Macon delegation to announce help for music, sports halls of fame

Macon-area legislators have scheduled a news conference today at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and members say they will speak with one voice on efforts to prop up the sports and music halls of fame. Whether the details of a new funding deal have been decided for the halls or if this is simply a show of support remains to be seen. State legislators said they want to save any detailed announcement for the news conference, scheduled for 2 p.m. Core members of the local delegation met last week with Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart and Macon Mayor Robert Reichert. A more formal county commission meeting with the delegation has been called for Wednesday morning.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said the group is “working on something that we think will help provide some additional funding as well as show a commitment that the whole delegation has to the halls.” State Rep. David Lucas, D-Macon, said he hopes the entire legislative delegation can attend today’s news conference.

There was a proposal earlier this year to add a penny to the local hotel-motel tax and use that revenue to subsidize the sports and music halls, which are state-funded museums located in downtown Macon. That deal fell apart when legislators couldn’t agree whether to use the penny to fund only the halls or to give other local entities a cut, too.

Both halls of fame have suffered sizable budget cuts due to dwindling state revenues, and both recently scaled back their hours.

State Rep. Bubber Epps, D-Dry Branch, said Monday that the details of a new funding deal haven’t been set out. But the legislative delegation “agreed to whatever recommendations, basically, that the county and the city would forward to us.”

As for Wednesday’s commission meeting, Bibb Chairman Sam Hart said commissioners simply want to talk with legislators about several issues, including the halls of fame.

“We want to get with them earlier (than last time),” Hart said.

During this past legislative session the city and county got behind the penny tax plan for the halls but didn’t have enough support from the delegation to officially raise the hotel-motel tax, which takes state action. Lucas and state Sen. Robert Brown, D-Macon, in particular, opposed the plan. It appears they’re being brought into the discussions earlier this time out.

Epps said he, Lucas, Brown and Peake met with the mayor and chairman last week. He said state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, participated in the meeting via telephone.

“I’m optimistic,” Epps said of a deal to find more funding for the halls.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.