A study to look at the feasibility of bringing a minor league baseball team back to Macon will now go before the full Macon-Bibb County Commission Oct. 6.
The commission’s Operations and Finance Committee approved the resolution 3-2 Tuesday morning after a 30-minute debate. The resolution proposes spending $50,000 on a market analysis and economic feasibility study that would take about 10 weeks to complete.
Voting against the measure were commissioners Elaine Lucas and Virgil Watkins, who both failed to get motions passed to table the resolution. Commissioners Gary Bechtel, Scotty Shepherd and Larry Schlesinger supported the resolution.
Lucas said she wanted to see if there are other agencies Macon-Bibb has relationships with that could complete the same study as Washington, D.C.-based Brailsford & Dunlavey.
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She named the Middle Georgia Regional Commission and the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce as possibilities.
If approved next month, the $50,000 would come from bond funds that are part of the tax allocation district around the former Bibb Mill site. The old cotton mill is the location of a tentative development that Mayor Robert Reichert unveiled plans for in 2014. Those plans call for surrounding a new baseball stadium with restaurants, small hotels and a parking deck.
“I know it’s coming from special funds generated in this area, but is this a wise use of money when we have people screaming for other things?” Lucas asked.
Bechtel said $50,000 is a minor investment for a project that ultimately could improve the quality of life in the county.
Mayor Robert Reichert said this is the first step in a long process. Greenville, South Carolina and Oklahoma City are places where investing in a minor league team has been fruitful. Brailsford & Dunlavey is experienced with minor league baseball and has been involved in more than 50 ballpark projects at professional and amateur levels.
“My impression is that minor league baseball has repeatedly resulted in huge economic development occurring in those communities where they have invested and attracted a minor league team,” Reichert said.
Commissioner Bert Bivins, who is not on the committee, said he thinks the best place for a new team would be to move back into an updated Luther Williams Field that housed minor league baseball in Macon for years until 2002. That year, the Atlanta Braves Class-A affiliate, the Macon Braves, moved to Rome due to what team officials described as a substandard facility.
Bivins said he thinks the firm will be influenced to pick the former Bibb Mill site as the best location.
“I like the idea of a baseball stadium, but I like the idea of where it is,” he said, referring to Luther Williams Field.
Watkins said he wants more details on the economic impact that professional sport teams have had in Macon.
In other business Tuesday:
Reichert said the Solid Waste Department is on the precipice of crisis as it deals with having to spend more than $11 million to close two landfills.
The county has stopped putting waste in its inert landfill since new regulations are forcing its shutdown by February 2016. A temporary solution is putting those items into the main landfill that is now on track to be closed in under four years unless more waste can be diverted away.
“We really are being hit by a perfect storm,” Reichert said. “The state literally out of the blue came in and passed these new regulations.”
There could be $150,000 spent on streetscape and right of way improvements along Eisenhower Parkway after Commissioner Al Tillman’s blight resolution was approved by the commission’s Operations and Finance Committee.
The resolution includes $75,000 of blight bond money from Tillman that also was matched by Bechtel for a total of $150,000. The improvements would take place along the Middle Georgia Education Corridor Business Improvement District.
“We see this as an important way to bridge from now until those funds start rolling in (next year),” said Matthew Matson, with Hull Property Group, the owner of Macon Mall.
Another Tillman-sponsored blight resolution that moved forward would have a total of $40,000 spent to assist in remediation at Henry Burns Park. Bechtel also matched Tillman’s $20,000 for that plan.
The resolutions are the first two blight projects sponsored by a commissioner that will go before the full commission since $9 million in blight funding was divvied among the board.
The commission is set to vote Oct. 6 if it will exercise eminent domain on a Clinton Street property. The owner has declined negotiations for the property, which is part of plans to build a new entrance to the Ocmulgee National Monument.
The Operations and Finance Committee approved a resolution for a $66,240 federal grant that would be used to purchase body cameras for the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office and to support the county’s drug court program.
To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him on Twitter @stan_telegraph.