Macon-Bibb commission gets down to business

Trail project, franchise fees among first actions

jgaines@macon.comJanuary 7, 2014 

At their first regular meeting, new Macon-Bibb County commissioners accepted a $6 million federal earmark for extensive upgrades to Amerson River Park, as well as a $5.4 million construction contract for that work.

Various administrative and planning costs ate up the rest of the grant, Scott Williams of Cranston Engineering told commissioners at an earlier committee of the whole meeting.

The earmark dates back six years, set up by then-U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Macon, Mayor Robert Reichert said. Planning has gone on since then, and the contract was bid out by the state. The low and successful bidder was Georgia Development Partners.

The work is to include a realigned entrance and stone gateway, a redo of all the park’s roads, additional paved parking, 7.5 miles of trails, permanent restrooms and a canoe take-out at Bowman Creek two miles downstream from the existing canoe put-in, Williams said.

Construction may start in late January and would take about a year, he said.

“I would estimate February of next year for a grand opening,” Williams said.

Plans are still afoot to connect the park with continuous trails to Ocmulgee National Monument, Reichert said.

The agreements passed 8-0. The ninth commission seat, from District 2, is still empty, to be decided in a Jan. 14 runoff between former Macon City Councilmen Henry Ficklin and Larry Schlesinger. While Reichert presides at the new commission’s meetings, he votes only in case of a tie.

Franchise fees

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a new franchise agreement with Georgia Power, which expands the area in which utility franchise fees can be collected. Previously those have only applied within the former city limits. But under the new government, franchise fees can be collected countywide. It’s not yet known how much revenue that could bring in.

Other business

Commissioners made or acknowledged a number of board appointments and confirmed several agreements made by the previous city and county governments. Those included:

• Reconstituting the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority, created in 1996 by agreement between the former governments to aid in neighborhood redevelopment.

• Designating the Macon Arts Alliance as the official local arts agency, as it was for the city.

• Appointing Ashok Patel, owner of Kunj Construction and a number of convenience stores, to the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission to replace Commissioner Al Tillman, who stepped down to run for the new Macon-Bibb County Commission. The vote on Patel was the only split vote of the night. Commissioners Bert Bivins and Virgil Watkins voted against his appointment.

At a morning committee meeting, Bivins said he didn’t want to put another builder on the planning commission, fearing a conflict of interest. Watkins said he wouldn’t support Patel until he got Patel’s opinion on the coin-operated amusement machines which some convenience stores use for illegal gambling.

• Reappointing Bivins and Commissioner Ed DeFore to the Macon Water Authority board.

• Appointing retired math teacher Margaret Hobes to replace Tommy Barnes on the Macon Housing Authority board. Barnes resigned due to a heavy load of other work, and Hobes has served on the board before, Reichert said.

• Appointing Sam Hart, former Bibb County Commission chairman, to the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority to replace the late Jimmie Samuel.

• Taking notice of appointments made by Reichert that don’t require commission approval: Bivins and Commissioner Elaine Lucas to the Bibb County Health Department board; Commissioners Mallory Jones, Scotty Shepherd and Tillman to the Macon Area Transportation Study Committee; and Bivins, Lonnie Miley, Chuck O’Neal, Reichert and Matt Rogers to the Middle Georgia Regional Commission board.

• Approving a resolution to abolish the transition task force, which ceased work last month after preparing much of the groundwork for the new government over the previous year and a half.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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