Politics & Government

Garbage deal would secure Macon-Bibb jobs, for now

Angela Walker, left and Maurice Jones with the City of Macon Solid Waste Division picks up trash along Gwinnett Drive in January 2009.
Angela Walker, left and Maurice Jones with the City of Macon Solid Waste Division picks up trash along Gwinnett Drive in January 2009. jvorhees@macon.com

A proposal that cleared committee Tuesday morning would assure Macon-Bibb County Solid Waste employees’ jobs won’t be privatized for at least the next two and a half years.

Commissioners gave tentative approval to extend the contract of private firm Advanced Disposal for another 30 months to pick up garbage outside the former Macon city limits. Included is a slight adjustment in service areas, affecting about 2,000 people in north Macon and southern Bibb County, but the agreement leaves intact the public garbage-collection service within most of the former city limits.

Solid Waste Director Kevin Barkley said the extension will give time to develop a comprehensive waste management plan.

There are some areas where public and private services overlap, so to minimize that Macon-Bibb will trade 1,350 houses in north Macon to get 680 in south Bibb, he said.

“Everybody’s services will increase in this change,” Barkley said. Advanced customers pay $12.75 per month, while Macon-Bibb customers pay $15. The reassigned customers in north Macon will get recycling service every other week, while those in south Bibb will still get recycling and get yard waste picked up weekly instead of every other week, Barkley said.

Eventually, Barkley and Mayor Robert Reichert said, rates and service should be standardized countywide.

When Macon and Bibb County governments merged in January, the question of whether garbage collection would remain divided into public and private spheres wasn’t decided. Reichert said then he wanted to gauge relative efficiency by letting both run side-by-side for at least a year. This agreement would postpone any reconsideration until after the next election for mayor and commission.

The contract cleared the commission’s Operations & Finance Committee by a unanimous vote. It and other items approved in committee Tuesday will be back for a final vote by the full commission Dec. 16.

PAY PLAN

The pay plan for 2,000 Macon-Bibb employees is still in the works, County Manager Dale Walker told commissioners.

“It is intended to be fully implemented July 1, 2015,” he said in a written report presented Tuesday. “Some movement may be done sooner depending on overall completion of all the departments.”

Commissioner Virgil Watkins pressed for a definite release date for the plan, which Walker didn’t give.

Walker’s report does say the pay plan will contain expectations for annual cost-of-living raises and some allowances for seniority. Workers already being paid above market value for their jobs won’t get raises, the report says.

Walker has previously estimated it will take about $3.5 million to deal with inequities in pay in all departments, including in the sheriff’s office and fire department.

SENIOR CENTER

Commissioners approved the general idea of turning the current Bloomfield recreation center and adjacent former Gilead Baptist Church and school into a “mega-facility” for senior citizens and young people. A committee ratified paying Sizemore Group LLC of Atlanta $170,365 to develop a concept design.

The idea is to give seniors more of the features they’ve asked for by combining the $2 million set aside specifically for a senior center with the $2.5 million allocated for work at Bloomfield. Money for both is coming from the special purpose local option sales tax voters approved in 2011.

The existing Bloomfield center largely would serve seniors, while arts and education programs for young people would go in buildings on the Gilead property, already government-owned, said Reggie Moore, Parks & Recreation assistant director. More athletic fields, plus a new entrance and more parking for seniors, would be built on the 62-acre site, he said.

Reichert said the site’s large size would give senior users some separation from youth activities, but they’d be close enough for joint programs as well.

SEARS BUILDING

Renovating the former Sears building at the corner of Third Street and Riverside Drive for the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office will take longer and cost about $250,000 more than expected, Reichert said.

Commissioners agreed to pay Technology International Inc. of Lake Mary, Florida, $81,676 for new heating, air conditioning and ventilation in the building. But major leaks in the roof also have turned up, damaging the building’s upper floor, Facilities Management Director Gene Simonds said.

That has to be fixed before the upstairs can be renovated and the sheriff’s office can move in, Simonds said.

TATTNALL SQUARE PARK

A near-reproduction of a historic fountain should soon be coming to the center of Tattnall Square Park, Andrew Silver told commissioners.

“We’re at the point now where we believe we’ve secured funding for the fountain,” said Silver, head of Friends of Tattnall Square Park, which has worked on the park for years.

Reichert noted the expected construction cost is around $300,000. Silver said much of the money is coming from the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation. It’s to be 18 feet tall and would closely resemble the fountain in the park decades ago.

Silver and Reichert said that Bill Underwood, president of Mercer University -- which is adjacent to the park -- has offered to pay for the fountain’s $16,500 annual maintenance cost.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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