Dublin, Macon score highest in Livability Index ratings

If you gave your hometown a “livability index” score from 0 to 100, based on everything from housing costs to water quality, what would it be?

The AARP Public Policy Institute has done just that, and Macon scored a 49. The average community gets a 50. Above-average communities score higher and those below average score lower.

Dublin got a 52, leading other midstate cities. Other scores included Warner Robins, 46; Milledgeville, 44; and Forsyth, 43.

Macon, along with Atlanta and Augusta, is one of three Georgia cities to take part in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, joining in 2012. It did so in part to come up with ways to improve, said Chris Floore, the spokesman for Macon-Bibb County.

“A lot of the recommendations they have are things we’re already working on to improve,” Floore said. “We expect these scores to go up.”

The index rates a city using an average score based up on seven metrics: housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement and opportunity.

Macon’s best score was a 68 in housing, while its worst score was a 33 in opportunity.

Among the criteria where Macon scored poorly were education, income inequality, quality of health care, pollution, safe streets and crime rates. The index noted that Macon is not doing as well as the rest of the state in terms of average household income.

“A lot of the points (the index makes), we’re trying to improve,” Floore said. “We need more public transportation. They said (Macon needs to be) more walkable, which is one of the reasons why we’re putting in more sidewalks in (the) Beall’s Hill (neighborhood.) ... We’re trying to add connections to the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, which will help.”

Macon drew positive ratings for affordability of housing, access to libraries, water quality, regional air quality, access to health care, Internet access, civic engagement and economic opportunity.

The index noted Macon’s music history that includes Otis Redding, Little Richard and the Allman Brothers Band, as well as attractions such as Lake Tobesofkee.

“Macon-Bibb contains both urban and rural neighborhoods,” the index said. “The contrast between the two — an at-times struggling urban core versus its more secluded suburbs — is common in many mid-sized cities in the United States. It can be an attribute for families and older adults who may occasionally require the services that can be found in a city but desire the quaintness of a smaller town.”

The scores varied among other notable cities across Georgia: Columbus (52), Augusta (51), Savannah (52), Athens (48), Albany (51), Valdosta (45) and Atlanta (49).

The index initially listed Macon with a score of 56, which would have made it one of the top cities in the state. However, when The Telegraph pointed out discrepancies in the scores of several cities, including Macon, to AARP officials, the index was updated. An AARP spokesman said a technical issue caused incorrect ratings to be displayed initially.

To learn more, visit livabilityindex.aarp.org.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.