Politics & Government

Two Macon-Bibb officials propose using blight funds to demolish 26 homes

Two Macon-Bibb County leaders are pushing for the demolition of 26 homes as the first projects to combat blight since commissioners agreed last month to each receive $1 million for their districts.

Commissioners Virgil Watkins and Al Tillman will present resolutions Tuesday seeking to use a portion of their funding to knock down blighted properties.

Officials can use the $1 million in their district, reallocate funds to another district or put it in a general blight remediation fund.

Watkins proposes using $300,000 of the money to demolish 25 properties.

Meanwhile, Tillman estimates it will cost $5,000 to $7,000 to tear down a home on Log Cabin Drive, the first move to address a dangerous situation on the road, he said.

The two resolutions will be on the agenda of the commission’s Economic and Community Development Committee meeting Tuesday. They could then be sent to the full commission for a vote as early as Aug. 18.

For Watkins, tearing down the 25 homes would eliminate about 80 percent of the decaying houses in his district that have been condemned by Macon-Bibb County Municipal Court. His goal is to use about $750,000 of his district’s blight money to demolish properties and perform remediation work such as cutting grass on vacant sites.

“This is my first round, and I’ll have another round to get all of my current condemned properties,” Watkins said.

Tillman said tearing down the house at 3947 Log Cabin Drive is a small but tangible step to improve the safety of a road that has been years in the making.

The Log Cabin Drive property, at the top of the hill near Hollingsworth Road, blocks the view of oncoming traffic, he said.

“There are no sidewalks and the bridge is narrow. So people who live in the neighborhood, when they walk across the bridge (they) literally have to run for their lives if two cars are coming,” Tillman said.

Among the planned improvements for the road includes the addition of sidewalks, which could come by the end of the year, Tillman said.

While commissioners have $9 million split evenly among them for blight projects, another $1 million from a $10 million pot will be used on community engagement and waste disposal.

Mayor Robert Reichert had proposed spending the $10 million on four projects, all near the Second Street Corridor, and using partners to create long-term viability.

Watkins said Monday he’s open to using some of his district’s blight money for larger tasks that could involve working with other commissioners. He also said he favors allowing neighbors to purchase vacant lots at a reduced price as a way to attack blight.

“By and large, most of it’ll be vacant lots and then we maintain them and hope the area turns around and a Realtor puts a sign up and can sell it,” Watkins said.

He said he’s interested in filling some vacant lots, from Montpelier Avenue to Eisenhower Parkway, by placing single-family homes on them as part of the In-Fill Housing program.

“I have a high interest of doing that on Pio Nono (Avenue),” Watkins said.

COUNTYWIDE MILLAGE RATE TO BE DISCUSSED

The commission’s Operations and Finance Committee is expected to discuss an ordinance that calls for the end of the Macon City Tax District and would have residents in the former Macon city limits paying the same rate -- 14.65 mills -- as people who live in the former unincorporated Bibb County.

The ordinance that would end double taxation of former city residents could go to a vote by the full commission Aug. 18.

For those living in the former city limits, the move would save them $194 on a $100,000 home with the 4.85-mill reduction, according to county officials.

To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him on Twitter

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