Macon Mayor Robert Reichert made it safely through his budget review with City Council’s Appropriations Committee without much trouble Thursday afternoon. So he decided to stir the pot by asking for the committee to consider a few extra requests.
One, he said, is to put money in the budget for a much-discussed Intergovernmental Business Opportunity Center, which would be a clearinghouse for local small businesses that want to get contracts with the city, Bibb County and the Macon Housing Authority, among other potential partners. When the IBOC has been discussed before, council members have liked the general idea but, in light of recent economic concerns, have balked at the $40,000 the mayor has asked them to put toward it.
During Thursday’s meeting with the committee, Reichert asked council members to consider putting the money aside for the center even if the discussion for it needs to come later.
“Please consider that,” he said. “Pretty please with a cherry on top, consider that.”
The mayor also asked for “a little bit of seed money” — between $75,000 and $100,000 each — for his plans to revamp Second Street and for changes to Rosa Parks Square. The money would pay for a study about Second Street as well as increase the size and utility of the park, thanks to a land swap the city made with a doctor’s office that purchased the Shrine Building next to Rosa Parks Square.
Reichert said the small park could become “a fantastic civic square right where we need it, and we could get rid of some of these parking spaces that just kind of stick out.”
Earlier Thursday during the mayor’s office budget review, Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Thomas told the committee he wants to move the risk management division from the city attorney’s office to his direct supervision. The move, he said, would not necessarily be permanent. He just wants to make some cost-saving changes.
“I want it better organized,” Thomas said. “In a year or two (we) might move it out.”
Though the risk management operation may be found under other departments in other cities, Thomas said it’s rare to find it in a city attorney’s office.
Councilman Rick Hutto said he originally was happy to see the cost savings between fiscal 2010 and 2011 in the city attorney’s office budget until he realized it largely was due to a proposal to move risk management. Hutto said even with the risk management move, Macon’s city attorney’s office is larger than other cities in the state such as Savannah, Athens, Albany and Columbus.
City Attorney Pope Langstaff said that while the question about the size of his office staff is fair, comparing it to city attorney’s offices in other cities is complex.
For example, the city of Macon is one of two municipalities in the state with a “strong mayor” form of government, which is a more open form of government that requires more meetings and documents for every action. By comparison, Albany, where his brother is a council member, meets just twice a month and has no committees, Langstaff said. A single contract approval in Macon usually requires four votes before it can be approved by the full council, he said. Hutto said the city attorney’s office needs more supervision, but Langstaff argued that his role as an attorney to both the mayor and the council makes that complicated.
“I don’t deny that I need some oversight, but there’s a difference between supervision and oversight,” Langstaff said. “I think the basic idea is I don’t need one wing telling me what advice to give the other wing.”
There are no budget review meetings today, but they are scheduled to resume next week.