Commissioners respond to consolidation questions

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- The Albany City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to immediately send responses to questions about a proposed charter to unify Albany and Dougherty County governments posed by legislative officials in Atlanta.

The vote keeps alive the fragile consolidation process, which is hanging by a thread given that the Georgia General Assembly is nearly two-thirds of the way through its current session and is primarily focused on bridging a billion-dollar budget gap.

The responses will be used by legislative officials in the Senate to format the bill to existing state standards before it is presented to the Senate's State and Local Government Operations Committee.

That committee must then report favorably on the bill before it would come out for a vote in the full Senate.

The 11 responses developed by city staff and approved by the Commission Tuesday largely clarify language and concepts in the bill that seemingly appeared erroneous or confusing to those formatting the document.

Some of the items addressed Tuesday include clarification on the employment status of the mayor or CEO of the new government -- full-time -- and the pay of the mayor and commission, which has been set at $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

The city is also including a map created by the Charter Review Committee in the middle part of the decade which attempts to draw out the various districts in the new government.

The only discussion by the Commission on the item centered around the map and to what degree commissioners should hasten their response to Atlanta.

Some on the Commission, like Ward 4 Commissioner Roger Marietta, considered tabling the matter until commissioners could get additional data concerning the map, including the number of registered voters in each of the districts.

But after learning that a response is time-sensitive given the number of days left in the legislative session, commissioners unanimously decided to go with the answers provided by staff and immediately send those to Atlanta.

Since Tuesday's meeting was merely a work session and not a voting meeting, the Commission will likely ratify its decision during the night meeting on March 23.

The SLGO Committee is scheduled to meet at the Capitol Wednesday, but HB 800 -- the consolidation bill -- is not on the agenda for discussion, Senate officials say.

That committee typically meets once per week while the General Assembly is in session.