City to County: Lower fee and we'll consider KADB

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany City Commission discussed allowing City Manager Alfred Lott to negotiate a possible partnership to fund half of the operating cost of Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful if the Dougherty County Commission agrees not to raise the city's tipping fees at the landfill.

During their pre-briefing held before Tuesday night's business meeting, commissioners labored over a request from the Dougherty County Commission to assume $88,000 in annual operating costs of KADB so that the county could then have the flexibility to fund other programs like the Flint RiverQuarium or the James H. Gray Senior Center.

The request met with some stiff resistance from some on the city commission, prompting one commissioner to refer to the letter as "cold."

"I think this is really cold to just write us a letter...I can't help but be appalled," Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard said, speaking in reference to the nature of the letter. "They should've reached out to us, call or something."

One concern shared by many on the commission was whether the county commissioners were asking for a one-time appropriation for $88,000 or if they expect the city contribution to be an annual allotment.

"I'll ask the commission to fund it, but if we do it for more than one year I think they should at least reduce the tipping fees. Fair is fair," Commissioner Jon Howard said.

The city, which is the county's largest customer to the Dougherty County landfill, currently pays just more than $30 per ton in tipping fees to use the facility. The county plans on increasing that to $34 beginning July 1.

That increase, city officials say, will prompt the city to increase residential garbage rates by $0.63 per customer per month to compensate.

At issue, at least from the city's perspective, is that it currently has a service delivery agreement with the county for KADB which says that the county will fund the operating cost of the agency through from the county's Solid Waste Enterprise Fund, if the city agrees to provide in-kind services to the entity -- which it does through allowing KADB employees access to the city's health insurance and retirement plans.

That service agreement, in the eyes of some on the commission, would be violated if the City Commission agreed to fund KADB as the county wishes.

"I love the job that Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful has done, and have no doubt that they've done a great job, but I can't conceive of them (the county ) breaching a contract like that," Hubbard said. "I'm all for making sure KADB is funded, but we have to hold them (the county) to the legal contract that they signed."

Not everyone was so quick to be critical of the county's approach for the funding.

Calling it the city's "little brother," Commissioner Roger Marietta said that the city should have some compassion to the plight of the County, given the fact they don't have an Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission or Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia or MEAG funds to prop themselves up.

"I'd like to speak in favor of the county....most of the garbage is generated within the city and I think funding KADB is a bargain considering what we'd have to pay someone else to do it," Marietta said. "I'm in favor of helping our little brother out."

After discussion, the City Commission tentatively voted in favor of authorizing Lott to negotiate a possible partnership with the county so long as they agreed to keep landfill tipping fees for the city at $30 per ton.

But, in an odd move, when the issue came up for decision during the voting meeting -- where all previous work session decisions are ratified for the record -- the commission failed to take up the issue, instead moving on to the next item on the agenda.

When asked about it after the meeting, City Attorney Nathan Davis said that any action item would have to be ratified at the night meeting for it to count in the city record.

What wasn't clear is whether Lott intends to move forward with the negotiation based on what appeared to be the unanimous consensus of the commission during their pre-briefing or whether the issue will die, forcing the county to take other steps to acquire their funding.