Fourteen members of Macon City Council voted Tuesday night to make Jaime Kaplan the body’s 15th member. She will fill the last six months of a term in the Ward 5, Post 3 seat.
She will fill the last six months of a term in the Ward 5, Post 3 seat.
Kaplan, a Macon native and former tennis pro who’s now head tennis coach and major gifts coordinator at Stratford Academy, has said she does not plan to run for a full term in the post. Beverly Knight Olson qualified Tuesday to run as a Republican for the seat in the July 19 primary.
Kaplan was recommended for the job by Councilwomen Lauren Benedict and Nancy White, the other two representatives of Ward 5. The seat became vacant when Beverly Blake recently moved out of the ward after just two months in office; Blake had replaced Erick Erickson, who was elected in 2007 but resigned in mid-February to become a full-time talk-radio host in Atlanta.
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Smoking ordinance draws out
Despite earlier indications that a revised ordinance to tighten smoking rules in Macon would be added to Tuesday night’s council agenda, it was not forthcoming.
An earlier version passed the council but drew a mayoral veto. After negotiations between council sponsors and Mayor Robert Reichert, a modified version was ready for release. Backers pledged to hold a public hearing in addition to normal committee discussion.
That’s the cause of the holdup, said Councilman Larry Schlesinger, one of the co-sponsors. The intent is to ask Bibb County to pass a matching ordinance at or about the same time. Now, backers are trying to set up a joint city-county public hearing on the issue, Schlesinger said.
The council voted unanimously to give $90,000 from federal grant funds to Homefirst Housing Resource Services, to be used in counseling prospective low-income homebuyers and people facing foreclosure.
There are still some potential buyers, but foreclosure is a much bigger problem, Reggie Bell of Homefirst said at a Community Resources and Development Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon.
About 20 percent of Macon homeowners are “seriously delinquent” on their mortgage payments, much like people in other troubled cities, he said.
Macon saw 2,069 foreclosures in 2009; that dropped to 1,578 in 2010, but there have been 674 already so far this year, Bell said.
Only a small percentage of those troubled homeowners get mortgage counseling, he said.
Homefirst can help about half of the people who come to them, but the key is getting people into the program before they’re six months behind in payments, he said.
Few lenders are willing to negotiate after that point, and they’re less flexible now than they were in the past, Bell said.
The agency would not be able to provide those counseling services without getting 30 percent of its funding from the city, especially since direct state and federal funds are being cut, he said. About 60 percent of Homefirst’s clients come from within Macon, Bell said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.