Dempsey Apartment residents will get their benches back. East Macon will have its streets paved. City employees will get a new voice through an advisory group. And Macon City Council will get a final say about layoffs.
The City Council approved those measures Tuesday night, but Mayor Robert Reichert must still approve them.
Some council members fear for the fate of the City Employee Advisory Group, made up of city employees from a variety of departments who would give the mayor and council non-binding suggestions to improve the city. The council is even less certain about whether the layoff ordinance, which dominated discussions Tuesday night, will escape the mayor’s veto.
That ordinance barely survived the full council after a lengthy discussion and a 9-5 vote. Council members Ed DeFore, Larry Schlesinger, Miriam Paris, Lauren Benedict and Nancy White voted against it. Councilman Erick Erickson was not present.
Councilman Rick Hutto, who sponsored the ordinance, said Reichert has stretched his powers by calling the layoffs temporary. Reichert does not have the power to eliminate jobs, but he can cut workers in a layoff. Only the City Council can create or eliminate city positions.
City Attorney Pope Langstaff said the council has the ability to create a law requiring final say on layoffs, but he disagreed with the interpretation that these layoffs are tantamount to abolishing a position.
“Taking someone out of a position is not eliminating a position,” Langstaff said. “What you’re deciding tonight is whether you want to put these restrictions on the mayor.”
Before voting, some council members expressed their sympathy for the 31 laid-off workers. The mayor also froze 38 unfilled jobs.
Prior to Tuesday night’s vote, Andrew Blascovich, the mayor’s internal affairs director, said Reichert would examine the resolution before making a final decision about supporting it.
Meanwhile, Reichert earlier told the council he would support whatever they wanted to do about the Dempsey Apartment benches. Controversy erupted in recent weeks after Dempsey residents complained that the benches had been removed.
Reichert said he had them removed at the apartment manager’s request
With community organizers applauding the council’s vote to reinstall the benches, the council amended the resolution with a caveat: The benches wouldn’t be returned to their original locations, but instead somewhere near the corner of Third and Cherry streets, pending input from Dempsey staff.
The council also took up a long-simmering streets issue Tuesday night. A handful of east Macon residents were rewarded with the council’s promise to pave the city’s last remaining unpaved streets: Howard Street, Tyler Place and Mollie Drive.
Sponsored by Hutto and Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, who both represent the area, the ordinance finishes a process that began in 1976 to pave every street in Macon.