An effort to fix a Robins Air Force Base problem officially went regional Tuesday.
Bibb County commissioners agreed Tuesday to work with Houston County, the state and the federal government to buy property “encroaching” on the base by being in a noise zone. The agreement also sets the stage for other governments to consider joining the pact, Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said.
The agreement sets up a plan for counties to share in any taxes or profits from properties bought to reduce the encroachment. Hart said counties such as Peach, Monroe, Twiggs and Pulaski could agree “to participate proportionate to their number of employees” at the base.
Under the pact, the Central Georgia Joint Development Authority would buy houses — many of which have been there for decades — that encroach on the base and potentially threaten its future. After enough properties are purchased during the coming years, the land could be sold for agriculture or some restricted industrial uses. Then the land becomes taxable and money from the sale would be returned to the counties based on how much they’d invested.
While helping to secure the base’s future, the pact also gives Houston County another reason to invest in south Bibb, or Bibb to invest in north Houston, or other counties to invest in Bibb or Houston.
Bibb and Houston counties have each committed $100,000 a year over five years toward reducing encroachment, or $1 million total. Hart said that amount could be renegotiated if the economy picks up.
Such regional approaches will be critical. The base already has received $500,000 for encroachment, and an application is being prepared for another $3 million. Officials said regional applications are necessary to get state and federal money, which will be the majority of the invested money.
Owners of 45 properties appraised at $3.5 million are interested in selling, and another 37 properties have been identified as being in the encroachment zones.
The base itself is a regional employer. In fiscal year 2008, Robins employed 13,253 people from Houston County and 2,740 from Bibb County, according to a report. But 1,811 civilian and military employees came from Peach County alone. More than 500 employees came from Bleckley and Dodge counties, and more than 100 from Pulaski, Laurens, Jones, Twiggs, Monroe, Wilcox, Crawford and Macon counties.
Separately, Bibb commissioners also agreed to let Houston County join the Central Georgia Joint Development Authority; authorized the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority to use an undisclosed amount of money to buy property on Avondale Mill Road; and agreed to waive about $369,000 in permit fees and required letters of credit for “Project Q,” a proposed Industrial Authority project on Avondale Mill Road.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.