South Bibb neighbors will have to sell some land for flooding fix

Macon Water Authority to meet with property owners and hold stormwater credit workshop for businesses


Liz Fabian

The Macon Water Authority’s Kendra Finney, left, talks with property owners who attended committee meetings at Macon City Hall on May 19.

South Bibb County residents plagued by flooding issues for years will get some relief, but it won’t be any time soon and will cost some neighbors part of their property.

After the Macon Water Authority took over stormwater management from Macon-Bibb County in 2021, south end neighborhoods proved to be one of the long-neglected trouble spots that needed major attention.

Several property owners have complained to the authority and demanded action. Many of them showed up at committee meetings last month at City Hall.

After months of study, the MWA has proposed two projects to divert water that has threatened homes and ruined landscaping.

Although public comments generally are not taken during committee meetings, the authority agreed to hear out those who took the time to attend last month.

Interim Vice President of Plant and Field Operations Michel Wanna was eager to share an update.

“Today, I think now we have some good news. You all can smile,” Wanna told those gathered in May. “The good news is we have finished our model and by finishing our model we have identified two projects that will enhance the situation in south Bibb.”

Engineers selected those enhancements because they don’t require FEMA approval, which could tack up to an extra year to the process.

As it is, Wanna does not expect the site work to begin until 2024.

“For two years you’re not going to do anything that’s going to make any difference in the water?” asked one woman, summarizing the frustration of the group.

“In that two years, we can’t alleviate the pain that’s been forever,” Wanna explained.

Over the next 24 months, the authority will not be idle, but will be surveying, drawing up plans and putting the project out to bid before construction can begin.

Macon Water Authority Interim Vice President of Plant and Field Operations Michel Wanna addresses south Bibb residents during May committee meetings.

Wanna warned these solutions would require the authority purchasing patches of land from property owners, which could drag out the process even longer.

“We’re hoping your neighbors… everyone will cooperate with us because we have to get some easements to turn that water,” he said.

One project will divert runoff from Nowell Estates and Liberty Church Road  by sending it along the railroad tracks. That project is expected to cost up to $1.4 million, Wanna said.

The second project at south Walden and the Sardis Church Road extension will involve building a ditch to confine the water and take it to a new culvert.

“That project is also not cheap. It’s about $600,000,” Wanna said.

MWA board member Dwight Jones said the authority will have property appraised and pay “fair market value” for any land that needs to be acquired. He told the neighbors they could help speed up the process.

“Highly motivated citizens, I mean, if they were to get involved and kind of help rally the folks where we have to have this acquisition, I think you could cut that timeline considerable,” Jones said. “Here’s where this gets ugly. If you have one critical neighbor, that maybe you know or don’t know, that’s a holdout and has to go through this litigation process.”

Once the plans are in place, MWA will be contacting the affected owners and encourage them to sell.

“We did not forget about you. We kept our promise,” Wanna said.

Town hall meeting and stormwater credit workshop

To brief the south Bibb community on the projects, the authority is holding a public town hall June 21 at Mikado Baptist Church on Houston Road from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

The Macon Water Authority also has been bombarded with requests from business owners navigating the new stormwater management fees levied at the start of the year.

Non-residential users are charged $4.99 for each 2,200 square feet of impenetrable surface.

For large factories, the bills run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

In March, the authority expanded available stormwater credits to help those struggling with the new bill.

Several businesses have requested more information on how to qualify for credits.

MWA Executive Director Joey Leverette gives his report during Thursday’s authority meeting.

MWA Executive Director Joey Leverette announced at Thursday’s board meeting that a stormwater credit workshop is scheduled June 10 at 11 a.m. at Panaprint at 7979 NE Industrial Boulevard.

“We’re looking forward to that and hopefully get some good information out to our business customers,” Leverette said.

The Bibb County School System maximized its credits for up to a 50 percent reduction in fees by agreeing to properly maintain its stormwater retention ponds and educate the public abut stormwater.

Residential users may also apply for stormwater credits on the authority’s website,

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.