Efforts to bring baseball back to Macon could ramp up Tuesday.
Macon-Bibb County officials are scheduled to discuss starting negotiations to bring a baseball team to Middle Georgia.
Mayor Robert Reichert is sponsoring a resolution authorizing him to work on a letter of intent to have a Coastal Plain League franchise play at Luther Williams Field. If approved by commissioners, the team would be the latest in a series of baseball teams in Macon since an Atlanta Braves affiliate relocated to Rome in the early 2000s.
The resolution is on the agenda for the Committee of the Whole. Commissioners would later have to give an OK to a lease agreement with sports marketing consulting company SRO Partners, which will make its pitch Tuesday on why Macon is an attractive market.
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On Feb. 7, SRO Partners purchased the league’s Petersburg Generals, with documents mentioning plans to move the team to Macon. The Macon-Bibb resolution does not mention if the team would be a new franchise or a relocation.
The deal would require upgrades to the historic ballfield located in Central City Park in order to make it a “family friendly and attractive” atmosphere, Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said.
Reichert has advocated using about $2.5 million of special purpose sales tax revenue to cover the renovations. The team would likely begin playing at Luther Williams in 2018.
Commissioner Scotty Shepherd said he would like to have a team come to Macon, but he does not support using SPLOST funds to pay for the improvements.
“We have too many other needs in the community that people are expecting us to provide,” he said. “I just don’t see us, commissioners as a whole, doing that. I’d love for that to happen, but I don’t see us having money to do that.”
The Coastal Plain League’s commissioner first expressed interest in bringing a team to Macon in 2016. At the time, Macon-Bibb was nearing the start of a minor league baseball feasibility study. The study said that Middle Georgia could support a Class A team, but there’s been little headway toward attracting such an affilliate, since the majority of them under long-term lease agreements, Reichert has said.
The Coastal Plain League has 16 franchises located in the Southeast.
Animal Welfare Department operations could be outsourced for a second time in as many years.
The Macon-Bibb County Commission will discuss Tuesday the possibility of having the staff continue handling investigations and picking up strays while a nonprofit would run the welfare side that includes handling adoptions.
Privatizing some of the services would not be new for the department. For about a year a nonprofit handled adoptions and spay/neuter services until the organization ended its agreement with Macon-Bibb in May 2016.
Tuesday’s discussion is to get a “temperature check” from officials on the best way to run the shelter, Floore said.
“Everyone has a high interest in animals and taking care of strays and protecting public safety, so we want to have a talk and see which side (commissioners) would like us to explore,” he said.
A December 2016 internal audit of the Animal Welfare Department mentioned problems with overcrowding and cleanliness at the new facility, which opened in March 2015.
The shelter exceeded its 120-animal capacity on 70 percent of the days between Jan. 1, 2016 and Sept. 30, 2016. There is enough staff to properly run the shelter when the number of animals is below the maximum, the audit said.
There was a rapid increase in the number of animals confiscated by animal welfare and surrendered by owners from 2014 to 2015. There were 70 animals confiscated in 2014 and 456 the following year.
“In talking with the auditors, they have corrected many of the issues in the audit,” Floore said. “But we have such a high number of strays it’s like drinking from a fire hose — they remain constantly full. The rescue groups have been great in pulling dogs out,” but as quickly as that happens, the shelter fills up again.