Macon City Council members thanked State Bank on Monday for a $10,000 donation to work on Rosa Parks Square but fiercely objected to a proposed name change to Macon Civic Plaza.
From the start of discussion in the council’s Appropriations Committee meeting, Internal Affairs Director Keith Moffett stressed that the donation was not tied to the name change and that no disrespect to civil rights icon Parks was intended.
“The mayor has instructed me, this is clearly up for discussion,” he said.
The ordinance included approval of a general concept to enlarge and improve the square, and assign sections to various individuals already commemorated there -- including Parks.
An existing concept plan shows possible additions including a waterfall and small amphitheater, Moffett said, but the work immediately contemplated would just replace two small parking lots on the site with sod.
“This is just a start for that,” he said.
Councilman Henry Ficklin said he didn’t object to improvements, but lots of effort went into naming the square for Parks.
“While there was no attempt to be offensive, I am offended,” he said.
Council members Elaine Lucas and Rick Hutto said the city’s proposed capital budget includes $750,000 for more work on the park. Moffett acknowledged that the current donation wouldn’t come close to paying for the major changes shown in drawings. Features shown in those are roughly estimated to range in price from $100,000 to $1 million, he said.
Council members also objected to giving up downtown parking spaces. Though committee Chairman Tom Ellington’s suggestion to make the name “Rosa Parks Civic Square” was approved, the committee voted to table the ordinance as a whole, pending answers to financial and parking questions.
The vote was 3-2, with Ellington, Councilwoman Beverly Olson and Councilman Virgil Watkins in favor of tabling. Ficklin and Lucas voted no, with Ficklin calling for the ordinance to be formally disapproved instead.
The choice of a consultant to help the city find a new insurance plan manager, which has dragged on for 16 months, passed the council’s Employee Development and Compensation Committee on Tuesday but stopped again in the Appropriations Committee.
In September 2010, the council approved a new employee health insurance plan, and accordingly prepared to find a new plan manager to implement the expected changes. The first step was to find a consultant to help make that choice. A staff committee unanimously chose the Atlanta office of Gallagher Benefit Services, which bid $65,000. The runner-up was the local office of BB&T, which bid $15,000 less than Gallagher. Nevertheless, the staff committee cited Gallagher’s experience and extra services as representing the best value.
That didn’t suit the council’s Employee Development and Compensation Committee, which repeatedly rejected the recommendation, with Lucas specifically demanding a decision in BB&T’s favor.
Ellington put that into writing with a resolution instructing the administration to reach a contract with BB&T within 45 days.
Reaching some sort of decision soon is important because the new insurance plan as a whole should be in place by July 1, and the city still needs time to bid out the job of plan manager, interim Chief Administrative Officer Dale Walker said. Macon is self-insured, but it hires an outside administrator to manage its plan. Coventry Health Care of Georgia remains the city’s plan administrator on a month-to-month basis until a new one is found.
Ellington said the statements that Gallagher offered a better overall value “were not persuasive,” but Ficklin urged that the staff committee’s unanimous recommendation be given weight.
In the end, Ellington accepted tabling of his own resolution.
NCO Financial Systems of New Bern, N.C., got committee approval to become the collection agent for the city’s long-overdue bills. The city set a new collection policy late last year, seeking to recoup at least part of $700,000 or so in delinquencies.
The company will get to keep 15.5 percent of what it collects. First up will be the biggest items -- overdue landfill and business license fees, Walker said.
“We’re hoping that we would get about another $200,000 to $300,000 out of that,” he said.
Ficklin objected to hiring a private firm that “gets rich collecting our debts for us.” He cast the only vote against hiring NCO.
An ordinance from Councilman Rick Hutto to charge $110 for 60-day permits on door-to-door sales drew quarrels Monday but eventually won committee approval.
The council already passed an ordinance limiting for-profit solicitation but hadn’t set a fee for the required permits, Ellington said.
The ordinance, passed last year, exempts nonprofit organizations, churches and politicians, and limits commercial solicitors to daytime sales hours.
Ficklin said he hoped there would be an exemption for “college kids selling Bibles and encyclopedias.” They shouldn’t have to pay $110 to work a summer job, he said.
“And Girl Scouts would be exempt, I hope,” Olson added.
Senior Assistant City Attorney Judd Drake said Girl Scouts, a nonprofit group, would have to register but not pay for a permit. Book sellers working for private companies would have to pay, he said.
Hutto said the ordinance came after “repeated complaints” from several neighborhoods of harassment and suspicious activity by salespeople. The committee approved the fee 4-1, with Ficklin opposed.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.