Macon-Bibb commissioners response to drone documents vary


Paula Rotondo,

WMAZ reported on hundreds of documents obtained through an open records request containing emails exchanged between the drone company Olaeris and Bibb County officials Wednesday.

13WMAZ’s Paula Rotondo spoke to Macon-Bibb County commissioners Wednesday who have varying opinions on the deal between drone company Olaeris and Macon-Bibb County officials.

One commissioner says she feels left out, another hasn’t made up his mind. A couple are asking where the money would come from, but one commissioner still supports the project, and says it’s been handled properly.

Commissioner Larry Schlesinger says after watching 13WMAZ’s reports, his views on the project have not changed and that the private meetings are standard procedure when the county is trying to bring companies to town.

“When we’re talking about economic development and community development this very much is the norm, just for the sake of the negotiations that are going on,” he says.

Schlesinger says the county has done its due diligence on the drone company, and wants to move forward.

He says, “I know what the company does, (but) is it a good match for Macon-Bibb and Olaeris? That remains to be seen. It may be a wonderful match, but we’re never going to know unless we go to the next step of the process.”

That next step would involve creating a non-binding agreement between the county and Olaeris to begin negotiations toward a contract. However, commissioner Scotty Shepherd told 13WMAZ there shouldn’t be a next step. Shepherd says if he could have voted “no” at Tuesday’s commission meeting to kill the drone project, he would have, but instead he could only vote to table the proposal.

He says, “When we have people who are struggling to make a living and we talk about $6 million dollars on something that wouldn’t be here until two years from now… that’s not right.”

He added he has no clue where the $5.7 million dollars would come from, something commissioner Mallory Jones didn’t know either.

Jones says he didn’t have a problem with how county officials handled the Olaeris proposal.

“All we’ve seen is a computer generated video. We are way short on our due diligence and I have a lot of doubts. We need to figure out if we really need these because I’m not sure we do.”

Commissioner Elaine Lucas was the only commissioner we were able to speak to who says she felt unhappy about the confidential meetings.

“I feel left out on a lot of things,” she said. “My views have not changed and I feel there were a lot of details we could’ve been given. There were no plans or actions to negotiate the price.”

And finally commissioner Ed Defore says he hasn’t made up his mind yet. He did say he voted against tabling the project because he wants to learn more about the company itself before he decides.

We were unable to reach the other four commissioners to hear their reactions, but left messages. Last week, a five-member county committee supported the idea of negotiating a formal deal with Olaeris. Officials voted Tuesday to delay any decision on the drone deal. No word on when the proposal will be discussed again.

Sheriff David Davis also commented, and said he’s even more skeptical about this project after seeing previous reports from last Friday and Wednesday. Davis says without concrete examples on how the drones would keep our community safer and a physical drone, he’s not sold but says he’s not opposed to the technology coming to Macon.

“As far as looking at drone and unmanned aerial vehicle technology as a wave of the future, I think it’s something that we need to look at,” he said. “Is this particular deal and is this particular proposal the one that we may ultimately end up at? With some of the things that have come to light I don’t know, I may need some more study.”

I think this story is worth tracking, the unmanned aircraft does not look fit for purpose and before spending so much money I would be inclined to ask it to perform its function for a month, ed

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