Politics & Government

Macon-Bibb to decide if $450,000 can be set aside now for blight issues

Macon-Bibb County employees tear down a blighted home at 743 Monroe St.
Macon-Bibb County employees tear down a blighted home at 743 Monroe St. The Telegraph

The Macon-Bibb County Commission could decide Tuesday if commissioners can use some of their blight money to tear down blighted houses and buildings.

The commission’s ad hoc blight committee is pushing an ordinance that would have the nine commissioners each provide $50,000 for demolitions. That $450,000 would be set aside and would come from the $1 million each commissioner can use to fight blight.

The ordinance is on the agenda for Tuesday’s 6 p.m. meeting at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center, 700 Poplar St.

The blight committee agreed last week to support the ordinance after a lengthy discussion about hiring a consultant and a request by a commissioner to begin tearing down houses in his district.

Commissioner Bert Bivins, chairman of the committee, said the $450,000 allows for some initial work to be done while the committee finds a blight consultant.

The ordinance was a compromise with Commissioner Virgil Watkins after he pushed for using about $300,000 of his blight money to knock down about 25 condemned properties in his district.

“I feel we have to have a process in place,” Bivins said. “If the (commission) agrees, we can let people get some stuff done. There are people in the community that want to see anything done. It won’t compromise the integrity of the process.”

Any demolitions would follow the same steps as the 100-plus houses torn down in Macon during the last fiscal year.

There’s no timetable for when the blight committee will hire a consultant to help develop a plan, but Bivins said he’d like it done as quickly as possible.

Last month, the ad hoc committee interviewed five firms but decided to get more suggestions before making a decision.

“I think we hoped we would’ve done it already, but having a process is important, and coming up with the right (consultant) is important,” Bivins said.

Beyond the $9 million divided among commissioners, there is $4 million set aside for blight projects in Beall’s Hill and on Wise Avenue. Another $1 million will be spent on community engagement and waste disposal.

Commissioner Scotty Shepherd said Monday he likely will support the latest ordinance since Watkins and Bivins have been at the forefront of blight.

“They’re the ones that have been in the thick of this thing from day one,” he said. “I would definitely lean towards what they say.”

On Monday, about 50 people attended a blight meeting held by Commissioner Al Tillman to discuss dilapidated properties in their district.

Willie Griffin said a house next to his residence has become an issue after being vacant a couple of years.

“People are getting the grass cut, but the house is deteriorating, because there’s nothing being done to it,” he said.

The area around Macon Mall would benefit from blight eradication efforts, said John Mulherin, vice-president of government relations for Hull Property Group, which owns the mall.

“That is a critical commercial corridor, not only for District 9, but for the entire community,” he said.

Mulherin, who applauded commissioners for taking on blight, said he supports the use of blight money for commercial properties as well.

COMMISSION TO VOTE ON COUNTYWIDE MILLAGE RATE

The commission will vote Tuesday on the ordinance that calls for the end of the Macon City Tax District.

The ordinance would have residents in the former Macon city limits paying the same property tax rate of 14.65 mills as people who live in the former unincorporated Bibb County, thus ending double taxation of former city residents.

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

Macon-Bibb government is projected to receive $700,000 less in tax revenue if the change is approved.

ANIMAL WELFARE MAY OUTSOURCE SOME SERVICES

The commission also will decide Tuesday whether to outsource some of its Animal Welfare Department services to a local animal organization.

The commission will vote on a contract with Saving Animals From Euthanasia -- also known as S.A.F.E. -- to allow the nonprofit group to provide spay/neuter and adoption services at the county’s animal shelter.

Macon-Bibb would pay S.A.F.E. $9,438 a month for the contract that runs until June 30.

The organization would maintain medical services and equipment, and would determine fees for adoptions and spaying/neutering.

Shepherd said he supports S.A.F.E. taking over some of the services. The organization has been involved with the Animal Welfare Task Force put together by Mayor Robert Reichert.

“They have a common-sense approach,” Shepherd said. “They know they can’t save every animal but also bend over backwards to take care of those animals that they can.”

If the deal is approved, county officials and the nonprofit group would decide at the end of the fiscal year if outsourcing remains the best route going forward.

To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him@stan_telegraph.

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