Politics & Government

Animal shelter, tennis building may see more SPLOST benefit

Leftover money from building new fire stations could finish equipping the new Animal Welfare Center and pay for more work on the tennis center at Tattnall Square Park.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission’s Operations & Finance Committee voted 4-1 to shift money from the fire station work to the animal shelter and tennis projects, with Commissioner Elaine Lucas voting no. The resolution is likely to come up for a final vote at the Sept. 2 full commission meeting.

The fire stations, animal shelter and tennis center all are being paid for with money from the special purpose local option sales tax voters approved in November 2011. Clay Murphey, SPLOST project manager, said each of three new fire stations is expected to come in about $1 million under budget, including equipment costs. That will leave plenty to be shifted to other SPLOST needs as each station is completed, he said.

One station already is finished and equipped, while the Tattnall tennis center still needs work and the animal shelter came in over its $3 million original budget, Murphey said.

Commissioners Bert Bivins and Elaine Lucas said they were worried about moving money to the shelter and tennis center. Someone might later say the fire stations needed more money, they said.

Lucas said she hopes the reallocation passes the full commission, but she would vote against it to register her concern about the fire station funding.

Under the amended SPLOST program, the animal shelter would get an extra $435,000, and the tennis center $200,000.

That would buy many of the items recently deleted from the animal shelter contract due to cost, Murphey said. Animal Welfare Director Sarah Tenon plans to open the new shelter soon after the start of 2015, he said.

The tennis center originally received $500,000 in SPLOST money, enough to redo all the courts and their surroundings. The additional $200,000 would fix up the adjacent building, including the damaged roof and restrooms, and build a new sidewalk from there to the parking lot, Murphey said.

BUILDING SECURITY

If Municipal Court sessions continue to be held on the ground floor of the Macon-Bibb County Government Center, the building will require extra security under Georgia law, Bibb County Sheriff David Davis said.

Davis put together a plan for that security, presented to commissioners Tuesday as part of County Manager Dale Walker’s regular report.

“The bottom line is it will cost approximately $565,000 to complete,” Walker wrote.

That’s $252,000 in one-time costs, mostly for equipment. The other $313,000, to pay five deputies and six bailiffs, would recur every year, according to the report.

“We’ve got a big decision to make there,” Reichert said.

Davis’ plan calls for closing most doors to the public, setting up internal checkpoints and security sweeps, more cameras and swipe cards on inside offices.

“All of the aspects of the courthouse security law come into effect,” he said.

The government doesn’t have the money to do that now, Reichert said. But if Municipal Court hearings moved to the Bibb County Courthouse, the extra security at the Government Center wouldn’t be required -- even if Municipal Court administrative offices stayed in place, he said.

LAND HANDOVER

The Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority, which recently took over ownership of Terminal Station from the local government, may get an additional acre under a resolution that passed the commission’s Facilities & Engineering Committee. The vote was 4-0, with Tillman absent.

The adjacent property was the home of Causey Electric, but the city took ownership about a decade ago and tore down the building, Reichert said.

“It was always the intent to use the property in connection with the transit authority,” he said. Now MTA needs additional parking, Reichert said.

ROUNDABOUT

Commissioners already have given permission for two roundabouts on Eisenhower Parkway, at both Holley and Fulton Mill roads. A request for a third got 5-0 approval from the commission’s Operations & Finance Committee.

The third roundabout would be at the corner of Eisenhower and Knoxville Road, about midway on the 3-mile stretch between Holley and Fulton Mill roads, Assistant County Manager Steve Layson said.

“This would be one right in between the two already approved,” he said. The state Department of Transportation probably would pay all construction costs, meaning Macon-Bibb would only be responsible for nearby maintenance, Layson said.

CONCERT PROMOTION

The commission’s Economic & Community Development Committee voted 4-0, with Tillman absent, to allow a concert soon atop the city-owned parking garage at 448 Mulberry St.

Josh Rogers, president of NewTown Macon, said a couple of Mercer University graduates are starting a business to put on “pop-up concerts” at underused spaces around town. Allowing use of the garage after regular business hours won’t cost any extra in liability insurance, he said. If successful, the concert would be the first of many, Rogers said.

“These things will move all over downtown,” he said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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