Macon and Bibb County officials say they’ve finalized a sweeping $190 million sales tax agreement that would have to be approved by both governments Tuesday night.
Behind the give-and-take about $42 million in recreation projects was relatively little controversy about the rest of the sales-tax proposal. If voters approve a special purpose local option sales tax in November, the SPLOST would raise the sales tax by one penny on every dollar spent for six years.
The biggest line items in the SPLOST would pay off debt -- $30 million for the county, $20 million for the city -- and put $27 million into renovating the Bibb County Courthouse. But there are plenty of smaller items to garner voter interest, such as $2 million for a new animal shelter.
But recreation projects kept getting pushed to the forefront as competing interests continued to clash. County commissioners started Monday morning by changing funding levels for four recreation projects. Just a few hours later, a city-county negotiating team changed funding levels for seven projects, including adding two projects.
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Both the Macon City Council and Bibb County Commission are expected to vote on the list Tuesday night, though more changes may come during the day.
Tubman in plans
Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said he thought the list probably could pass muster with city and county officials -- provided the city is willing to take over the new Tubman African American Museum building. County Attorney Virgil Adams told commissioners Monday that the building could be funded only if it was owned by one of the governments.
Hart said that if city officials reject the idea -- backed by some council members -- of taking over the Tubman, the $2.5 million allocated for it could be distributed to other recreation projects.
Monday, the negotiating team agreed to put $750,000 toward Fort Hawkins’ $3 million renovation plan; $300,000 into Rose Hill Cemetery, favored by Councilman Rick Hutto; and $600,000 into an irrigation system at the city-owned Bowden Golf Course.
The compromise agreement also calls for a $2 million complex at Central City Park, which could host recreation department offices, a senior center and a recreation center. A separate $3 million senior center was eliminated.
The compromise also calls for $2.5 million for a new recreation center at Bloomfield Park, which just last week county commissioners said they wouldn’t rebuild and might close.
In other moves, the negotiating team agreed to $8.2 million for a park in southern Bibb County near Rutland High School, or nearly full funding toward an $8.5 million plan.
City officials last week proposed cutting that to about $4.2 million.
Freedom Center was cut to about $3.1 million, or less than half of a $7.6 million plan.
Runway swapped out
County commissioners Monday morning backed off a demand for a Middle Georgia Regional Airport runway extension in the county SPLOST. The project appears on a proposed list for a regional transportation sales tax referendum next year.
In its place, Macon Mayor Robert Reichert got $8 million for his proposed revamp of Second Street, which would connect to Mercer University Drive and Reichert said could revitalize part of downtown.
The runway project was the only non-recreation portion of the SPLOST that ever received much debate in public meetings.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.