Merged Macon and Bibb County share workers, equipment

jgaines@macon.comJanuary 2, 2014 

On Tuesday, the first regular workday for employees of the newly merged Macon-Bibb County government, officials said collaboration is proceeding smoothly.

Down on the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, closed recently by high river levels, workers from the former city of Macon reopened the walking trail and boat ramp by cleaning up flood debris. But they were aided by a backhoe which, until two days before, belonged to Bibb County, said Steve Lawson, grounds superintendent.

“Consolidation’s already doing good things, because we’re able to work more efficiently,” he said.

The mechanical help was set up smoothly with one phone call, Lawson said. The backhoe was used to scrape mud off the boat ramp to be trucked elsewhere. Previously, city crews had to call on the fire department to hose the mud back into the river, he said.

“It’s great to ... be able to call and get a piece of equipment to actually take the sediment away,” Lawson said.

For some departments there was little change -- or the change was back to the way things used to be.

“We’re easy, because we were kind of consolidated already,” Parks & Recreation Director Dale “Doc” Dougherty said.

When he was hired a few years ago, Dougherty worked for the city. Then, under a city-county service delivery agreement, his department transferred to Bibb County control in July 2012, although some properties like Bowden Golf Course remained with the city. With consolidation, Dougherty and his staff are now reunited with former co-workers and once again oversee Bowden, now owned by Macon-Bibb County.

On Tuesday, he was back at the golf course, where most of the staff hasn’t changed in 18 months, Dougherty said.

Even in the interim, county staff had worked fairly closely with Bowden crews, sharing some equipment, he said. But now that city and county recreational facilities are under the same control, they can collaborate more fully, such as bringing more event-production expertise to Lake Tobesofkee, Dougherty said.

“We’re probably going to do a lot more programming over at Tobesofkee. That’s something we’re really excited about,” he said.

Under a proposed organizational chart for the new government, the city’s passive parks (public areas designated as parks but without facilities or equipment for exercise or play) and their maintenance crews are to move from Public Works oversight back under Parks & Recreation. But that hasn’t happened yet, since the new Macon-Bibb commission hasn’t ratified the organization chart, Dougherty said.

At recreation centers, under county control since July 2012, renovations and upgrades will be carried out over the next year, requiring them to be closed for brief periods, he said. Work already has been finished, though, at the Rosa Jackson Center on Maynard Street, Dougherty said.

Most of the planned work is funded by the special purpose local option sales tax that voters approved in 2011, he said. Those projects are the main focus of Parks & Recreation staff.

“We’ve got a whole lot on our plate, but no real concerns of consolidation making a lot of changes for us,” Dougherty said.

At the seat of the new government, City Hall on Poplar Street, a combination of former city Central Services and county Building Maintenance workers are shuffling furniture for the new commission, while commission staff come over from the Bibb County Courthouse, said Mayor Robert Reichert.

“Things are really moving over here, no pun intended,” he said Tuesday.

Reichert and newly named County Manager Dale Walker have started meeting with department heads on how to best work together, said Chris Floore, director of public affairs.

As cooperation grows and more functions merge, the primary consideration needs to be providing consistent service to the public, and employees have already shown they understand that, Reichert said

“The team is coming together,” he said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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