Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Miller says East Bank progressing, updates mall work, shares plans for potential second term

The Murphy Center for Collaborative Journalism produces “Ask Mayor Miller” each month, so send questions to [email protected]

The week before qualifying begins for Macon-Bibb County offices, Mayor Lester Miller said he plans to continue striving for economic development, blight reduction and public safety through the Macon Violence Prevention program. (2:27 into video)

During taping of this month’s Ask Mayor Miller program, Miller said the potential $300 million to $400 million East Bank development project on the site of the old Bibb Mill property off Coliseum Drive will be “getting started very soon.” (5:20)

The county procurement department received a bid from a developer by the Feb. 15 deadline.

“We still have to conduct some interviews and check a couple of boxes there,” he said. “You’ve got to understand there’s multiple, multiple parts of that including developers, designers. There’s also public engagement that will be going into the community to make sure we get feedback from the public.”

Miller said it won’t be a fast process, but expects to have a master plan ready to go within a year. 

Cliffview Lake Park also is nearing completion off of Houston Avenue and the Atrium Health Amphitheater is on track to open March 24, he said. (2:45)

A public tour or open house for the new amphitheater will likely happen after the inaugural concert March 24 with Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. 

The mayor expects to see more restaurants open soon to serve pickleball tournament participants, shoppers and county employees who are expected to relocate to new offices in the mall by summer. (10:55)

Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning, SAFEbuilt building services, the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, a library branch and the Literary Alliance will move to the mall.

The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office will relocate its facility near the old Sears store to the food court, he said. 

The two new courtrooms at the mall are likely to house municipal court operations and be available for law student training and movie sets, he said. 

“Right now, we’ve got a checklist from the courts and from the sheriff’s department on some things they’d like to see added to the mall courtrooms over there. So, we’re going to be working on that,” he said. 

Miller recently attended a “meet and greet” with elected officials at the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office and “a lot of people are engaged” in the political process. (3:37)

He fielded multiple questions including concerns about potholes and road conditions. 

“We’ve got a SPLOST coming up, and we’re prepared to put some substantial dollars in SPLOST to make sure the roads are repaired properly,” he said.

Miller said he plans to campaign for current county commission incumbents during this election season. (4:28)

“You’re only as good as your team is,” he said. “We’ve got a good team in place. So, all those current incumbents that we work successfully with, we’re going to continue to advocate for each and every one of them.”  

Miller defended the county’s recent approval to spend $4.8 million for the old Hilton hotel, and $1.5 million for the former Progressive Christian Academy property in Pleasant Hill. He criticized a recent newspaper column from a neighboring county that questioned those expenditures and other spending. (18:58)

“We don’t buy anything that we don’t expect a good return on investment,” Miller said. “I think it’s a great investment to spend a million dollars in Pleasant Hill because we’re going to have a $20 million project that’s going to be there that’s going to pay taxes, provide affordable housing for about 70 folks there, or 70 families there. It’s going to have a food co-op and have a gymnasium there. We’re going to sell part of the property. It’s a win-win. Same thing for the Hilton Hotel.”

The mayor explained the recent mid-year budget adjustment to allocate $9 million to service debt due next year is an accounting measure to maintain a good bond rating and reduce the county’s debt. (17:38)

Miller showed up at February’s taping at 13WMAZ with Zaxby’s birthday cake milkshakes in hand. He was anxious to share that morning’s news announcement that after a seven-year hiatus, milkshakes are returning — but only to Macon-area Zaxby’s in Middle Georgia. (00:20)

Visit Macon will be marketing “milkshake tourism” as the restaurant chain chose Macon as the exclusive market for a year. 

Miller said he was excited about the publicity and positivity the campaign will bring. 

“Macon is going to be the milkshake capital of the world,” he said of the plan to coordinate with the fast-food chain. 

The mayor said it was an opportunity to lure more people to town. 

“So, we’re excited about having a chance to really show off our great city, all the iconic buildings we have here, the people we have here, and the tourism we have in Macon,” he said.

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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