Miller explains tax rate rollback, panhandler crackdown, road safety and future development

Ask Mayor Miller airs monthly on 13WMAZ-TV through the Center for Collaborative Journalism. Send questions to [email protected]

The looming millage rate rollback headlined Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller’s latest interview with the Center for Collaborative Journalism, (00:10 to 8:45 on video above), but he also addressed panhandling, crime, blight and road safety issues.

Miller is calling for a 2-mill rollback to offset the increase in the tax digest as taxable property values rose by an average of 11.5 percent.

He anticipates a 5-mill rollback next year under the Other Local Option Sales Tax passed last year. Current SPLOST collections are running ahead of schedule and the county continues to pursue improvements to the courthouse. Miller said that could mean shifting some offices to the county’s new building at the corner of First and Walnut streets and renovating the existing courthouse and annex.

When time comes to consider a new SPLOST, the county could fund a new courthouse if still warranted after renovations.

Retiring debt, improving roads and building a new jail could be part of a future SPLOST referendum, Miller said.

In response to a public comment about how tax dollars are spent, Miller said the amphitheater project does not involve tax dollars. The $44 million dollar revenue bonds for the Macon Mall enhancements are supposed to be repaid through rent proceeds from mall tenants.

Crime, hoarder crackdown, panhandling, homeless issues (8:54 into video)

When a viewer complained about criminal activity around hotels off Harrison Road, Miller pointed to several nuisance suits recently filed against substandard hotels.

By condemning some of the properties, Miller believes there will be a decrease in 911 calls which could improve response times for other emergencies.

In the county’s new crackdown on nuisance properties where hoarding appliances, rubbish and old cars are a threat to public safety, Miller said there are a number of cases pending under code enforcement. If property owners do not clean it up themselves, the county will clear the property and file a lien to recoup the cost of removal.

Miller said homeless numbers are down, but believes the work on the interstate interchange has displaced them from hidden hideouts so it appears the numbers are increasing.

Those considered homeless often flock to waterways and interstates, he said.

“Panhandling will be addressed in the very near future,” Miller said. “Code enforcement will be heavily involved in that.”

Miller does not have any plans for a tent city but believes a new state mental health law will assist the county in getting help for those who refuse to take advantage of advocacy programs such as United Way’s Brookdale Resource Center of the Daybreak day shelter.

Downtown development, safer roads (17:56 into video)

Mayor Miller expects major developments to be announced near the Ocmulgee River in coming months

He sees land off Riverside Drive as a prime spot for a major construction project, as well as the old shopping center that was converted to government offices off Second Street and Emery Highway. The Health Department has already vacated their space in the old Kroger and Zayre’s store and the Middle Georgia Regional Commission will be relocated to Macon Mall.

When it comes to road safety and other community projects, Miller hopes to be able to take advantage of the Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act after the November election when congressional leaders are chosen.

“The mayor’s office is going to get a lot more involved in pedestrian safety than we have before,” Miller said.

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