50 jets to park in Macon during COVID19 crisis; Commissioners closing streets for new Mercer fields


Liz Fabian

Middle Georgia Regional Airport will house at least 50 commuter jets while travel is curtailed due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

At least 50 planes soon will be landing in Macon, but their departure date is unknown.

During Tuesday morning’s Macon-Bibb County Commission committee meeting, Mayor Robert Reichert announced 20 Delta Connection regional jets and 30 more from United Express will be parking indefinitely at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport.

The county will be paid for the aircraft to stay at the airport, the mayor said.

TBI Airport Management, the company that runs the airport, is seeking FAA approval to close an auxiliary runway to free up more space, if necessary.

During the meeting, which was held by teleconference to limit the number of people gathering at Government Center, commissioners also voted to close part of three streets near the dog park for Mercer University’s new intramural fields.

Last April, Macon-Bibb County’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved using 10 acres to build three 120 ft. by 300 ft. grass fields, install lighting and parking spaces for 81 vehicles.

The development also will feature a building with 700 sq. ft. for equipment and 300 sq. ft. for bathrooms, according to the P&Z application.

Liz Fabian
Mercer University has bought up all the land adjacent to the Macon dog park to build a new intramural athletic field complex near Interstate 75 and Oglethorpe Street.

Commissioners agreed to close Chestnut Street west of Linden Avenue and Chestnut Street Lane which runs parallel to Interstate 75 and meets Railroad Avenue near the tracks.

An unpaved section of Dannenberg Avenue, which sits to the northeast of Oglethorpe Street, is platted but was never made into a road. The county agreed to close that right of way “as it facilitates the enjoyment of the highest and best use of the abutting property for development of a student recreation area,” the resolution states.

Linden and Railroad avenues will be open for emergency access, Macon-Bibb County senior assistant district attorney Michael McNeill said.

Commissioners Bert Bivins and Elaine Lucas were concerned people would be cut off from other parts of town if the roads were closed.

The mayor explained that these closures would have no effect on anyone trying to get to Tattnall Square Park or other locations as the adjoining homes have been torn down.

“This really is a blind pocket because you’re got the railroad on one side, the interstate on another side and the dog park on the third side and all this would come out and border Oglethorpe Street where it goes under the interstate,” Reichert said. “Neither of these streets is a through street, is what I’m trying to say.”

Mercer owns all the property around these roads and the proposed closure was posted on signs in the neighborhood last October. No one objected during the 30 days the signs were up, McNeill said.

Commissioner Scotty Shepherd asked if all the property is coming off the tax rolls.

“To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what was there before had any significant tax value,” Reichert said. “There were several dilapidated houses that Mercer has acquired, torn down and cleared.”

According to Bibb County tax records, Downtown Macon Holdings LLC started buying up property in the neighborhood in 2015. The entity spent about $800,000 on the land and houses before turning it over to the Corporation of Mercer University last year.

Mercer now owns nearly all of the parcels within the boundary of Interstate 75, Railroad Avenue, Linden Avenue and Oglethorpe Street.

Bivins still objected to the resolutions and voted against all three because he wanted more time to go by and look at the area and see if residents have any objections.

Reichert told him he will have two weeks before the road closings come up for a final vote on April 7.

The ice machine cometh

Commissioners also voted to spend more than $152,000 to purchase a new Zamboni ice resurfacing machine for the Macon Coliseum.

Mayhem hockey team season ticket holder Commissioner Larry Schlesinger vouched for the need for a new machine.

“There were times when the Zamboni actually malfunctioned and the game had to be canceled. So this is something that hockey teams and our entire community needs to invest in,” Schlesinger said.

“I know we need to replace this,” Lucas said. “My only concern is that there be training and limitation as to who uses it. That’s an expensive piece of equipment.”

County Manager Keith Moffett said he’s shared Lucas’ concern with the facility managers.

Commissioners approved the purchase that will be made from 2018 SPLOST funds for culture and recreation. It comes up for a final vote in two weeks.

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