Macon-Bibb to use cameras to fight crime; New sales tax sought to roll back property tax; Centreplex, courthouse upgrades   


The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office “Operation Overwatch” caught a shooting on camera last summer off Houston Avenue.

The Bibb County sheriff might be down about 100 officers, but he’s getting some new tools to fight crime.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission has approved up to $100,000 annually to be spent on surveillance cameras to be erected across the county.

Under the proposal approved this week, half the funding will come from the sheriff’s commissary fund and the rest from the county’s general fund.

Last summer, the sheriff’s office, Georgia Power and Cox Communications entered into “Operation Overwatch.”

The pilot program used the power company’s SiteView camera surveillance system on a utility pole to monitor high-crime areas and transmit video via the cable company’s broadband.

Several arrests were made after investigators reviewed footage, which included a shooting off Houston Avenue.

Sheriff David Davis has a goal of using up to 30 cameras including in places where illegal dumping is rampant or traffic violations are prevalent.

“We’ll ramp up to that,” Davis told county commissioners last week. “I’d love to have a bank of monitors in a room with a staff member to monitor them.”

Initially, the footage will only be reviewed when there has been a crime, dispute or other violation.

The plan is to begin with leasing eight or nine cameras from the utility company and add others.

The system can also be used during high-density activities where a lot of people gather, such as during Cherry Blossom Festival events.

Proposed new sales tax could lower property taxes

Voters could be going to the polls again in Macon-Bibb County to decide whether to spend an extra penny on the dollar to boost public safety and give property owners a tax break.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission voted Tuesday to urge the Georgia Legislature to make changes in the way the Other Local Option Sales Tax, or OLOST, is collected by the state’s consolidated governments.

If local legislators and lawmakers in other consolidated governments, such as Columbus and Athens, agree to the proposal, Macon-Bibb could add a new sales tax referendum to the November general election ballot. If approved, new tax collections could begin April 1 and generate an estimated $25 million a year.

At least 20 percent would go to public safety with the rest going to the general fund balance and rolling back property taxes.

“This could alleviate a lot of problems with public safety,” Commissioner Mallory Jones told committee members.

The measure could face an uphill battle as state lawmakers wrangle over issues in the waning days of this session.

“I think the commission members who have continued to support the OLOST still support it,” Mayor pro-tem Al Tillman said. “I’m all for it.”

Facility upgrades pending

Nearly a dozen Macon-Bibb County facilities could be getting an upgrade through a proposed contract with Schneider Electric.

The company audited county properties earlier this year and proposed nearly $28 million in upgrades with a guaranteed energy savings of $31.6 million over 20 years.

This week, commissioners approved a revised list of projects totaling $23.4 million with a projected savings guarantee of $30.9 million over two decades.

The approved list includes the 10 facilities that make up 41 percent of the county’s total energy cost: the courthouse, annex, Grand Opera House, Coliseum, Wilson Convention Center, City Auditorium, Government Center, Middle Georgia Regional Airport, Luther Williams Field and the Emergency Management Agency bunker.

The plan calls for the mayor to enter into a contract with Schneider to provide for mechanical replacements and upgrades, centralized building automation, LED lighting, electrical infrastructure replacements, water conservation, telecommunications upgrades and optimized software.

Facilities Management director Robert Ryals told commissioners all the work needs to be done and has been put off for years.

“We’re one component failure from having no heat at the courthouse. Then, where are we going to hold court and do business?” Ryals asked.

Commissioners finalized the projects but also will have to approve financing the improvements at a future meeting once the contract is drawn.

Other items approved this week:

– $99,500 Pay scale study approved using sheriff’s office funds to put together a comprehensive class and compensation study by Management Advisory Group International, Inc.

– $200,000 in blight funds from 2018 SPLOST to design and build a park on formerly blighted properties and lots around First, Telfair and Elm streets and Edgewood Avenue. Nearby Ebenezer Baptist Church plans to partner in the project by helping maintain the park.

– $228,000 for a new fire engine and equipment

– $90,140 for SmartAddress consolidation of master address database to enhance public safety response

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected].