City pushing through demolition of blighted properties

ALBANY -- Public Works demolished its 41st parcel of property Tuesday afternoon as the city continues to push for the destruction of blighted homes and property throughout the city.

Around 1:30 p.m., two large excavators destroyed an abandoned and dilapidated apartment complex at the intersection of Odum Avenue and South Jefferson Street as members of the city commission and public works officials looked on.

Public Works, along with Code Enforcement, have demolished more than 70 properties with dozens more still lingering before the courts, Public Works Director Phil Roberson said.

Additionally, public works is in the process of completing alley paving projects at seven different sites -- one in each city ward and one at large for the mayor -- and is assisting the Albany Fire Department with the latest phase of their training facility off Hummingbird Drive which includes a parking lot and the clearing of a new site for a classroom building and alternate Emergency Operations Command Center.

In other business, city leaders tabled consideration of a resolution that would legalize the use of golf carts on certain city streets after learning a similar resolution in Tifton was experiencing some negative feedback.

Commissioners Bob Langstaff and Roger Marietta first introduced the ordinance after Langstaff saw that Tifton had drafted and adopted a resolution that -- with certain regulations -- would allow people to drive golf carts on streets in residential neighborhoods.

Locally, however, that move would likely cost more than $165,000 thanks to a state law that requires signs warning drivers that golf carts are roaming the area on streets where they are legal, Albany Safe Communities Director Michele DeMott told the commission.

It was unclear whether the Tifton ordinance included any sign provision and officials with the Tifton City Manager's office did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday afternoon. However, the Tifton Gazette did publish an article in September that quoted Tifton Police Chief Jim Smith as saying that officers would begin writing tickets after seeing unlicensed and underage drivers roaming unapproved streets on the devices.

Marietta said that the ordinance is a move to become more progressive like other communities.

"We're trying to be more energy conscious and more green," he said. "They're out there right now and we need to make it legal and enforce our regulations."

Both Adams and Commissioner Tommie Postell voiced concerns over both the safety of driving carts on residential streets and the impact on drivers of automobiles through the same neighborhoods.

"I still see a safety hazard on this. I just see a danger here with the golf carts," Postell said.

In a study completed by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, golf cart injuries are up 132 percent over the 17-year study period based largely upon the increasing popularity of the vehicle, the study says. That study also states that 29.7 percent of the total injuries sustained occurred on public streets, public property or around the home or farm.

Like the Tifton proposal, the resolution would limit the age and the streets drivers can be on as well as require owners to have some kind of liability insurance and be registered.

After hearing comments from NAACP Spokesperson William Wright, Adams agreed to delay the implementation of a newly-created Albany Small Business Enterprise Program until the organization's concerns could be addressed.

Wright has been fighting the formation of race-neutral business growth programs in both the city and the county since a disparity study completed in 2008 recommended that local governments abandon race-conscious programs in the procurement process.

Adams agreed to give the group until the end of the year to make their case on the issue before a final decision would be made.

The commission also tentatively voted to sell 1.3 acres of land on Barnesdale Way to Sherwood Baptist Church for $309,000. That was the site of the former Northwest Library, which has opened up a new, larger facility on Dawson Road.