A Macon-Bibb County Commission seat will probably remain vacant for at least nine months.
On Tuesday, commissioners rejected spending up to $47,000 for a May 22 special election — and possible run-off — to fill the commission seat left vacant when Gary Bechtel stepped down to run for state representative. The commission’s decision likely means that the north Macon district post remains unfilled until after the Nov. 6 general election.
Multiple commissioners cited concerns Tuesday about the costs of the special election and the confusion it could cause voters. They also said that the short time frame leaves people who might be interested in becoming commissioner with little time to decide.
Mayor Robert Reichert asked commissioners to consider the impact on the roughly 13,000 registered voters and other residents in Bechtel's District 1 not having their own commissioner.
But some commissioners said that won't be a problem. Reichert and Commissioner Joe Allen offered to field calls from people living in Bechtel's district until a new commissioner comes on board.
"I do think those folks will be represented," Commissioner Elaine Lucas said during a committee meeting. "I think it is unwise for us to spend money like this to create more confusion when we have money issues already."
The Georgia code says that the special election would have to be on a separate ballot if it was held May 22. There would be no additional costs if the election is held in November.
"Those people have to get in line and vote for Bechtel's seat and come back out and get in another line and vote in the general election," said Mike Kaplan, chairman of the Macon-Bibb County elections board.
The commission is also prevented from appointing someone to the role because there is more than one year left in the term.
The elections board has the final say on whether the election is held in May. But without the county paying for it, the election office doesn't have enough money to fund it, Kaplan said.