Starting July 1, the city of Macon will take over animal control for all of Bibb County.
The move follows several weeks of discussion between city and county officials, who still have a few financial details to work out, local leaders said at a Tuesday news conference.
Not only is the move a good step toward more efficient government, Macon Mayor Robert Reichert and Bibb Commission Chairman Sam Hart said, but it also shows that the city and the county can still work together despite weeks of disagreements over a proposed special purpose local option sales tax and a still-to-be-renegotiated service delivery strategy.
“We may disagree,” the mayor said, “but that doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable.”
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Hart echoed Reichert, saying, “there are many more things we agree on than we disagree on.”
The two local leaders finalized the basic framework for consolidating the two departments over lunch Monday, but some financial issues are remaining. For instance, the city is still working out how much to bill the county for animals picked up in the unincorporated area, and the county is negotiating the price tag for its two animal control trucks, which the city will buy as part of the merger.
Though the county’s animal control trucks are heading to the city, the county’s two Animal Control officers will be absorbed into the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Chief David Davis said.
Meanwhile, Macon Animal Control Director Jim Johnson said his department may expand in the future but won’t do so immediately. First, he said, he wants to monitor the call volume in the unincorporated county and give his officers a chance to get familiar with that part of the county. “It’ll be more work,” he said. “It’s the same job we’re doing now, but there’s more area.”
Councilman Larry Schlesinger, who has pushed for several changes in the Macon Animal Control Department, applauded the consolidation. “We’ve come a long way in a relatively short time,” he said.
Schlesinger also noted that an aggressive spay and neuter program coupled with gains in the adoption program could decrease demands on Animal Control and result in fewer animals euthanized. The consolidation could, he said, facilitate those changes, but it also shows the city and the county are able to make progress together. “I think this proves that, where possible, we can consolidate city and county services under one umbrella,” he said.
As for which department may be next for consolidation, Reichert is quick to say it could be the city and county engineering departments, and his county counterpart agrees.
“I think engineering is this close,” Hart said, holding his forefinger and thumb about a centimeter apart.
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.