Bibb courthouse tops list for use of SPLOST money

City and county leaders met for about an hour Wednesday for what they described as an initial discussion about the new penny sales tax that Bibb County voters are expected to vote on next summer.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart, Payne City Mayor-elect Sharon Mobley, Macon City Council President Miriam Paris, Macon’s chief administrative officer and the finance directors for Macon and Bibb all huddled at the Bibb County Courthouse.

They were joined by Councilman Mike Cranford, who chairs the council’s Appropriations Committee, Payne City Councilwoman Grace McCrimmons, county attorney Virgil Adams and David G. Lucas, a local financial adviser who has worked with local governments on numerous projects.

The meeting was held behind closed doors and, afterward, Adams spoke for the group. He said “no projects, other than the courthouse, were discussed.”

He said Reichert planned to sit down with Macon City Council members to discuss the city’s project wish list, then the group would meet again.

Paris said she planned to call a council work session on the topic, but a date has not been set.

A new courthouse, which County Commissioners plan to build adjacent to the current one, is expected to dominate any penny special purpose local option sales tax that the county puts forward. That’s expected to cost about $83 million, and the tax itself would raise a projected $183 million over six years.

What projects will be funded with the rest of that money likely will be the subject of intense discussions between city and county leaders in the coming months.

Stormwater and drainage projects, recreation improvements, new city police cars and a new emergency radio system have all been discussed as serious possibilities.

Reichert, like others in the meeting, wouldn’t discuss specific projects Wednesday, other than the courthouse. He called it “a first priority.”

“A courthouse is ... a countywide, including the city, project,” he said. That seems to signal Reichert’s willingness to consider at least some of the courthouse’s costs as a “city” project as the city and county dicker over how much money the city and county get for project wish lists.

By law, the County Commission controls SPLOST spending, but it is expected to take input from city leaders because it takes a countywide referendum to pass the penny tax. That vote is slated for July 20, the same day as Georgia’s gubernatorial and other primaries.

If the tax passes, the sales tax would go from 6 cents on the dollar to 7.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.