Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Ask Mayor Miller: Nightlife security, downtown grocery, plans for new warehouse club

Mayor Lester Miller answers the public’s questions, including whether Costco is part of a planned major retail development in north Macon

To reduce overnight violence, Macon-Bibb County recently moved up closing time for bars to 2 a.m. and ordered food trucks to stop serving at 10 p.m. (00:40 on video)

In debates over the proposals, some raised concerns about inadequate law enforcement presence in downtown. Mayor Lester Miller said he has no control over Sheriff David Davis, who as a constitutional officer is his own boss although the county funds his department.

During the monthly Ask Mayor Miller program, the mayor agreed the lack of an appointed police chief is a weakness of the consolidated government. (3:25)

“If I’m honest, I’d probably say yes. I’d love to have a police chief and a sheriff to be able to work hand in hand and have a police chief that worked under the mayor and commission that you could have a little bit more authority to do certain things,” Miller said. “It’s hard to be held accountable by the people in Bibb County on certain safety issues you have absolutely zero control over there. People say, ‘Well you control the budget.’ Surely, you don’t want me to defund the sheriff, right?”

Miller said he has been doing what he can to assist Davis. The county recently mandated that “vice marts,” or convenience stores that do not sell gas or fresh food, close at 11 p.m. The earlier closing time cuts down on 911 calls to those businesses that used to be open all night.

New surveillance cameras, the ShotSpotter gunfire detection system, law enforcement incentives for hiring and retention, and expanded duties of code enforcement officers have eased some of the burden on short-staffed sheriff’s deputies, Miller said.

Illegal dumping and solid waste

Cameras also will be used to prosecute illegal dumping in undisclosed areas of the county that are problem areas. (7:50)

West Macon resident Octavia McElroy, who submitted a question for the program, said illegal dumping has been a persistent problem in her neighborhood.

McElroy said the residents of Churchill and Gledhill complain but as soon as the county clears the rubbish, another pile is dumped.

Miller said the county continues to clean up after others’ bad behavior.

“We just hope the grown folks will behave. I mean, it’s not the government throwing the trash out there, not creating these illegal dumps,” Miller said. “We’re trying to get the convenience centers to try to help with that. And believe it or no, it’s cut down on a lot of illegal dumping in Macon. We see a lot less than we used to, but we do have some problem areas that we have to continue to address.”

Near the county’s first convenience center off Eleventh Street, Macon-Bibb also plans a new solid waste transfer station. (22:35)

Last month, commissioners enacted a temporary moratorium on approvals for new solid waste facilities until the community’s needs can be assessed. Although a private solid waste transfer facility has struggled to get P&Z approval as it is near the Lynmore Estates neighborhood and playground, Miller believes the county-owned land on the site of old animal shelter is a better location.

“It looks like a great possibility. You don’t really have any neighborhoods over there. You don’t have too much interference there for residential, for parks,” the mayor said.

The county expects an announcement soon on who was chosen for the project.

Growth and traffic trouble

The mayor did not have much to share about a proposed 408,000-square-foot Riverside Centre retail development on more than 46 acres at Riverside Drive, New Forsyth and Bass roads. (9:07)

The proposal to go before the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 23 will include a wholesale club, restaurants and small and large retailers in multiple buildings north of the Shoppes at River Crossing.

Although Miller previously indicated he would love to have a Costco in the community, he cautioned against public speculation.

“Right now, there’s no agreement with Costco to bring it here at this location, so I think we can set that aside,” Miller said. “Sometimes people are our own worst enemy. So, if you get out there and create too much excitement or wrong information, you may prevent that company from coming here.”

In discussing the already congested Bass Road corridor, Miller said he remains in contact with the Georgia Department of Transportation about upcoming widening plans. He acknowledged with local, state and federal money funding those road projects that it is not always easy to move up priorities. Plus, the rise in the cost of materials means less can be built with the same amount of money.

“I let them know about the increased economic activity over there and the need to have that to keep Macon-Bibb County thriving. It’s a hub over there and I think that some people love it, some people don’t love it, but it’s going to continue to grow,” he said.

Some complain that companies should renovate vacant buildings instead of new construction, but Miller said you can’t dictate where businesses locate. (9:40)

“Think about this. When you go to buy a house, are you going over to Bloomfield for that blighted house just because it’s a blighted house? Or, are you going to put your money where you want to put your money and live where you want to live at with people that you want to be around? So, it’s kind of the same thing,” Miller said.

While he has been trying to lure a grocery store to downtown, the traffic numbers coming into the business district are not high enough yet. (14:20)

“We have spoken with several that may be interested, but they want to see some more lofts, which we have coming. We probably have another 700 in the next couple of years that will be onsite – apartments and lofts, some affordable housing downtown. When you get foot traffic like that, you attract the attention of grocery stores. I think we will get one, but it takes time,” Miller said.

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

More to Discover