Ask Mayor Miller: Crime prevention, illegal vendor crackdown, downtown parking, beautification and flooding

Monthly, Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller answers the public’s questions that are emailed to [email protected]

Several inches of rain that deluged parts of Middle Georgia in late March triggered flash flooding in parts of Macon and sent the Ocmulgee River over its banks for days.

The most recent taping of Ask Mayor Miller happened just a day after that torrential rain exposed drainage problem areas in the county. When asked about whether federal infrastructure funds could be tapped to correct those issues, Mayor Lester Miller said he has been in contact with Georgia’s legislative leaders at the nation’s capitol seeking financial help for some long-term solutions.

“I’ve been on the phone constantly with GDOT this week, making sure that all of our bridges and overpasses were taken care of in a responsible manner. So, it gives us a chance to reassess our infrastructure to see what needs to be done and put a wish list out there,” Miller said. “So, I think this gives a perfect chance to show them some examples of why we need some more funding here.”

Crime and violence

As the Macon Violence Prevention program enters its second stage of funding, Miller said 31 stakeholders recently reviewed data collected in the first year of the program. That information will be turned over to the Community Foundation of Central Georgia before it decides how to allocate this year’s funding to community organizations striving to reduce violence.

“I think there’ll be some that we build upon that have done a great job last year and they can move forward and get some funds again to be sustainable,” Miller said. “Despite what people believe, we have made some good progress over the last several months.”

After the sheriff’s office cracked down on illegal food vendors operating in downtown last October, Miller said the county’s Code Enforcement department is taking a larger role after the county received new complaints about unauthorized food vendors and spent recent weekends educating the public.

“Make sure that people knew what the law was, make sure they were being held responsible. And I think they got rid of those situations,” he said. “We’ll continue to do that more so through code enforcement as opposed to the sheriff’s department. They have other issues they need to address. Code enforcement is well-suited for that.”

Miller said the surveillance cameras being installed will help law enforcement keep an eye on downtown.

The mayor also responded to a citizen’s question about whether the county would consider removing parking meters, which she believes deter people from coming downtown.

Miller said there is plenty of parking downtown and he believes it’s the meters that make sure the available spaces are not taken up by those working downtown who tie up spaces for hours.

Roundabout reversal at Rosa Parks Square?

Plans for enhancing Rosa Parks Square have been bandied about for years, but Mayor Miller is not a fan of a planned roundabout that was proposed along with the park’s redesign in the aftermath of the first Macon Action Plan in 2015.

“I’m not in favor of the roundabout, myself, there. I think it detracts from the area,” Miller said. “I think the park itself needs to be the focus point. … We’ll see how that plays out but right now there’s no funding and no action items that are before us on the roundabout.”

Miller mentioned the Friends of Rosa Parks Square Board must “figure out where the money’s coming from” before the project can proceed.

The project has been out to bid twice, but the last request for a proposal was canceled because of premature discussions among the board about the contractors before the procurement committee reviewed the bids.

Clean streets and cemeteries

In responding to a public comment about the overgrown condition of Macon-Bibb County’s entryways, Miller said $700,000 has already been spent on improving county gateways.

Work has been done on every exit on Interstate 75 from Rocky Creek to Bass roads, he said.

Although illegal dumping continues to be a problem, the county will likely be increasing surveillance at those problem sites.

After a recent public comment at a commission meeting about the condition of a private cemetery, the mayor suggested community organizations and volunteers could come together to address some of those overgrown burial grounds.

Miller also said the county is getting closer to reaching an agreement to take over Riverside Cemetery, as was proposed under the Reichert administration. The cemetery’s conservancy funds still could be used for the upkeep.

Miller added that Riverside’s proximity to the county-owned Rose Hill would make it easier for the county to assume the maintenance of that land, which was laid out by the same landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park.

Send your Ask Mayor Miller questions to [email protected] and we can address your concerns during our next program.

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