Politics & Government

About half of Macon-Bibb’s SPLOST money already spent

Nearly three years after Macon-Bibb County voters endorsed a $190 million special purpose local option sales tax, about half of the money has been spent on a long list of approved projects, commissioners learned Tuesday afternoon.

But the most visible results are yet to come, SPLOST project manager Clay Murphey said at a nonvoting commission work session.

“Some of the big money, frankly, has been in stuff that you can’t see,” Murphey said. The SPLOST list included millions for repaying existing debt and work on stormwater projects. Other plans are moving along, he said.

The “vision block” of Mayor Robert Reichert’s $8 million plan to redevelop Second Street has been under construction for four weeks and is ahead of schedule, Murphey said. Much of that so far has been underground, including a major upgrade of utilities while street work goes on, he said. But soon the holes in the street will be filled, and above-ground work will begin.

“The plan calls for reverse-angle parking, lots of new trees and planters, new LED streetlights,” Murphey said. He expects work on the block to finish in December.

Farther along Second, plans for a connector curving up to Little Richard Penniman Boulevard are still being discussed with Norfolk Southern railroad, Murphey said. Final approval could come in four to six months, but some road work could start earlier, he said.

Recently completed projects include the roundabout at College and Oglethorpe streets and the new visitors center at Fort Hawkins. The second of three fire stations is nearing completion, and Fire Chief Marvin Riggins wants to start on the third soon, Murphey said.

The new Animal Welfare Center, originally budgeted at $3 million, just got another $435,000 infusion from commissioners. That should allow completion, with the building scheduled to be handed over to the county Dec. 27, Murphey said.

“That facility is going along very well,” he said. “We’ve had very few issues out there” at the site off Fulton Mill Road.

Renovation of the Round Building in Central City Park also should be finished in a few months, Murphey said. A row of windows under the dome has been revealed and restored, and the side doors are now open, he said.

The new boxing gym at Freedom Park is the only “totally complete” recreation project, but much work has already gone into other recreation centers, Murphey said.

“All the recreation facilities to this date have gotten new roofs, air conditioning in the gym, scoreboards, gym floors and lighting,” he said.

Answering a question from Commissioner Al Tillman, Murphey said work should soon begin on the long-awaited Filmore Thomas Recreation Area off Log Cabin Drive, though with trails and a ballfield instead of a restored lake. Then will come the entirely new Sub South recreation center.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas urged that senior citizens be surveyed before a new senior center is built. Murphey said the Recreation Department could probably do that.

Freedom Park’s swimming pool, closed for the past two years, is different from the city’s other pools and is harder to fix. Cost estimates are being prepared, but it may be cheaper to replace the pool than fix it, Murphey said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.