Commission gets Legislature wrap

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- The lobbyist hired by the city to push local priorities under the gold dome in Atlanta gave local leaders a wrap-up of this year's session and provided an overview of legislation that will likely affect the area once signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Rufus Montgomery of Cornerstone Communications heralded the teamwork of Albany and Dougherty County's state representatives and senator while outlining how they fared in advocating city priorities.

Montgomery said one of the biggest achievements of the session locally was the delegation's ability to secure $1.8 million in the upcoming state budget for funds to design the highly anticipated Ray Charles Fine Arts Building on the campus of Albany State University.

Specifically, Montgomery singled out sophomore Rep. Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, saying that it was largely her tenacity and dedication to the project that kept it secure throughout the budget process.

Also in speaking of the project, Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, applauded Sen. Freddie Powell-Sims, D-Dawson, for her "heavy lifting" of the project through the Senate.

While the funding for the design of the arts center is a much-desired step forward on the project -- which has been repeatedly tossed to the back burner in terms of prioritization at the state level in recent years -- Montgomery and delegation members cautioned that it will still take an additional $25 million to build the facility.

Montgomery said he would continue to work with the delegation during next year's term to try and find funding for the widening of State Highway 133.

Both County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard and Mayor Willie Adams have called that project crucial to economic development and growth at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.

Montgomery said a $4 million commitment from the Georgia Department of Transportation is in the works for the rehabilitation, repair and construction of the Broad Avenue Bridge and spoke of a 2012 referendum that would determine whether a regional sales tax would be developed for local transportation projects.

In other discussion surrounding state legislation and politics, Adams questioned Montgomery and the delegation about funding for a network of trauma hospitals, calling the fact that Albany and much of Southwest Georgia is without a dedicated trauma center "unacceptable."

The state is planning to levy a $10 fee on motor vehicles to raise an estimated $80 million in funding to develop a trauma network, Montgomery said.

Rynders said the Commission could help the delegation ensure that the funding ends up in the proper place by working with the medical community.

"This body needs to engage the medical community to ensure that a fair share of the $80 million goes to serve the underserved areas of the state and doesn't become another funding source for Grady (Hospital)," Rynders said.

Those living in rural areas of the state are less likely to get the type of trauma care they need.

"It's almost unacceptable to be in a growing region of the state and not have a trauma center," Adams said.