Liz Fabian

Liz Fabian is the civic reporting senior fellow at the Mercer University Center for Collaborative Journalism.

Her work appears here as part of a journalism collaboration between Mercer University, The Telegraph, 13WMAZ and GPB Macon.

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Jarvis Fabian at 478-301-2976 or email fabian_lj@mercer.edu.

Liz Fabian

When Publix opened a new store at Bass and Bowman roads in the summer of 2009, some thought the days were numbered for the company’s supermarket on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard.

About 11 years later, time is up for Macon’s first Publix which anchored the $18 million Rivergate Shopping Center when it opened in April of 1994.

Publix will be closing the store June 9, leaving a 47,814-square-foot-hole in the north Macon retail landscape.

Macon-Bibb County District 1 Commissioner Valerie Wynn said she was surprised by April’s announcement that the store would close.

Liz Fabian

With the state of Georgia battling a deadly pandemic, cutting funding for public health is untenable, say members of the Macon-Bibb County Board of Health.

Gov. Brian Kemp calls for a 14% reduction in state spending across the board.

Monday, during the health board’s monthly meeting, members present unanimously agreed to draft a stern letter to the governor and health commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey stressing the critical need for budget increases, not cuts.

Liz Fabian

More than 1 million Georgia voters have requested absentee ballots but some who have gotten them are confused and have questions.

Plus, as the state copes with the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Brian Kemp’s “shelter-in-place” extension could affect the availability of poll workers for the June 9 election.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office reports 700,000 absentee ballot packets have been mailed as of Thursday in a record-shattering request after 6.9 million applications were mailed to Georgia’s active registered voters.

Liz Fabian

With the threat of the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak still ahead of Macon-Bibb County, local leaders want to control when closed businesses should reopen.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

As parts of the country prepare to resume more normal operations, Macon-Bibb County has not seen the worst of COVID-19.

“We expect our surge to be some time now in mid-May,” Medical Center, Navicent Health, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrice Walker told the Macon-Bibb County Board of Health during a teleconference meeting Monday morning.

Liz Fabian

When do I vote in Macon-Bibb County?

June 9 is the date for the General Primary for Democrat and Republican candidates, Nonpartisan General Election and the Presidential Preference Primary. The ballot will include candidates for Macon-Bibb mayor, commission, school board, Macon Water Authority, state and other local races and presidential candidates.

If a runoff is needed in the Macon-Bibb mayor’s race or other multiple candidate races, when would it be? 

Liz Fabian

More than a dozen Delta Connection airplanes are riding out the COVID-19 pandemic at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport.

Monthly rental income of $960 per airplane will help offset costs to upgrade the airport’s secondary runway in the coming months.

“When we do the extension of the main runway, the secondary runway will be what keeps the airport open while the main runway is under construction,” Mayor Robert Reichert said during Tuesday’s meeting that approved funding for the project. “It will become the primary runway for a period of time.”

Liz Fabian

Commissioner Elaine Lucas gets regular reports from the health department on the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Macon-Bibb County but has no confidence in those figures.

“I’m just worried because the numbers that we have been getting from the different departments are not true numbers because there’s not enough testing going on for us to have real accurate numbers,” Lucas told commissioners Tuesday during their teleconference meeting.

Liz Fabian

During these days of COVID-19 uncertainty, small business owners are not alone.

Shelter in place guidelines prevent coming together to seek help getting recovery relief, but information, guidance and coaching are available online.

Newtown Macon and the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, or UGA SBCD, are offering assistance to business owners struggling to stay afloat.

Liz Fabian

NewTown Macon CEO Josh Rogers can’t stress enough the importance of small businesses reaching out online for financial assistance from government programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Just because you fill out the application doesn’t mean you have to take the money, but if you don’t apply you’ll never benefit from these programs,” Rogers told a NewTown Macon conference call Tuesday morning.

Businesses with up to 500 employees have options to help meet their bottom line after revenue has dropped substantially.

The governor’s order to stay at home through April 13 provides multiple exceptions for essential services such as those provided by Macon-Bibb County.

Sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, Macon Water Authority workers and others keep reporting for duty while some colleagues are able to work from home or alter their schedules.

For those who cannot telecommute, special precautions are made.

Liz Fabian

Two Wesleyan College students from China are seeing the worst and best of human behavior amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The young women were out shopping at a local store when they were singled out and harassed.

Liz Fabian / Center for Collaborative Journalism

A pack of four Bibb County sheriff’s deputies on motorcycles led the body of a fallen colleague into Macon Memorial Park Cemetery late Wednesday morning.

Deputy Kenterrous Taylor, 27, died early March 18 when he was thrown from his vehicle on Forsyth Road.

Taylor was responding to a reported burglary in progress when he lost control of his patrol car, crashed into a wall and overturned near Rivoli Drive.

Typically, a large public funeral would be held for a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty but the global pandemic has postponed a public memorial.

Liz Fabian

Concern over the global coronavirus pandemic is putting disaster preparedness plans to the test.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission will be meeting by phone Tuesday and the Planning & Zoning department has decided to close its doors to the public.

“Our goal is to have the least amount of disruption and yet maintain the protocols laid out by the CDC to try to stem the spread of this nasty virus,” P&Z executive director Jim Thomas said Monday afternoon.

Liz Fabian / Center for Collaborative Journalism

The developer hoping to turn the old Pio Nono Avenue Kroger into storage units is not giving up.

Axela Development Group is asking for a rehearing before the Macon-Bibb Planning and Zoning Commission after carving out 15,000 sq. ft. of the 84,000 sq. ft. building for a potential grocery store.

Liz Fabian

Macon-Bibb County commissioners will decide Tuesday, March 3 whether to issue a moratorium on alcohol licenses in the zip codes of 31204, 31206 and 31211.

“I think that there’s some argument to be made that we’re oversaturated,” Commissioner Virgil Watkins told the Operations and Finance Committee he chairs.

Liz Fabian

Plans for a Sonny’s BBQ restaurant on Zebulon Road will have to go before the Macon-Bibb Planning and Zoning Commission for a third time.

On Monday, commissioners voted to defer the application for a second time after the design plan violated four stipulations in the original concept for outparcels at the Lofts at Zebulon development in the 5800 block of Zebulon Road.

Liz Fabian

Businesses that are in arrears have a one-time chance to skip late fees and penalties.

Macon-Bibb County commissioners approved a safe haven period until June 30 to pay up past due occupation taxes, commonly referred to as business licenses.

A failure in the county’s computer system that tracks delinquent taxpayers means some business owners may have unintentionally let their compliance lapse.

“We had some glitches in that many businesses did not get their business license renewal,” said Commissioner Mallory Jones, who sponsored the ordinance.

Liz Fabian

Macon-Bibb County commissioners want more time to consider privatizing business plan reviews and inspections after additional questions were raised Tuesday night.

Mayor Robert Reichert and County Manager Keith Moffett have advocated for SAFEbuilt Georgia LLC to take the reins of the Business Development Services Department.

The company contracts with dozens of municipalities across the state.

Liz Fabian

Four months after the state shut down Macon-Bibb County’s animal shelter, doors are open again but this time under the sheriff’s control.

An inspection Thursday led the Georgia Department of Agriculture to release the stop order, according to Julie McPeake, chief communication officer for the state regulatory agency.

Sheriff David Davis now has charge of the county’s entire Animal Welfare Department in addition to the Animal Control operation he took over in the Fiscal 2018 budget.

Liz Fabian

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a cozy new restaurant is coming to north Macon.

Miramar Raw Bar & Tapas will open its doors Feb. 13 in the Vineville Crossing shopping center near one of its sister restaurants, Brasserie Circa at 4420 Forsyth Road.

“This place is very sexy to me, it’s very sleek,” said bar manager Josh Howard. “In my opinion, this place will be the best to bring a date to.”

Howard was unloading bottles of liquor Friday at the bar where he will be serving up specialty Spherification cocktails with tiny beads of flavor mixed into the concoctions.

Liz Fabian

When Macon-Bibb County voters go the polls this spring, they’ll use new voting equipment and might even vote in a new location.

Elections supervisor Jeanetta Watson said nearly 115,000 people are now registered to vote.

“That’s a historical high for Bibb County,” Watson said Thursday. It suggests that nearly every person old enough to vote in Bibb County is registered.

The spike comes through automatic registration at the Department of Drivers Services and the politically active climate, she said.

Liz Fabian

More than a dozen people signed up Monday to speak against a proposed self-storage facility at the old Kroger location at 400 Pio Nono Ave.

Their arguments before the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission were enough to halt the project to build 569 climate-controlled storage units inside the 84,000 sq. ft. building.

Most of those opposed to the storage facility would prefer another grocery store in that large shopping center a couple of blocks west of Vineville Avenue.

Liz Fabian / GPB

Dozens of people opposed the conversion of a vacant grocery store into a storage facility in a USDA defined food desert coming before the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday.

Several neighbors spoke out against a proposed climate-controlled self-storage facility in the old Kroger at 400 Pio Nono Ave. in Macon.

Liz Fabian

Richard Robinson was barely over 21 when he opened his first funeral home in south Macon.

In the three years since starting his own business, the young man from east Macon has seen a disproportionate share of young people among his hometown’s homicide victims.

Monday, Robinson joined Macon-Bibb County commissioners Al Tillman and Virgil Watkins to announce their new partnership aimed at reducing youth violence.

Liz Fabian

More than 100 Macon businesses are in jeopardy of losing their alcohol licenses as of Jan. 1 unless the law is changed.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission amended the alcohol code last year and set the license expiration date as Dec. 31 to align with the Georgia Department of Revenue.