Bibb commission agrees to give more money to buses

The Bibb County Commission agreed Tuesday to contribute $185,000 to the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority’s operating reserve as the bus system struggles to make it through this fiscal year.

Payment of the money is contingent on the city of Macon giving a proportionate amount. The transit authority’s fiscal year ends June 30.

“I’m resigned to the fact that we’re going to have to do something, probably more than we’ve had in the past,” Commissioner Lonzy Edwards said of the authority’s funding.

The commission’s action, which was approved 4-0 with Commissioner Joe Allen absent, was in response to a Monday night meeting when transit authority board members asked Commission Chairman Sam Hart and Macon Mayor Robert Reichert for additional money to get them through the end of the year.

Carl Jackson, the transit authority’s general manager and chief executive officer, said Tuesday he didn’t want to comment on the commission’s recent action until the city and the county come to an agreement about the money.

“I’m hopefully optimistic that we’ll come up with not just the short-term part of it but also a long-term solution,” Jackson said. “It pleases me that the county is at least working proactively trying to fix this.”

Transit authority board members had asked the city and the county for $463,000 to meet the authority’s 45-day operating reserve and an additional $590,000 to cover the balance of a federal grant, which has yet to be received in its entirety. The city and the county were asked to pay the money in a 60/40 split, as is spelled out in the current tri-party agreement.

Board members also asked to revise the authority’s tri-party agreement with the city and county to better reflect its funding needs.

Bibb commissioners rejected the request that they essentially loan the transit authority money until the remainder of the federal grant comes in.

“I’m firmly against loaning money because I think that opens the door to too many other things,” said Commissioner Elmo Richardson, who likened the commission’s action to a bailout. “We’ll have everybody and their brother trying to borrow money from us. We’re not in the lending business.”

A revised tri-party agreement was given to County Attorney Virgil Adams to review.

Commissioners agreed that some long-term solution was needed, and more people, including the local legislative delegation, should be involved in finding one.

More questions need to be asked of the transit authority’s management, said Edwards, who noted that buses he sees driving around his district have few if any passengers.

“We have to do something,” he said. “The question is what.”

To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 744-4345.