CCJ Top Takeaways: Macon-Bibb creates new holiday, ponders homeless survey, gaming machine limits


Here are some highlights from the Dec. 7 meetings of the Macon-Bibb County Commission

Limiting amusement machines

In Tuesday’s double-header meeting of the Macon-Bibb County Commission, commissioners postponed taking action on a new proposal limiting locations of Coin Operated Amusement Machines. Those machines, which are licensed by the Georgia Lottery, allow players to accrue points and prizes.

Commissioner Virgil Watkins wants to ban COAMS within 100 yards of churches, housing authority property and alcohol treatment centers. The ordinance would also prohibit the gaming machines within 200 yards of educational facilities.

Existing locations would be grandfathered in.

Commissioners agreed to take that matter up at their meeting next week.

Homeless survey proposed

A woman sifts through a suitcase at the corner of Spring Street and Riverside
Drive. (Liz Fabian)

Commissioners also deferred consideration of Watkins’ proposal to fund a more extensive survey of homelessness in the county.

Watkins said the “point in time” count planned for one day in January only captures the numbers of people living on the streets that they find or can account for. It doesn’t go far enough to provide an accurate picture, he said. With enhanced information, solutions might be easier to identify, he argued.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas said it was too important an issue to rush through this week and supported the delay in voting.

Gateway Park work

Commissioners Watkins and Valerie Wynn also questioned pending work at Gateway Park when they learned the recent removal of the Otis Redding statue is expected to be permanent.

“You mean it’s not going to be looking out over the water anymore?” Watkins asked.

Watkins was under the impression the statue was moved because the Georgia Department of Transportation’s is rebuilding the Otis Redding Bridge near the park at the corner of Riverside and MLK Jr. Blvd.

Mayor Lester Miller told the commission that the Otis Redding Foundation owns the statue, asked that it be removed and will decide what happens to it.

The Otis Redding Foundation recently purchased land across from Hotel 45 at the site of Nu-Way Weiners that burned down near the corner of Cherry Street and Cotton Avenue. Plans for the statue and the property are still pending, according to an email response from the foundation.

Commissioners deferred action to their next meeting so they could learn more about the redesign of the park.

The pending resolution allocates $166,413 to Sam Hall & Sons contractors for the work.

Endorsing roundabouts

GDOT secured federal funding for Mercer University Drive roundabouts at Anthony and Columbus roads. (Liz Fabian)

Commissioners also authorized Mayor Miller to inform the GDOT of the county’s support of roundabout projects proposed on Mercer University Drive and Pio Nono Avenue at Anthony Road.

After a 2017 Road Safety Audit of Mercer University Drive, GDOT has proposed building roundabouts at the intersections of Columbus Road and Anthony Road/Burton Avenue.

When the roundabouts were first mentioned last year, no timeline for the project was announced.

New Juneteenth holiday

Following President Joe Biden’s lead in making Juneteenth a national holiday, Macon-Bibb County eligible workers will be given a paid holiday on June 19.

Adding the commemoration of the end of slavery brings the number of county holidays to 12.

The measure also removes the county commission’s authority to set which date a holiday will be observed when it falls on a weekend.

Going forward, the mayor or county manager will make that decision.

With commissioners’ back-to-back meetings, most items received final approval within an hour of the committee vote. Here’s a rundown of other action taken: