Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Commission focuses on downtown security, crime victims, small business

Macon-Bibb small business outreach ‘can do better, but we’re going in the right direction’ for minority and local participation, director says

Reforming and improving Georgia’s mental health services, enhancing downtown security and supporting crime victims dominated Tuesday evening’s Macon-Bibb County Commission agenda.

Mayor Lester Miller applied for and received a $200,000 grant from the Peyton Anderson Foundation to buy ATVs for security patrols downtown, Carolyn Crayton Park and along the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail.

Miller said the vehicles will allow the county to more efficiently monitor those areas, address any issues or problems, and provide additional security for those walking the trails.

The Commission accepted that grant and nearly $135,000 in federal funds to serve crime victims through the Macon Judicial Circuit and the Solicitor’s Office.

They also passed a resolution urging Georgia’s governor and General Assembly to take measures to reform and improve mental health services.

Taking care of business

Macon-Bibb County’s Director of Small Business Affairs, Charise Stephens Merriweather, said that as a single mother, she and her family benefitted greatly from her entrepreneurship.

The director of the county’s Office of Small Business Affairs, Charise Stephens Merriweather, also gave commissioners an update on the progress of her operation, which was created at consolidation to support local small business enterprises and help them through the procurement process.

Since taking the job with the Miller administration in 2021, Merriweather said she has enhanced the website to greater assist and encourage local small businesses to apply for government contracts.

The county set and exceeded goals for local and minority participation in its vendors and contractors, she showed.

“Minority businesses are under-resourced and it’s a barrier to them doing business with the government,” Merriweather said.

Macon-Bibb sought a 5% goal in minority participation and reached 8.53%. They achieved more than double the 25% goal in local business participation with 55.28% actual participation

“We definitely can do better, but we’re going in the right direction,” Merriweather said.

She plans to look for best practices by researching cities like Atlanta, which has at least a 25% minority participation rate in some communities.

Commissioner Al Tillman said he would like to see more effort and strategies so the county can improve participation from African Americans, women and veterans.

Commissioner Virgil Watkins said the numbers presented were a “little confusing” when it comes to how much money the county actually is investing with local small businesses and minorities.

County Manager Keith Moffett explained that some non-minority and non-local contractors do subcontract with minority and local companies. They are trying to better analyze and calculate the actual investments doled out to those subcontractors.

Watkins said he welcomes an opportunity to have a longer conversation about the efforts to encourage and enable better participation.

The following is a summary of the debate and additional actions taken during Tuesday’s Pre-Commission and Board of Commissioners meetings.

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

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