Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

County funds Rosa Parks Square, blocks north Macon housing

Macon-Bibb also approves grants for emergency shelter, domestic violence resources as missing woman’s parents appeal for help

In a last minute add to Tuesday’s agenda, the Macon-Bibb County Commission invested $2.4 million to preserve public spaces at Rosa Parks Square and save nearly 10 acres in north Macon from a planned housing development near Wesleyan Woods.

Nearly 20 years after the 2005 designation of Rosa Parks Square across from City Hall, and about a decade since a Macon Action Plan design was approved, $1.5 million from the county’s general fund was approved for the project.

Rough estimates to build the 2015 design were about $4 million, but the Friends of Rosa Parks Square Board voted in January to remove the expensive water feature and ask the HGOR firm to tweak the design.

A building fund for public donations was established through the Community Foundation of Central Georgia and $900,000 was added from the Urban Development Authority’s proceeds from the bond deal for Hotel 45. The county allocation brings the total fund to about $2.5 million, Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller said.

Commissioner Elaine Lucas said completion of Rosa Parks Square is on her “to-do list” before leaving office later this year.

District 3 Commissioner Elaine Lucas, who will complete her final term in office at the end of the year, said she is “especially happy” to be a co-sponsor of the funding ordinance for the park.

“There are some things that are still on our list of projects that we have talked about and have supported over the last few years, and this is certainly one of them with completing Rosa Parks Square,” she said.

District 1 Commissioner Valerie Wynn resolved an important issue for hundreds of her constituents who live in the Wesleyan Woods neighborhood. Wynn effectively blocked a 30-house cluster development at 4687 Rivoli Drive that was approved by the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission on Jan. 8. Multiple neighbors spoke against the increased traffic and loss of green space, even though the parcel was private property.

At the P&Z hearing, Wynn said she was testifying with a “split personality” because she generally favors development and welcomed 30 $400,000 homes going on the tax rolls, but had mixed feelings because she always thought the property would be perfect for a park.

Double Eagle Associates developers said they originally planned to demolish a 110-year-old home on Rivoli Drive to make way for 30 new homes in the $400,000 price range. It is unclear what will happen to the house now that Macon-Bibb County is buying the property.(Liz Fabian)

After the meeting, Wynn convinced one of the project developers, Wayne Johnson, to sell the land to the county. She contacted Miller and the county was able to secure the deal with Johnson and his Double Eagle Associates.

Plans for the land and the house on the parcel were not openly discussed in Tuesday’s Commission meeting, but Wynn told The Macon Newsroom she envisions “a passive park,” which could include trails and a possible dog park.

Emergency shelter, help for domestic violence victims

The Commission also agreed to more than $135,000 in Coronavirus Emergency Solutions Grants for emergency shelter. The Brookdale Resource Center will receive nearly $48,000 and the Salvation Army is getting more than $88,000.

The Commission also approved allocating about $58,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to the Salvation Army. That funding was tabled in October over concerns of a new policy banning non-veteran, single adults from staying overnight.

Salvation Army Sgt. Austin Sturdivant said conversations with the mayor led to a re-evaluation of their role in providing emergency shelter for those in need. From November to January, they sheltered a total of 200 individuals overnight, not counting families, he said.

“We had great conversations and we feel like the Salvation Army is really trying to be part of the solution in this community now, not just doing our own thing,” Sturdivant said.

“I think we’re all on the same page and they’re doing some great work,” Miller said before the grants were approved.

The Commission also agreed to allocate more than $53,000 in matching funds to secure more than $160,000 from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to aid victims of domestic violence through the Violence Against Women Act.

The money will be distributed to the offices of the District Attorney and Solicitor General, who said the grant helps fund victim advocates in her office.

Gabriella Dixon

During public comments at the conclusion of Tuesday’s agenda, the parents of 18-year-old Gabriella Dixon appealed for help in the search for their daughter, who was last seen Oct. 30.

Gabriella Searcy said she was speaking to the elected officials who could use their platform in the search for her daughter.

“What do I need to do to get attention?” she asked.

Carlen Lester said Searcy has been virtually alone in organizing searches.

“This whole place should be running over with people to support her,” Lester said.

Reginald Dixon appeals to the Macon-Bibb County Commission for information about his daughter’s missing persons case.

Reginald Dixon said law enforcement officials have told him his daughter is dead, but he pleaded for more information from authorities, who did arrest a person of interest in November.

“How would you feel if you weren’t told nothing?” Dixon asked the mayor and commissioners. “I’m getting sicker and sicker every day since this happened. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I do nothing. I wake up in the morning and I don’t feel like doing nothing, nothing at all.”

Miller explained that the public comment period is not a question and answer session, but said he understands they “want answers yesterday.” He urged them to trust the investigative process.

“We can’t provide updates for the sheriff. We have to trust in the process that he’s going to do a good job investigating the case,” Miller said.

The mayor said he has had conversations with Sheriff David Davis and that there are no more updates that could be given without compromising the investigation and prosecution of those “who have done your family wrong.”

Here are other highlights from Tuesday’s agenda captured in social media posts.

– 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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