Brighter lights will be shining in more Macon neighborhoods.
A $1.4 million project to put in new energy efficient street light bulbs around some of the city’s urban core was approved at Tuesday’s Macon-Bibb County Commission meeting. The brighter bulbs should improve pedestrian safety and reduce the workload of Macon-Bibb employees to maintain the lights, county officials have said.
The light bulb conversion is being funded by blight bonds.
The nearly 1,600 county-owned light fixtures will be installed by Philips Lighting on roads such as Telfair Street, Martin Luther King Boulevard, Riverside Drive and Forsyth Street. Once the installations begin, it should take six to nine months to complete, Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said.
“The primary push is to brighten up the neighborhoods and fight back against blight,” he said.
A last-minute amendment to the resolution removed $100,000 that would have come from the amount allotted to Commissioner Virgil Watkins. Watkins, who was not at Tuesday’s meeting, sent an email to county officials saying he preferred having his funds focus on areas such as removing blighted structures and illegal dumping.
County Commissioner Bert Bivins recommended following Watkins’ wishes. Commissioners split $600,000 while the mayor’s administration is contributing $858,700 to the lights.
“If Virgil doesn’t want his money used, I don’t think it should be,” Bivins said during the precommission meeting. “The agreement we have as commissioners is we would make a decision in association with people in our district with how blight money would be used.”
Commissioner Al Tillman suggested having commissioners work together to come up with the missing $100,000 so the project can be fully completed.
In the long run, Macon-Bibb is expected to save money on maintenance. The lights will be on a computer grid that allows employees to control the brightness remotely, and it notifies them when a bulb dies.
Georgia Power also is converting more than 6,500 other lights in Macon on poles throughout the county. It’s part of a 2015 street light initiative in which the utility will replace 400,000 high-pressure sodium lights across the state with LED lighting over the next four years.
But while those LED lights are more efficient, cities may not see their bills reduced as Georgia Power is able to charge a higher fee to local governments, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in May.
Park funding approved
The County Commission also gave the go-ahead on several other blight-related projects, including more than $1 million in park upgrades and a new community center.
The money comes from the $1 million that each of the nine commissioners have to spend on blight-related capital improvements. The largest portion of funding — $500,000 — approved Tuesday will be used on a Henry Burns Park enhancement.
Commissioner Mallory Jones is providing $300,000 in blight funds for the project, and the remaining $200,000 is coming from Tillman and Commissioner Gary Bechtel.
The Kings Park community will receive a new community center with $300,000 of blight bond money from Commissioner Elaine Lucas.
The second phase of a Mattie Hubbard Jones Park expansion will comprise new tennis courts, restrooms, a pavilion, sidewalks and more, courtesy of $225,000 from Bechtel.
Another $120,000 from Bivins will be used at Hillcrest Park to resurface basketball courts, demolish restrooms and put in new basketball goals, playground equipment and fencing.