MTA gets Terminal Station

jgaines@macon.comJuly 15, 2014 

Terminal Station

ROBERT SEAY — The Telegraph

Macon-Bibb County commissioners voted 8-0 on Tuesday night to give the historic Terminal Station to the Macon Transit Authority, which manages the building and occupies part of it.

Commissioner Virgil Watkins was absent during the vote to hand over the 98-year-old building at 200 Cherry St.

Transferring the property is contingent on approval from the Federal Transportation Administration, because that agency funds the transit authority, Mayor Robert Reichert said.

“They have to come look at the building and approve it first,” he said.

Reichert urged giving the building to MTA several years ago, but that suggestion didn’t fly with the Macon City Council.

Former Mayor C. Jack Ellis spoke at the start of Tuesday’s meeting to urge that Macon-Bibb keep the building. Buying it from Georgia Power and the start of its restoration took place under the Ellis administration.

Reichert has said that if MTA owns the building, the Department of Driver Services office there could be made to pay rent. Ellis said the drivers’ license office might move if that is proposed.

“They could very well move to Forsyth, if they wanted to,” Ellis said. Commissioner Bert Bivins also said the Driver Services office shouldn’t pay rent.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas, who opposed the handover before, noted one argument for the transfer was that the transit authority couldn’t apply for federal grants for further renovation unless it owned the building.

“Is that true?” she asked Reichert.

He replied that the agency could apply, but would have a much better chance if it owned Terminal Station.

Lucas said she would reluctantly vote for the transfer, but that, like Ellis, she wanted to see the signs marking the former “colored entrance” remain as a historical reminder of segregation.

Gun law discussion

Before the regular commission meeting, Macon-Bibb officials talked to five members of the local legislative delegation about Georgia House Bill 60, dubbed the “guns everywhere” law, which went into effect July 1.

State Sen.-elect John Kennedy, R-Macon; Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon; Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon; Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella; and Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, came to hear local concerns.

Judge Sarah Harris of Bibb County Probate Court, which handles issuance of gun permits, said the law doesn’t define how to renew a gun license. That has caused headaches for probate courts, which decided that a license isn’t “new” as long as applicants seek it before the old one expires, she said. But any litigation which results from that judgment call would have to be paid for by counties, Harris said.

“We’ve sent this issue to (Georgia Attorney General) Sam Olens, and the attorney general’s office is in agreement that there are inconsistencies in the legislation that probably need to be cleaned up,” she said.

Mayor Robert Reichert said the law that allows guns in public facilities causes commissioners the most concern. Senior Assistant County Attorney Crystal Jones said the new law means even private events, such as the Cherry Blossom Festival or musical acts at the Macon Coliseum, can’t prohibit guns since they’re held on public property.

Reichert said one major act -- which commissioners said would bring in a $50,000 contract -- has already specified that no guns would be allowed at its coliseum show. Macon can’t sign the contract, because the new law forbids that guarantee, he said.

There also are questions on how thorough any screening process has to be at government buildings in order to allow prohibition of guns, Reichert and Jones said.

Epps said legislators knew from the outset that state House and Senate leadership wanted the gun bill on a fast track for approval this year. He hadn’t considered the reaction from entertainers considering shows in Georgia, but that’s something to consider, Epps said.

Dickey said he’s willing to look at specific alterations. Neither he nor the others made any commitments, but he said it’s fairly likely that some changes will be made eventually.

“Every piece of legislation up there, it comes back the next year with tweaks and fixes,” Dickey said.

other business

Commissioners:

• Approved a new agreement with CorrectHealth Bibb LLC for medical care of inmates 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 inmates’ care even if their first stop is the hospital to be checked out, he said.

• Agreed 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, which is losing access to part of a nearby 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 Friday which could provide funding related to Robins Air Force Base, Reichert said. Other communities have received hundreds of thousands of dollars through the program.

• Appointed 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.

• Bought 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.

• Amended the Macon-Bibb ordinance on separation between liquor stores from 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet. That matches the state standard, which takes legal precedence. No existing stores are known to be affected, County Attorney Judd Drake said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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