Macon-Bibb commissioners updated on downtown parking meters, animal laws

jgaines@macon.comJuly 8, 2014 

Downtown development and animal control were on Macon-Bibb County commissioners’ agenda at a nonvoting work session Tuesday afternoon.

Josh Rogers, NewTown Macon’s executive director, said efforts to develop loft apartments downtown have been successful, but there’s much more to do.

In 2012, about 40 percent of downtown buildings were vacant, he said. NewTown focused its efforts on three blocks, largely through a $5 million bond fund to provide gap financing for developers, Rogers said. Two years later, nearly 100,000 square feet of building space has been put back in use, generating $14 million in project value from $3.7 million in loans, he said.

“We’ve got at least a million square feet left to deal with,” Rogers said. And if the current pace keeps up, he said, that’s manageable.

In the next six months, downtown parking will be an emphasis of NewTown, he said.

Asked what that meant by Commissioner Elaine Lucas, Rogers said NewTown hopes to see “some kind of metering system” on downtown streets. The idea is to induce employees of downtown businesses to park in garages or off-street lots, leaving on-street parking for customers. Several pushes to install parking meters on downtown streets have failed in the past few years.

In a separate issue, commissioners heard from Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare Director Sarah Tenon, who gave a rundown of current local animal control laws. She said the requirement to spay or neuter most dogs and cats is drawing inquiries from animal welfare agencies in other counties.

“This is the future,” she said. A strong spay/neuter policy and public education are the only way to control the burgeoning population of stray animals, Tenon said.

Macon-Bibb’s spay/neuter law became effective July 1, with a few specific exemptions. Tenon said Animal Welfare officers want compliance, not citations, and will give violators a list of low-cost spay/neuter options, with a 60 day grace period. They won’t be knocking on doors to check for compliance, she said.

On Tuesday the shelter housed 63 dogs and 31 cats -- 14 animals above capacity, but some of those are newborn puppies, Tenon said.

There are 97 requests for service waiting now, meaning some animals have to be selected for euthanization daily, she said.

The new animal shelter now under construction won’t hold many more than the current shelter but will be a much better place and allow the department’s 17 employees to offer more programs, Tenon said. It should be occupied by February 2015.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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