VanDeWalker supporters put pressure on Bibb commission

Supporters of Macon Animal Control’s Van VanDeWalker are increasing the pressure on Bibb County commissioners to hire him as the permanent director for the department.

VanDeWalker has worked as interim director and also as the day-to-day operations manager for the agency, which transfers from Macon to Bibb County control July 1.

“He is the real deal,” said Allison Young, who addressed commissioners Tuesday. She represented about 20 people wearing yellow T-shirts who are united in support of VanDeWalker. He was not at the meeting.

A Facebook group called “Keep Van” has attracted more than 1,100 members. The leader of that group, Anne Brennaman, told The Telegraph her goal now is to get VanDeWalker hired as the permanent director.

Bibb County plans to hire an interim director, with Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson expecting to announce that person as early as Wednesday, Commission Chairman Sam Hart said. Layson left shortly after Tuesday’s meeting ended and could not be reached by phone afterward. Hart said he wants VanDeWalker to apply for the permanent job.

“I share the concern that we get the best person,” Hart said. “Whether he’s the best person, I don’t know, but he deserves a fair and just review.”

In other business Tuesday, five Toyota Camrys that were unveiled mark the doubling of the Bibb County government’s hybrid fleet. The government had purchased another five Ford Escape SUV hybrids.

Hart said the hybrids help save the environment but also help the local economy. They were bought with grants aimed at improving the area’s air quality, which if not kept in check, could threaten the future of Robins Air Force Base, officials said.

The Camrys get about 43 mpg in the city, and 39 mpg on the highway, Hart said. They were bought largely with money from a subsidized diesel retrofitting program, which also covered most of the costs of the cars.

Bibb County Grant Resources Administrator Kari Kitchens said the county received the five Camrys for about $25,000 total in county funds. She’s now looking into whether other older diesel vehicles, including fire trucks, could be retrofitted. The fleets of Bibb County and Macon governments already have been cleaned up, she said.

Tax Commissioner Tommy Tedders said he has had no problems with an Escape and a Camry assigned to his department.

“They could replace all of my vehicles with hybrid vehicles,” Tedders said.

Separately, commissioners learned two bits of good financial news Tuesday. Though the current fiscal 2012 budget was supposed to sap the county’s financial reserves, positive variances caused by lower expenses or higher revenues created a surplus. Commissioners voted Tuesday to put $2.35 million into a trust fund that covers retirees’ health care and similar expenses.

The first money from November’s special purpose local option sales tax has also begun to flow in. Such receipts from the first month of collections are typically lower. A little more than $2.25 million was collected, covering Macon debt service of about $368,0000 and county debt service of about $440,000. That left about $386,000 for Macon projects and $1.06 million for Bibb County projects.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.