Macon City Council’s Appropriations Committee voted 4-0 Monday to sell $18 million in bonds, aiming to get several high-profile sales-tax projects under way before the June 30 end of this fiscal year.
The committee had a dozen items on its special-meeting agenda Monday, but members dealt with only three. Councilwoman Elaine Lucas was absent, and that’s why the other items were deferred: Councilman Henry Ficklin asked to hold them until the committee’s next regular meeting Feb. 6. But the top three items are already on the agenda for a special meeting of full council Tuesday, so the committee moved ahead with those.
First up in Monday’s truncated meeting was the bond resolution. The November referendum, which authorized a six-year special purpose local option sales tax, grants the city the authority to sell up to $18 million in bonds, anticipating the tax revenue. SPLOST money won’t start rolling in until April or May.
The resolution as originally written called for $9 million in bonds, but at a recent city retreat, officials mulled going with the maximum, Chairman Tom Ellington said.
“There was no decision, but it was the sentiment of several council members that $18 million was the way to go,” he said. The resolution was amended to $18 million. The money will be used to “move forward expeditiously” on several of the SPLOST projects, Mayor Robert Reichert said.
According to the latest summary by Finance Director Dale Walker, based on the priorities council members set at the retreat two weeks ago, about $9.8 million could be spent by the end of fiscal 2012.
That includes $2.5 million to help finish the Tubman African American Museum, $2 million for upgrades to the Macon Centreplex, $2 million to pay off existing debt, $1.2 million for public safety equipment, $750,000 to start rebuilding historic Fort Hawkins, and $300,000 to start planning a revitalized Second Street corridor.
A remaining top priority is upgrading the 800 MHz radio system used by city and county emergency workers. That work already is under way, but payment isn’t due until after the new fiscal year starts July 1.
“Motorola has agreed to finance this for us at no cost,” Reichert said.
The resolution passed committee and is headed for a final vote at a special council meeting Tuesday. If successful, it will soon be followed by an ordinance to actually sell the bonds.
Second Street stalls
Though part of the funding for Second Street planning is in the bond resolution, the actual $493,000 contract with CHA/Huntley Partners to start a yearlong series of meetings and analysis failed to be approved even for discussion Monday. Ficklin and Councilman Virgil Watkins voted against taking the item off the table, deadlocking the committee.
Nevertheless, it’s still on the special council meeting agenda for Tuesday. Reichert said he’d hoped to have some discussion Monday so the administration could marshal whatever information council members may want in advance. He’s said previously that CHA/Huntley Partners has only guaranteed its bid price through the end of January.
Altogether, the SPLOST includes $8 million for the first phase of Second Street changes, which includes a curving connector between Second Street and Mercer University Drive.
The city’s portion of the local hotel tax has been split among the Douglass Theatre, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the now-defunct Georgia Music Hall of Fame. An earlier proposal sought to split that evenly between the two remaining entities, but there was some question whether the city could do that on its own, Ellington said.
Out of an “abundance of caution,” he proposed asking the Georgia General Assembly to authorize the change. His resolution passed 3-1, with Ficklin opposed.
Ficklin wondered why the Georgia Children’s Museum, in the same general area and part of a proposed downtown museum district, couldn’t have the music hall’s share.
“We did not have a fully fleshed-out idea of how that downtown museum district would work, so that’s why I did not include it in this resolution,” Ellington replied. Ficklin’s attempt to amend the resolution and fund the children’s museum died for lack of a second.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.