Politics & Government

EPD warns Macon-Bibb over landfill issue

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division has warned Macon-Bibb County officials that the county violated state rules when it excavated dirt without a permit. The digging exposed previously buried solid waste.

Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert informed commissioners of the letter Tuesday morning during regular committee meetings.

According to the letter, Macon-Bibb never obtained a surface mining permit to dig up the dirt, which was used to cover waste at the county’s current landfill.

The EPD ordered the county within the next 10 days to obtain an application for a surface mining permit, determine if the project requires an industrial stormwater permit and stormwater prevention plan, submit a written corrective action plan to ensure that future surface mining won’t be undertaken without a permit, and remove the previously buried waste from the surface mining site and place it in the landfill.

Reichert said the county would work with state officials to remedy the situation. He said he wasn’t aware of the punitive measures the state might take should the county fail to comply.

In a separate matter Tuesday in the commission’s Operations and Finance Committee meeting, commissioners unanimously approved issuing a request for proposals to local animal rescue groups to operate the adoption portion of the Animal Welfare Center and arrange spay and neuter services.

Reichert said the RFP is intended to have the shelter operate similarly to Atlanta’s animal shelter, which works alongside the American Humane Society to get animals adopted.

Reichert and Assistant County Manager Steve Layson said the newly opened shelter already is over capacity. It is designed to hold a maximum of 80 dogs and 40 cats.

“We’ve got a backlog of calls,” Layson told commissioners. “My goal is to create a safer community and reduce overhead. The way we are doing things now, nothing will change, and we need to change.”

Reichert said a panel, which will include commissioners, will evaluate the proposals submitted. Reichert said he also wants to reinstitute a former city policy in which veterinarians would be asked to administer a fee to animal owners when they bring in their pets for rabies shots in order to get a rabies tag. Reichert said he plans to meet with local veterinarians to discuss the matter.

Also Tuesday:

The committee approved spending $500,000 on the former Sears building downtown, which now holds public records and will serve the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office. The building needs further improvements to the roof, the HVAC system and the elevator, among other issues.

The committee also agreed to adopt the Economic and Community Development Department’s proposed budget for the federal Community Development Block Grant, the HOME Investment Partnership and the Emergency Solutions Grant, which totalled about $2.5 million.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas amended the proposal, increasing the amounts the Mentor’s Project and Family Advancement Ministries would receive, but commissioners didn’t identify what other items might be cut to balance the budget. The amendment passed 4-1, with Commissioner Larry Schlesinger opposed.

The committee approved Francar’s to operate the snack bar at Bowden Golf Course and accepted a $15,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for outdoor movie screenings.

The committee tabled two items: a proposal by Commissioner Virgil Watkins to reduce the number of video gambling machines in the county and charge store owners an annual $5,000 fee per store to have machines; and a proposal by Commissioner Mallory Jones to increase the supplemental benefit to retired and disabled firefighters and police officers from $100 to $200 a month.

The committee tabled Watkins’ proposal until county attorneys could draft legislation. The committee noted that other retired former city and county employees would expect a similar raise in benefits and that an actuarial study would need to be conducted.

The commission’s Economic and Community Development Committee is asking officials to investigate other options for the proposed senior center, currently slated for the Bloomfield neighborhood. Commissioner Al Tillman noted that many seniors are opposed to the move. Reichert said officials would discuss the possibility of locating the center on the former campus of Miller High School as part of redevelopment going on at the school.

The Facilities and Engineering Committee approved transferring three properties to the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority -- 239 Schell Ave., 275 Clinton St. and 323 Dewitt St. -- to create a new entrance to the Ocmulgee National Monument.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.