The way is clear to start the first projects authorized by the Nov. 8 special purpose local option sales tax vote.
Macon City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to accept $19.1 million in bond money for several early projects: the Tubman African American Museum, Fort Hawkins, the Macon Centreplex, the Second Avenue downtown corridor, storm drainage work and the purchase of public safety equipment.
Voters approved those projects and many others in the SPLOST vote, but it will be several months before large amounts of tax money come in. So the city sold bonds to start some work early, which was authorized in the November election.
Councilman Tom Ellington said he and other council members are often asked why the city isn’t spending money soon to build a new animal shelter and fix recreation centers, but those are moving under the control of Bibb County as of July 1. SPLOST funds for that work is the county’s responsibility, he said.
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Minority business aid
An ordinance to make it easier for minority-owned and small businesses to get city contracts also got unanimous approval Tuesday. The measure from Councilman Frank Tompkins was officially co-sponsored by Ellington and Councilman Virgil Watkins, but many more council members signed on Tuesday afternoon.
It will require city contractors and subcontractors to use local and minority workers, Tompkins said.
Senior Assistant City Attorney Judd Drake said the measure would let the city establish a “one-stop clearinghouse” for those businesses seeking contracts, and to hold “reverse trade shows” to let potential bidders know what work the city’s likely to need.
Those measures have been tested elsewhere on the local and federal levels and have been approved by the courts, he said.
Councilman Charles Jones asked if the ordinance includes specific obligations for contractors to use minority workers, and he asked how it would be enforced.
Drake said it will require contractors to state their degree of minority participation when they bid on a job, and if they don’t meet federal equal opportunity standards, they’d have to submit affirmative action plans on how they intend to change their work force.
Tompkins said it also will allow appointment of a hearing officer to monitor contractors’ compliance.
The council agreed to change the city pension system rules to allow those employees who are transferring to Bibb County to remain under the city pension plan.
About 95 workers are scheduled to transfer July 1, along with their departments, under the service delivery deal the city and county signed last year.
The ordinance applies to about two-thirds of the workers, those who have more than five years of service with the city. The rest must start over in the county pension system.
Bibb County has agreed to pay into the city pension system for the affected employees.
Councilwoman Lauren Benedict got her colleagues to suspend their rules and rush through a resolution asking Bibb County to fund the Macon Arts Alliance.
The arts alliance had asked the city for $32,600, but in the council’s Appropriations Committee, members noted the service delivery deal put that funding responsibility on the county. Instead, Benedict’s resolution asks the county to make good on that provision and to fund the organization in the future.
The organization distributes those funds as grants among dozens of smaller arts groups around the area for specific programs.
The rush stemmed from the fact that the current fiscal year has less than four months to go. Most council members signed on as co-sponsors, and the resolution passed 13-0. Councilmen Rick Hutto and Lonnie Miley had left the meeting when that item was brought up Tuesday night.