Let me begin by saying that I think roundabouts are generally a very good thing. They are safer, reduce congestions, save money over time, and also can save lives. I am all for installing roundabouts under the right circumstances and conditions. Intersections that experience high traffic volume and congestion would certainly be a great potential location. Certainly at intersections that have many accidents would also be a priority. I honestly do not understand how anyone would be confused about using a roundabout since it is actually easier to understand than a four way intersection with with stop signs. Simply slow down and drive into the circle when there is an opening and exit on your road. It scares me that there are actually people on the road driving that are intimidated or confused about something so simple to understand. But then I remember many people in town don’t seem to understand that they shouldn’t text and drive either. I am often reminded by this nearly every day as I avoid head on collisions as these idiotic distracted drivers swerve into my lane.
First Roundabout was Possibly in South Bibb AKA the Forgotten Zone
Anyone in south Bibb county probably chuckled when they heard the roundabout on Oglethorpe was the first in Macon since there has been one in that part of Bibb for many years. There were numerous reports that this one on Oglethorpe was a first when in fact there are already several. Click this link or the image to open a Google Maps for that roundabout. It might not have the lavish landscaping of the new one on Oglethorpe but it also has a far lower price tag which was no more than the pavement. I believe there might be other roundabouts as well but do not know their locations. (Edit: Many people contacted me to let me know there were many other roundabouts in Macon. Here are a few near Zebulon. I do not know which was the first but it is certainly clear that the media and mayor’s office should have done a far better job checking their facts before declaring the one on Oglethorpe the first in Bibb county. I will also go out on a limb and estimate these other ones didn’t cost $1.3 million.)
It is not surprising no one knew about this roundabout considering the southern part of Bibb county has been largely ignored for decades. Also not surprising that no one seems willing to fact check. When was the last time you remember a journalist in Macon actually speaking to a victim, witness, or a criminal instead of simply printing the police report almost verbatim.
They certainly remember the residents of South Bibb at tax time but then largely ignore this area after the taxes are paid. Even though South Bibb contributes a significant portion of property tax revenue along with West and North Bibb county they have continually gotten the shaft when taxpayer money is spent in the county. After many decades that part of town will finally get a recreation center at least so things are improving.
It is also ridiculous that the Medical Center chose to locate their three QuickMed Urgent care centers on Zebulon, Riverside, and Gray Highway. All three of these MedStops are in fairly close proximity to Northside, Coliseum, or Medical center hospitals which all have ER’s. What about the people in Bloomfield, South Macon, and South and South West Bibb? They have to drive all the way to downtown to get urgent care which can take upwards of 20 minutes or more even without traffic. The medical center as a publicly funded and tax exempt entity should be ashamed that they chose to build three med centers in areas with hospitals practically next door and left so many thousands in South Macon and South Bibb abandoned. These people have no choice but to drive 20 minutes and every minute can potentially mean life or death. A QuickMed is desperately needed in South Bibb and it was illogical to build the three current ones so close to existing hospitals. Why concentrate three hospitals and three Quick Med Stops all in the northern part of the county and leave the southern half with none?
The schools are also another great example of being ignored. Heard elementary is finally being rebuilt, but this should have been a priority decades ago even as much newer and nicer schools all got selected ahead of Heard. Porter is also in desperate need of a new school building as they stuff children in trailers. I have to think the architects that designed Porter must have taken a break from their usual prison construction projects because that is exactly what Porter resembles. Here’s a thought, how about the next time you have to build a school you actually build them to last. If the Romans could construct buildings that are still standing 2,000 years later, surely we can build a school built to last 100 or more years. It might cost a little more upfront but will save money long-term to use quality construction built to last.
Roundabouts Good – $1.3 million Outrageously Overpriced
What was I talking about again….oh yeah roundabouts. Sorry I tend to go off on tangents at times when I feel other salient points demand their own paragraph or two. As I said earlier I am all for roundabouts at intersections that could benefit from them. What I am not in favor of is excessively expensive projects that cost $1.3 million to basically pave a circle and add some landscaping. Now I realize this roundabout had a variety of funding sources that included grants and private contributions. But $1.3 million?? Given all the roads in Macon with potholes that can cause flat tires and accidents I would think a little less fancy landscaping or other cost saving measures on the roundabout could have been used to repair a lot of roads in Bibb in desperate need. I also question this location. College and Oglethorpe is hardly a heavily congested area with traffic jams. They cited students getting out of school which is rather unconvincing proof since that is only a short time every day and only certain months of the year. When I think of the most problematic traffic areas in the county, certain intersections along Eisenhower, Vineville, Pio Nono, or even Gray Highway come to mind not some minor street that sees minor congestion intermittently. I am not arguing that all these areas should have roundabouts installed. If a relatively small one at Oglethorpe cost $1.3 million, I won’t even hazard a guess at what one at a major intersection would cost. Back in 1993 a roundabout was built in Maryland at a far larger intersection for a total cost of $194,000, another one also far larger than the one is Macon (same link) was $386,145. Even with inflation that seems a lot more reasonable estimate. I think roundabouts are a great idea for new roads and subdivisions like the one above in South Bibb, but at the end of the day there is only so much money to go around for roads and we should not be wasting $1.3 million on a roundabout and expanding roads in a town with a declining population. We are 7th in the county in fact just behind Detroit. Albany and Valdosta also made the top 10 list for shrinking cities and Georgia was the only state to have more than one city on the list. We need to spend our limited funds far more wisely and strategically and not spend it like a drunk sailor on shore leave. If this roundabout was mostly paid by grants that had to be used on a roundabout then fine, but just don’t spend $1.3 million of our tax money on another one until you pave all the potholes around town first. Georgia ranks near dead last at 49th in the country when it comes to maintaining our roads and bridges in the nation. We got a grade of C in most categories. You would think it is simply a matter of money and that certainly is the major factor, but that is only part of the problem. Our own senate in Georgia actually seems to think the GDOT is also simply incompetent.
Sprint and Macon Have a Lot in Common
They both enjoyed glory days in a bygone era and both seem unable to accept the current reality. Both also seem transfixed with some future miracle that will save them while ignoring the current hemorrhaging. At one time Sprint was a real force in the cellular phone industry. Sprint was even challenging for 2nd place back in 2005, but the former CEO Gary Forsee made some epic blunders and is ranked among the worst CEO’s ever. They purchased Nextel which then left them with no cash to build out a 4G network. They then had to build out a doomed and soon to be obsolete 4G network called WiMax that became once LTE was introduced. I will not get into all the minutiae of that decline, but suffice it to say Dan Hesse, his replacement, did a decent job to keep Sprint alive these last seven years, but once the attempt to buy T-Mobile fell through his fate was sealed and a new CEO was appointed. Hesse inherited a lot of bad decisions from his predecessor he was stuck with, but ultimately was unable to reverse the decline so he had to go. He was a good CEO to maintain the stasis but was unable to produce any growth which is why he reminds me of Robert Reichert. Like Dan Hesse, he also seems very myopic and a good mayor if you want to maintain the status quo but completely oblivious to the major changes needed to reverse the decline. Here is how Macon or rather the leadership in Macon resembles Sprint. Sprint was unable to live in the present. They were always looking ahead to miracles, to the next thing beyond 4g, to the next technological advancement….if they could just overcome this one hurdle all of the problems would be solved. Sort of reminds me of gambling addicts waiting for throw all their money away waiting to hit the jackpot. Looking to the future is not a bad thing at all. But at both Sprint and in Macon, it has created a stasis which prevents them from addressing the immediate problems. While Sprint was trying to build the next big thing they forgot about current customers and current network issues and their customers got tired of waiting and broken promises of a glorious future network that was always a month away. T-Mobile spent their money building and expanding their network for current customers and offered cheap and easy to understand plan which is why they have been so successful and have been growing. T-Mobile could represent Savannah, Rome, Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Warner Robins, and all the other cities in Georgia that grew during the population explosion while Macon shrank. Like Sprint, Robert Reichert and our so called Macon leaders, seem oblivious to the present. They brought in a man claiming to work Miracles for our schools who ultimately ended up wasting $52 million, a lot more if you include Promise Neighborhood, and leaves the schools worse than before he came. We have a Mayor that has apparently never visited any successful riverwalks in cities like Savannah and instead chooses to focus on boondoggle Museums that will never attract tourists or be able to be self-sustaining and hasn’t a clue what we should build along the river. Inept leaders who have a long track record of epic failure and incompetence are shuffled back and forth among organizations like The Macon Bibb Industrial Authority while cities like Athens and Dublin keep cleaning our clocks by attracting far more new companies. Blight is certainly a major issue in Macon but so is urban sprawl which often goes hand in hand with blight. Our P&Z has oolong-term strategic plan in place to address sprawl and in fact seems to encourage sprawl. I also seem to be the only person in Macon aware of Redfields to Greenfields project organized by Georgia Tech which would be perfect in Macon.
Local Media Also Part of The Problem
The Macon Telegraph has no investigative reporters and the only writer interested in asking serious questions no longer works there. They have some talented writers but unfortunately they are relegated to stenographer duty and not given the support to go after real local news. The senior editor at our only newspaper doesn’t even know the difference between post and posit. It is not a typo either since it is a routine error. His writing is often cringeworthy. Like Macon, Charles Richardson is also living in some imagined past glory. His five part accounting series was simply embarrassing. I utterly humiliated him in several responses but his pablum is so poorly written that he longer merits a reply. It is clear to everyone in Macon that Charles is simply trying to protect a very serious conflict of interest involving his wife. It is equally apparent that he is a rather poor writer unable to write persuasive editorials to support the idiocy surrounding Dallemand, the BOE lawyer, Promise, and the enforceability of the lease. I have often read editorials where I disagreed with the premise but respected their ability to make a strong case to support their opinion. Charles simply rambles all over the place and never makes a point. Even without David Oedel who was the only person at the Macon Telegraph asking these questions, Charles seems completely unable to formulate any cogent argument to support or defend his positions. No matter what the topic, his position always seems to be “move along nothing to see here.” I also wish he would learn a new expression besides “no skin in the game”. Are Sherrie Marshall and Don Bailey unaware how unpopular Charles has become or how many people have cancelled their subscriptions? Tweet them and ask 😉
The Frustration of Being Acutely Aware of Untapped Potential
It is very frustrating to live in a city with so much history, such natural beauty, and with such an important central location right in the middle of the state with two interstates passing through and see us continue to decline due to sheer incompetence and corruption. Macon seems lost in a morass of myopia and an inability to address any of the urgent problems. Like Sprint, Reichert and other officials seem to believe if they can just overcome one more future hurdle everything will fall into place. Until they stop reliving Macon’s former glory days and thinking of grandiose boondoggles for the future and focus on the here and now, there won’t be many people left to enjoy those future miracle projects they plan to build. Until a new group with fresh ideas not intent to continue failed experiments are given a chance I don’t see any miracles on the horizon. But then again we don’t need miracles, just some common sense, hard work with elbow grease, and a lot less corruption. In my next article I will offer my ideas to fix many of the issues plaguing Macon as well as my list of priorities. Please subscribe to our blog or like us on Facebook to read more in this continuing series. Also please spread the word to your friends.