ALBANY, Ga. — The body that oversees how $30 million in funding from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia is spent voted Tuesday to recommend that the city commission deny the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission’s appeal for $750,000 in cash to start the cleanup of the former gas plant site.
The Longterm Financial Planning Committee voted 3-2 to recommend that city commission deny WG&L’s request with committee members saying that the money should instead be spent on things that are more likely to stimulate growth.
The committee consists of two WG&L Board members and three city commissioners.
In a proposal he pitched at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, committee member and Albany City Commissioner Bob Langstaff said that he believes the longterm fund’s money should be used possibly as a “deal closing fund,” to help entice a large employer to come to Albany.
Comparing it to the deal that landed the Caterpillar plant in Watksinsville, Langstaff said that deal closing funds are matched by a fund operated by the state of Georgia, which could go a long way to creating jobs in Albany.
Committee member and WG&L Board Member Andrew Reid said he was concerned with how WG&L would now be expected to fund the cleanup given that their reserves are still extremely low.
“We can’t just take $5 million out of reserves and leave it with nothing,” Reid said.
The discussion prompted some city officials to question the financial operations of WG&L, a utility whose budget tops $120 million but whose reserves are less than $7 million; who has raised utility rates by 15 percent over the last 18 months and who also is attempting to buy a $4.5 million office building.
Also at issue is why WG&L hasn’t adhered to a 2005 ordinance that changed the funding formula for revenue to include unmetered revenue.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s going on over there that you can’t pay the bills,” LTFPC Chair Tommie Postell said.
The committee voted unanimously to request that the city commission refund any of the $200,000 the group awarded the city for the gang unit in 2010 that hasn’t been spent.
It also voted to request that WG&L provide a detailed accounting of how $1 million in funds that were awarded to the utility were spent. WG&L requested the funding in 2010 to fix elevators and roofs on some of its buildings.