now be available at www.maconbibb.us, Kouloungis said.

SeeClickFix

Both the city and county take service requests and reports of problems through the SeeClickFix online service. But the plan is for the city’s SeeClickFix account to simply expand to cover all of Bibb County, Floore said. People will be able to access it through the new website, and the existing Facebook account and mobile app will still work, he said. Calls to the city’s customer service line at 751-7400 will also be entered in the system.

“We anticipate SeeClickFix to be up and running January 1,” Floore said.

The New World Systems administrative software the new government will use has a similar function, and will likely replace SeeClickFix; but that will take at least a year, he said.

Employee concerns

The offices handling most employee-related concerns merged in early December, according to the city and county. Payroll and Human Resources are all in city buildings. Payroll functions are in City Hall, at 751-7240; while Human Resources is on the fourth floor of the City Hall Annex, 682 Cherry St. The phone number there is 751-2720.

Purchasing

The city and county purchasing departments are now consolidated on the eighth floor of City Hall Annex. The phone number is 621-6333.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service