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The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Mayor’s new SPLOST plans, Bass Road update, amphitheater reaction

Lester Miller explains his strategy for Macon-Bibb County development projects in Pleasant Hill, downtown and the East Bank
Send questions for Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller to [email protected].


On the heels of Macon-Bibb County’s recent real estate purchases and $44 million in bonds for an amphitheater and Macon Mall renovations, Mayor Lester Miller shared his financial strategy on the latest Ask Mayor Miller program. (7:52 into video)

“Create as much economic impact in public-private partnerships without having to burden the taxpayers,” Miller said. “If you look at every project we have, even the projects like the hotel project downtown, spending that money on that project, it’s going to be a drop in the bucket for what the property is going to generate.”

In January, commissioners approved the $4.8 million purchase of the old Hilton hotel at 108 First St.

Miller said the county now will be able to control development on that lot on the edge of downtown and salvage contents of the blighted hotel that was undergoing renovation in recent years.  

Investing $1.5 million for the old Macon Charter Academy at 151 Madison St. in Pleasant Hill will result in about 74 new residences in the neighborhood, which could bring enough new children to keep L.H. Williams Elementary School open, he said. 

“So it’s more than just about money. We’re not creating any new debt. As a matter of fact, if you remember a couple of weeks ago, we pre-paid some debt off. We inherited a lot of debt — a lot of debt, millions of dollars, from previous administrations,” Miller said.

Because the county’s bond rating continues to improve, the mayor said that is evidence his administration is making good financial moves. 

The inaugural Atrium Health Amphitheater concert featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top drew about 6,500 paying patrons and hundreds of employees, he said.

Miller expects the venue to further reduce taxes through Other Local Option Sales Tax (OLOST) collections on money spent by concert goers. (6:30)

“Gary Wheat and Visit Macon estimate that a sold out show, around 10,000, is going to generate $3 million in economic impact for Macon-Bibb County,” Miller said. “Every single penny of that dollar that’s part of the OLOST is going to roll the taxes back for people in Macon. It also gives us substantial monies each year to fund things like public safety and our mental health and all those type of things that we need for a good tax base. And it prevents us from having to raise taxes on our citizens to do things that we plan on doing in the future.” 

The mayor defended his Facebook response to amphitheater “naysayers” in his celebratory post following the “amazing night” at the first concert. 

“I am so proud of the work we have put in over the last two years to make this happen. To the naysayers who have challenged us along the way I will say (blank) U. Well, I shouldn’t say that, so I will say, come join the team or move the hell out of the way! We are Macon and we’re damn proud of it,” Miller initially posted.

He later filled in the blank with the word “forget.” (3:25)

“I’m passionate about it. I’m not going to apologize for basically blowing up a little bit because it’s been a great event. And certainty over the last year and a half, I’ve taken a lot of shots from people and naysayers that are now asking me for free tickets,” he said. 

Although residents three miles away could hear the music, Miller said acoustic studies showed the decibel level was no greater than nearby traffic.(00:54)

Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning plans to move to the mall April 8-12 with other entities such as the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, new library branch and Mayor’s Literacy Alliance opening in early summer. (13:55)

SPLOST plans and road work

With the current 2018 SPLOST about to expire next year, the mayor is already compiling a list of projects he will vet with current county commissioners and those who will take office next year.

A referendum is expected in spring of 2025 on whether to continue the penny tax. (27:33)

Public meetings also are planned for input on how that sales tax revenue should be spent. 

Miller plans a new jail, upgrades to the Macon Coliseum and Wilson Convention Center which could include a new ice rink, and increased spending for road repairs.

“You’re going to see the single largest investment in roads that we’ve ever seen,” he said. “You can take that to the bank because we’re going to pave all of Macon-Bibb County, we’re going to fix the potholes the way they should be fixed.”

Miller is trying to speed up the widening of Bass Road, but the project will be controlled by purchase of rights-of-way, environmental studies and timelines set by state and federal government transportation entities.(31:11)

“It’s not just as simple as, let’s widen it up today and it’s just the money. It’s a very expensive project. We could not do it without the help of the federal government and the proceeds we’ve got there. You’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars,” Miller said. 

The timeline for work on the long-anticipated Forest Hill Road project also is uncertain, he said. 

Blight, public safety, Ocmulgee Mounds

The mayor is confident his administration’s blight mitigation program will get caught up on hundreds of structures awaiting demolition. Code enforcement officers also will continue to relieve the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office of some duties in patrolling downtown and park venues. (21:40)

Miller plans to continue funding Macon Violence Prevention programs through the Community Foundation of Central Georgia. (10:12)

Those receiving grant funds must provide data showing sufficient results to receive additional grants. (11:12)

The proposed East Bank development off Coliseum Drive near Interstate 16 will soon be getting a master planner to oversee the layout and concept for new residences, a hotel, offices, restaurants, retail and entertainment amenities.(15:00 and 36:33) 

Although the development is designed to complement an expected upgrade to national park status for the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, Miller said he is being purposefully silent on the matter pending in Congress. (36:44)

“Hopefully votes start taking place fairly soon,” he said. 

Send your questions for the next Ask Mayor Miller program to [email protected].

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976. This story was edited to clarify Miller’s original Facebook post included a blank with no letters filled in. 

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