Mayor Miller: Gray Hwy speed drop, moving log trucks off MLK, proposed taxes for Navicent’s indigent care

In this month’s Ask Mayor Miller, he discusses Macon-Bibb development plans, transportation issues and his wish list for Costco and Trader Joe’s

Planned Gray Highway safety improvements could include lower speed limits, while Mayor Lester Miller is putting the brakes on the Macon-Bibb County Hosptial Authority’s plans to ask for tax dollars to help fund indigent care at Atrium Health Navicent.

In this month’s edition of Ask Mayor Miller, topics ranged from development projects on the horizon, to transportation, to Miller’s recent visits to the new Costco in Athens and its neighboring Trader Joe’s.

Improving traffic safety (6:05)

Mayor Miller is optimistic that working relations with the Georgia Department of Transportation have improved to the extent that a pedestrian safety liaison might not be needed.

After a couple of recent transportation summit meetings with local leaders and GDOT, the mayor is pleased with the progress they are making and finding solutions to some of the dangerous stretches of road in the county.

“This summit that we’re having, we’ll continue to have those probably every quarter with GDOT. So, there’s no sense to waste money on a consultant to do that when we have the direct connection,” Miller said.

The transportation leaders are looking at minor adjustments that could be made between Interstate 16 and Shurling Drive.

“What you’re going to see is a slow down. There’s going to be a speed limit change, beginning with right at I-16 there at the Kroger,” Miller said.

He also plans to install brighter lights and better crosswalks and infrastructure changes to sidewalks and possible median dividers.

Miller said transportation planners are also working on the logistics involved in building the new Quik Trip that is slated to be built near the old Chi-Chester’s location near the Krispy Kreme.

“Quik Trip’s been an excellent partner. They’ve been working together with GDOT to make sure that traffic can get in and out there very safe and not obstruct any businesses there,” he said. “There are going to be some new developments there pending approval by planning and zoning.”

P&Z commissioners have had initial conversations about a possible car wash going up across the traffic light from Nottingham Drive.

New truck route off MLK?  (10:50)

Macon-Bibb County leaders also have been discussing ways to move log trucks and other large vehicles off Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in downtown.

“The Industrial Authority has met with GDOT, as well as state officials, as well as the railroad about alternative routes,” Miller said.

One option is to have trucks stay on Interstate 75 and exit at Eisenhower Pkwy to get to the Broadway side of the MLK route, he said.

GDOT could abandon the state highway through downtown in favor of other options, which could include incorporating Seventh Street which connects to the Eisenhower Extension.

Miller said to build a bridge over Brosnan Yard, the rail transportation hub for Norfolk Southern, would cost about $21 million.

Mayor Lester Miller

“I don’t think that is something we want to do, is to divert somebody through Carolyn Crayton Park,” Miller said. “It would actually come that way and have a bridge going over that, just for that purpose. It seems like a large expense for the low benefit.”

In responding to Commissioner Paul Bronson’s unveiling of designs for a proposed African American business district at Greenwood Bottom between Hazel and Bay streets, Miller said the proposed project is several years away.

“It’s nice, nice pictures, look really good, but it takes a little bit more than that to develop an area like that,” Miller said. “You’ve got to own the land. You’ve got to have the funding for that, so it’s still in the early stages on that. And if it does happen, it’s probably some six to eight years out.”

Developing projects at I-16 and Macon Mall (13:50)

Plans for the old Bibb Mill site on the east side off Coliseum Drive are progressing with pending closings on land buys, Miller said. The mayor anticipates speaking with more developers after the holidays to get ideas for what he referred to as the “East Bank” project.

In recent months, the county announced it would be purchasing available land across from the Macon Coliseum in the hopes of luring developers for a major complex that would include a hotel, office space and apartments.

Proponents of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park being upgraded to national park status remain optimistic Congress will approve the proposal in the near future.

Miller also said recently unveiled plans for the Macon Mall amphitheater project were well-received.

He does not anticipate any issues with booking acts, and discussions are already underway with performers for late next year and beyond.

While the prospect of Georgia casino gambling is still alive, Miller said it would take a two-step referendum process with state and local voters having to approve it. The mall has been mentioned as a possible location for a casino if Macon-Bibb was one of the sites selected.

Indigent care funding (0:25)

The mayor left little hope for the Macon-Bibb County Hospital Authority to strike a deal to garner tax dollars to care for those who cannot pay medial bills.

The Macon Newsroom reported the authority’s intention to seek a government agreement allowed by law to secure up to 7 mills to fund repairs, construction modernization and access to health care.

“I don’t see that happening,” said Miller, who estimated 7 mills to be about $33 million in tax collections currently in Macon-Bibb County.

The Hospital Authority does not pay property taxes.

“Certainly they possess a lot of properties in Macon-Bibb County, and I think that’s a break they get and they continue to enjoy the benefits of that,” Miller said. “I see absolutely no chance of them getting millions of dollars from Macon-Bibb County. “

A Costco from Santa? (20:00 and 22:22)

Submitted photo

Miller took a recent trip to Clarke County for the opening of a new Costco and visit to neighboring Trader Joe’s.

While in Athens, the mayor met with Santa who also attended the store’s ribbon cutting ceremony.

“One of the things I told Santa, ‘You know, it sure would be nice to have a nice place like Costco in Macon, so anything you can do to help with that.’”

Miller said he doesn’t speak for either Costco’s or Trader Joe’s, but would love to have both businesses in Macon.

“I think Macon will be a great place for both of those, and I hope in the very near future we’ll have a great prospect of coming.”

Send your questions for the Center for Collaborative Journalism’s monthly Ask Mayor Miller program to [email protected] Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.