Macon-Bibb commissioners wrestle with animal shelter costs

jgaines@macon.comFebruary 25, 2014 

Macon-Bibb County commissioners gave a nod Tuesday morning to a renegotiated contract for a new animal shelter.

Approved in a Public Safety Committee meeting, the revised contract with winning bidder International City Builders of Warner Robins is scheduled to come up for a final vote at the full commission meeting March 4.

The firm’s construction contract originally came in at $2.6 million. When design and other costs are added in, that will put the total shelter cost well above the $3 million allocated for the project in a November 2011 special purpose sales tax vote, Macon-Bibb staff told commissioners.

Thus the government faced “two bad choices,” Mayor Robert Reichert said.

“It is over budget. We’re being told at this point there is not enough money in the SPLOST account to cover it,” he said.

Officials could accept that, hoping other sales tax projects come in under budget and reallocating more money to the shelter -- or risk a lawsuit by throwing the project out for bid again, Reichert said.

Committee members chose the former by a 5-0 vote.

Various items such as a crematory and pressure-washing system were taken out to cut costs, bringing the final contract in at $2 million, Assistant County Manager Charles Coney said. Those items will still be needed, but perhaps they can be bought for less individually, he said.

To fully equip the shelter as promised will probably take another $500,000 to $600,000, said Gene Dunwoody of Dunwody/Beeland Architects. The shelter is to be built at 4280 Fulton Mill Road.

It’s important that all the planned features be included, since they were largely determined by resident input, Mayor Pro Tempore Bert Bivins said.

Disparity study

After long discussion, the Operations & Finance Committee unanimously approved two items -- previously combined, but split up at the request of Commissioner Virgil Watkins -- dealing with a proposed study of disparity in local government contracts.

The only previous such study was done in 1996, and many things have changed since then, according to the resolution. A new study would help make sure small and minority-owned local businesses get “meaningful opportunities” to contract with Macon-Bibb County government.

Approved first was sending out a request for qualifications for a consultant to determine if such a study is really needed. Up second, and also approved, was a resolution to hire a Small Business Affairs director -- hoped for within 60 to 90 days -- and have the purchasing department track the amount of small-business or minority-owned business involvement in every bid received.

Ten applications for the Small Business Affairs director’s job have already been received, according to a report from County Manager Dale Walker.

Land purchase

The Economic & Community Development Committee gave 4-0 approval, with Commissioner Al Tillman absent, to buying 10 lots adjacent to the Atlantic Cotton Mill site from Steven Rickman for $177,000.

“In purchasing it, we hope to create green space in that neighborhood,” said Assistant to the County Manager Julie Moore. The cotton mill site, which burned in March 2011, has yet to be redeveloped. It’s behind the Kroger store on Pio Nono Avenue.

The plan is to turn the adjacent lots into “Oak Haven Park.” That may encourage surrounding redevelopment, Moore said. The money is to come from federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

In other business, commissioners:

• Endorsed transferring $311,479 from the E-911 fund to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, to pay for communications personnel originally slated to transfer under the E-911 heading but who stayed with the sheriff’s office. Sheriff David Davis said those 11 people are doing jobs such as recording stolen items, freeing up E-911 staff to concentrate on dispatch.

• Approved transferring $182,217 from the jail commissary fund to the Macon-Bibb County general fund to replace five 22-year-old air conditioning units.

• Approved a request for $87,089 in SPLOST funds to pay for equipping 17 sheriff’s vehicles with lights and other emergency equipment. The winning bidder is Macon Communications, which Davis said has a long history of providing local law enforcement equipment.

• Agreed to spend $30,000 on fixing broken golf carts at Bowden Golf Course. Only 27 are working now, out of a possible 60, Commissioner Gary Bechtel said. As many as possible need to be ready before spring golf tournaments get underway, he said.

All items approved in committee should be up for final votes March 4.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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