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City, county commissioners, legislators meet

ALBANY -- The Albany City Commission and the Dougherty County Commission had the chance to speak with state legislators Monday about some of the issues impacting local constituents, and what needs to be done about it.

Reps. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg of House District 150, Winfred Dukes, D-Albany of District 152, Carol Fullerton, D-Albany of District 151, and Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Albany of District 12, heard concerns from city commissioners first. A great deal of the meeting focused on public safety pertaining to juvenile crime.

"Some have no values when it comes to pulling a gun," said Ward 1 Commissioner Jon Howard. "We need to rally around public safety."

The legislators agreed, particularly in terms of enforcement.

"We can't continue to bury our heads in the sand," Sims said. "Something has to be done, and a lot of it has to do with enforcement. These laws are not being enforced; it's a vicious cycle."

When Rynders suggested supporting legislation that would increase penalties for juveniles associated with gangs, Howard was very enthusiastic about it.

"Anything that would curtail juvenile crime, I would support," he said.

Rynders also went on to say there is some legislation relating to juvenile crime floating around, such as with preventing children from getting a driver's license at age 16 if they've missed enough school, that hasn't been able to go through.

"We are trying to tackle issues we haven't been able to pass," he said.

Mayor Willie Adams took the opportunity to acknowledge the Gang Task Force, which has been involved in the arrests of 350 gang members since its establishment.

"I think we made a tremendous step forward with the establishment of the Gang Task Force," he said.

Ward III Commissioner-elect Christopher Pike addressed the concern of rehabilitation so that certain juvenile crimes do not hinder development as the violators enter into adulthood.

"We need to make sure the past doesn't hinder opportunity into the future," he said.

Immediately afterward, the legislators, with the exception of Sims, sat with county commissioners. In that meeting, transportation and water were among some of the bigger items on the agenda.

The Broad Avenue bridge construction, which is adding up to be a $8 million project, was the primary item in terms of transportation. In short, legislators feel confident it will continue on as scheduled.

"The only thing that makes me a hair nervous is if there is another project that is (more) immediate," Rynders said.

The construction to replace the bridge is expected to start in 2011.

There was some discussion on whether a regional or state plan for transportation would be the way to suit people's needs, with strong support going for a regional plan.

"There are some rural area needs as well," said District 5 Commissioner Gloria Gaines. "We still have access needs. I just don't see relief in the state budget any time soon."

Dukes also seemed enthusiastic about the concept.

"We would pretty much be in control of our own destiny," he said.

Before the meeting closed, Chairman Jeff Sinyard introduced the water issue.

"Water is a huge deal, the biggest deal there is," he said. "We need to make sure we are very engaged."

The water situation, which has involved Georgia, Alabama and Florida for some time, is an issue of collection rather than rainfall, Rynders explained.

He also said that, under the circumstances, officials will need to go an alternate route in order to solve the problem.

"We can get creative and work with a statewide (special-purpose local-option sales tax)," the representative said.