Macon-Bibb commission picks committee chairmen, sets office fees

jgaines@macon.comJanuary 28, 2014 

Macon-Bibb County commissioners chose chairmen and vice chairmen Tuesday for all four of their new committees.

Meanwhile, the commission canceled a work session scheduled for Tuesday evening because of fears of approaching winter weather.

The consolidated government, which came into existence at the start of the year, set up its committee structure and selected on Jan. 17 through a “committee on committees” consisting of Mayor Robert Reichert, Mayor Pro Tempore Bert Bivins and Commissioner Gary Bechtel. The four permanent, five-member committees held their first meetings Tuesday, with members voting on each committee’s leadership.

The results were as follows:

• Operations & Finance Committee: Chairman Bechtel, Vice Chairwoman Elaine Lucas.

• Economic & Community Development Committee: Chairman Larry Schlesinger, Vice Chairman Al Tillman.

• Public Safety Committee: Chairman Scotty Shepherd, Vice Chairman Virgil Watkins.

• Facilities & Engineering Committee: Chairman Tillman, Vice Chairman Mallory Jones.

All choices passed by acclimation, with no other nominees.

Qualifying fees

The Operations & Finance Committee dealt with one piece of legislation: setting the qualifying fees for eight local offices that are up for election in 2014.

Those fees will remain at 3 percent of the jobs’ annual pay, Bibb County Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson said.

The offices, salaries and fees are:

• State Court judge, $149,489.60 salary per year; qualifying fee $4,484.69.

• Additional State Court judge, $149,993.60 salary per year, qualifying fee $4,409.81.

• Civil & Magistrate Court judge, $120,252 salary per year, qualifying fee $3,607.56.

• Two seats on the Bibb County Board of Education, $7,200 salary per year, qualifying fee $216.

• Three seats on Macon Water Authority, $5,400 salary per year, qualifying fee $162.

Fees for state-level offices are set by the state, but the local government must approve local fees, Reichert and County Attorney Judd Drake said. The fees have to be published by Feb. 1, in advance of the March 3-7 qualifying period, so the fee schedule needed to be dealt with Tuesday, Drake said.

The schedule for those elections will also change this year, under the recently signed House Bill 310, Watson said. The schedule is set to match the schedule for federal elections.

Lucas reiterated her long-standing call for at least one early voting location in addition to the Board of Elections office. Election officials also need to verify all registered voters’ addresses in advance, to prevent a recurrence of the confusion in some Macon-Bibb commission races last year, she said. Bechtel agreed that commissioners should discuss those issues soon.

Following Tuesday morning’s committee meetings, the commission held a special called meeting to consider the qualifying fee resolution speedily. It passed unanimously with no further discussion.

Election budget and office

Watson asked commissioners to consider adding $102,746 to her budget for the remaining five months of the fiscal year. The election date changes, with more voting earlier in the year, will have a drastic effect on her operating costs, she wrote in an accompanying memo.

The former Bibb County Commission tentatively authorized the increase but never formally adopted it, Reichert said.

Watson wants to buy two machines to print paper ballots on demand, thus saving excess printing costs and paper; increase the training pay for about 260 poll workers from $20 to $50, since they now must take seven hours of training instead of three; and hire three more employees for 30 hours per week.

“There is a huge, huge, huge demand during our early voting period for manpower,” she said.

Watson indicated that she may soon seek to move the Board of Elections office to a larger space, saying she needs more room and can’t expand in her current location at 2445 Pio Nono Ave.

Her request for a budget increase is expected to come up for commission approval Feb. 11.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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