Macon-Bibb moves to give Terminal Station to Macon Transit Authority

Handover would improve finances, grant eligibility, Reichert says

jgaines@macon.comJuly 8, 2014 

The Macon Transit Authority may soon own Terminal Station, the historic building at the foot of Cherry Street which it has occupied and managed for several years.

A request from Mayor Robert Reichert to transfer the property cleared a Macon-Bibb County Commission committee on Tuesday by a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Gary Bechtel absent.

A similar effort in 2012 failed, opposed by the former Macon City Council. But Reichert got more support in the new consolidated government’s Facilities & Engineering Committee.

If the building’s operating costs -- mostly maintenance and utilities -- exceed rent paid by tenants, the transit authority can’t get that deficit covered by its federal subsidy unless the transit authority owns the building, he said. Also, federal officials won’t consider any transportation grants that might help improve the building unless the authority owns it, Reichert said.

Even giving away the building wouldn’t leave it entirely outside the government’s control, since the Macon-Bibb commission appoints MTA board members, he said.

One of the building’s tenants is the state Department of Driver Services, which would have to begin paying rent if the transit authority, rather than the government, owned it, Reichert said.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas, who attended the meeting but is not a committee member, initially said she wasn’t convinced Reichert’s statements were true.

But MTA General Manager Rick Jones was more persuasive. There’s a $1 million grant available now, but the transit authority can’t use it until it owns the building, he said.

And the building, though substantially restored with a federal grant several years ago, still needs lots of work, especially in the “crumbling” basement, Jones said.

“As beautiful as it is, it’s only about a third of the way finished,” he said.

Lucas, who opposed the hand­over when it came before the former City Council, said she hadn’t heard reports of poor condition before.

“We’ve been shown just the pretty parts of it,” she said.

Lucas indicated that she may not lead opposition this time around.

“I’m about to be convinced that this may be the way to go,” she said.

Though he didn’t mention it Tuesday, Reichert said last week that transferring Terminal Station to the transit authority could open up land behind the building for public-private development partnerships.

All items approved in committee will be up for a final vote next Tuesday by the full commission.

In other business, commissioners:

• Voted 4-0 in the Facilities & Engineering Committee, with Bechtel absent, to approve a new agreement with CorrectHealth Bibb LLC for medical care of prisoners in Bibb County custody. This will be the third year with the same company, Sheriff David Davis said. The cost will increase from $3.3 million to $3.4 million a year. Now the company will cover prisoners’ care even if their first stop is the hospital to be checked out, he said.

“From the time we put handcuffs on them, this company will pay that,” Davis said.

• Voted 5-0 in the Economic & Community Development Committee to transfer the paved parking lot at 412 New St. to the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority so part of it can be sold to the American Cancer Society. Nancy Dove, principal for real estate services for the cancer society, said the lot that staff and volunteers have used is now being developed. The developer is generously accommodating disability access and deliveries to the cancer society, but that still leaves office staff and volunteers without parking spots, she said. The cancer society wants to buy 20 spaces in the New Street lot.

• Agreed to let Reichert write an endorsement letter for a funding application to the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment. That agency has a grant program open until July 18 which could provide funding related to Robins Air Force Base, Reichert said. Other communities have gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars through the program.

• Agreed to appoint local lawyer Jeffery Monroe as chairman of the SPLOST Advisory Committee. Dan Slagle resigned three weeks ago as chairman of the group, which oversees spending of special purpose local option sales tax money. The SPLOST is expected to generate $190 million by 2017.

Slagle, Cox Communication’s director of operations in Florida and Georgia, cited increased work and travel obligations as his reason for resigning.

• Voted 4-0 in the Operations & Finance Committee, with Bechtel absent, to buy a bucket truck from the low bidder, O.G. Hughes & Son of Forest Park, for $86,401.

• Voted to continue for a year the Middle Georgia Regional Commission’s office lease at 175 Emery Highway for the same annual price of $94,280.

• Endorsed amending the Macon-Bibb ordinance on separation between liquor stores from 1,000 feet to match the state mandate of 1,500 feet. The state law must take precedence, Assistant County Attorney Opie Bowen said. The discrepancy was noticed when a new license form was being put together. County Attorney Judd Drake said there are no current stores known that don’t already meet the higher standard.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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