Politics & Government

Central City Park emerges as contender for senior citizens center in Macon

Reassurance from Macon-Bibb County officials to explore locations around Central City Park as possible locations for the senior citizens center drew support from a vocal group Tuesday.

The city-county commission asked Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration to study the feasibility of moving the center from its current Adams Street location to one of three Central City Park options. Some seniors say a center near the park would give them easier access to medical care and would place them in the heart of Macon.

The decision came during a one-hour work session Tuesday where seniors voiced displeasure with proposals at the Bloomfield Recreation Center and the former A.L. Miller School on Montpelier Avenue.

One of the sites that will be considered is on Willie Smokie Glover Drive.

Reichert pointed out the location Tuesday in response to the Golden Group, a senior citizens organization. The group’s officers met with the mayor last week and expressed their desire to move to Central City Park.

The two other potential locations near the park that were brought up Tuesday are the former sites of Caduceus Occupational Medicine and Atlanta Gas Light.

“Both of those sites would start from ground-up construction, and I’m not sure what we could be build for the amount of money we have remaining,” Reichert said.

There is $2.7 million set aside for the project, including $2 million from the recent special purpose local option sales tax and $750,000 from a land swap with Mercer University. Commissioner Elaine Lucas said officials are likely to find another $300,000 for the project.

Roughly 16 seniors who use the center, many of whom are members of the Golden Group, were among those in attendance of Tuesday’s meeting.

Lonzy Edwards, an attorney and former Bibb County commissioner, has been working with seniors on the relocation and prefers the center moving to the park.

“I think this would do a wonderful job to improve downtown and make it all we want to be, and at same time accommodate needs and interests of a significant number of seniors,” Edwards said.

Earlier in the meeting, some Golden Group members and several county leaders expressed divergent opinions on how much input seniors have had in the process.

“All of this is something that somebody else decided for us,” Golden Group President Leroy Thomas Sr. said after the Bloomfield project presentation.

Lucas said it is best to move forward and look into the Central City Park area since it’s a place where officials and many seniors might agree upon.

The Bloomfield and Miller properties got no verbal support from seniors at the meeting.

Some who are opposed to the Miller property have said it’s too outdated and that Bloomfield, at about 5 miles from the current senior center, is too far away.

Under the Bloomfield plan, a 10,000-square-foot center could be built for $3.9 million, according to Sizemore Group’s senior project manager Bruce Morris.

The addition would house programs such as pottery, arts and crafts, music and a library. Seniors also would be able to use the existing recreation center’s gymnasium, kitchen and pool.

At the Miller property, a senior citizens center would fit well into the redesign of the campus into a multi-family development, said Oracle Design Group’s Mark Wright.

Renovations to accommodate the senior center there would cost $2.3 million to $2.4 million after about $375,000 in tax credits, he said.

The center would include two gymnasiums and a floor with classrooms and a kitchen.

“At A.L. Miller we’re trying to reignite this urban artifact,” Wright said. “It was once vibrant. It could be extraordinary.”

In other business Tuesday:

The commission’s Operations and Finance Committee passed an intergovernmental agreement with the school system onto the full commission. Macon-Bibb County residents could decide in November whether to continue a 1 percent sales tax dedicated to the Bibb County school district. If approved, the sales tax vote would be Nov. 3. The current E-SPLOST expires Dec. 31.

The Operations and Finance Committee recommended a one-year $403,000 lease agreement with River Edge Behavioral Health Center. The committee also sent on to the full commission a $100,000 one-year lease agreement with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.

The commission’s ad hoc blight committee likely will select a blight consultant in the coming weeks after hearing presentations from five firms Tuesday. The committee is expected to recommend one of the companies to the full commission in August. Officials will use the consultant as it navigates blight projects, including how they’ll spend $9 million they recently approved splitting evenly among the nine commission districts.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623.