County rebuffs charter changes

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY -- The Dougherty County Commission Monday rejected a plan by the City of Albany to make the CEO of a proposed unified government a full-time position and a move that would ensure assets of the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission stay within the confines of the old city limits.

The County Commission did accept recommendations for non-partisan races and presidential term elections.

In deliberating the five changes offered by the city, the county commission accepted only one -- a measure that would require the CEO to be elected on presidential election cycles to a non-partisan position.

In addition, the county agreed to add to that stipulation that all elected officials initially be elected in November 2012 -- the next presidential election year -- to promote a large voter turnout.

The other measures offered by the city -- a full-time CEO position, a call for the referendum on consolidation to be held specifically in November 2010, the salary of the commission and CEO be set at the current pay of the Albany City Commission and mayor, and a stipulation that all of WG&L's assets should remain within the urban services district of the new formed government -- were rejected by the county.

In denying the CEO a full-time position, Commissioner Jack Stone said that he didn't believe that it would be necessary to have both a full time CEO and administrator.

"I feel that a full time CEO would get in the manager's way," he said.

The county also affirmed that elections held for the new government should be non-partisan.

The county agreed to urge the Georgia General Assembly to set the ballot referendum to November 2010, but left the measure open ended if there were delays by the justice department.

The commission rejected a move by the city to have the new commission and CEO be paid at the same rate as the current city commission and mayor -- $25,000 for the mayor and $15,000 for commissioners -- in favor of the existing charter language that sets pay at the level of the current county commission which is $9,600 per year for commissioners and $10,800 per year for the chairman.

Finally, the commission rejected an effort by the city to amend the charter to ensure that WG&L and its assets are used to benefit the residents of the urban services district, which would be the former incorporated area of Albany under the new government.

Instead, the county commission opted to give discretion of how funds are best used to the incoming government.

In other consolidation discussion, the commission heard from Melvin George, a spokesperson for the Southern Dougherty County Community League, who asked the commission to do something about the voting procedure that would arise if consolidation is dedicded by a referendum.

Under Georgia law, if a referendum on consolidation is called, 51 percent of those voting in the city must approve it, along with 51 percent of those voting countywide.

George's issue, which has been frequently pointed out by Stone, is that the city voters will have their votes tallied twice -- once in the city vote and once in the countywide vote.

Since the majority of the population resides in the city, George and Stone both believe that the measure will pass or fail based on the desires of the people within the city, regardless of how those in the county feel.

"We don't need a rocket scientist to know that it's a flawed, or fixed, voting system," George said. "And we don't want to vote in a flawed or fixed voting system."