ALBANY, Ga. — The Albany City Commission's inability to agree on how to spend an estimated $200,000 in additional funds generated by a proposed 1 percent hotel/motel tax increase has the tax itself in jeopardy.
A staff-recommended proposal to allocate the funds for use in offsetting part of the yearly deficit at which the Albany Civic Center operates (estimated to be around $800,000 a year) received only three votes at a commission work session Tuesday, while an alternate option to allocate $50,000 each for use by the Flint RiverQuarium, the Thronateeska Heritage Center, the Albany Civil Rights Institute and the Civic Center died for lack of a second.
"Option 1 (recommended by staff), gives us more flexibility," Commissioner Bob Langstaff said, and his motion to approve that option got votes from commissioners Tommie Postell and Ivey Hines.
"I think Option 2 follows the legal intent of the state more closely," Commissioner Roger Marietta said, but his motion received no second.
Commissioner Christopher Pike asked Assistant City Manager Wes Smith to add a third option to the mix for next week's night business meeting, one that would create a self-renewing "deal-closing" fund similar to one the city and Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission have created from utilities credits to entice businesses.
Langstaff warned that failure to reach a state-mandated concensus on utilization of the funding could kill the opportunity to increase the tax.
"We've been beating this up for two months now," Postell added. "I'm tired of beating it up. We need to make a decision and move on. We're talking about 1 lousy cent here, and yet we keep going at it like a cat following his tail."
The commission also got one side of a conflict that has arisen between independent data provider L2Networks and the city's Water, Gas & Light Commission. L2's Kraig Beahn told the board his operators had been denied access to WG&L's "Hanover 2 facility" to correct a customer's potentially life-threatening issue.
"We have a contract that allows us access to that facility 24/7," Beahn said. "We were denied access to our equipment to meet the emergency needs of a customer. That incident was cleared up by a WG&L Commissioner (Bob Hutchinson), but it persists.
"Our interest is not to file a lawsuit against the city, but our interest is also to have access to our equipment at this facility, as our contract guarantees."
No WG&L representative attended the meeting.
Despite reservations expressed by Langstaff, the commission voted to give nonbinding approval to an additional $860,000 in special-purpose local-option sales tax funding to Albany Technical College so it could move forward with design and bids on a pedestrian bridge across Slappey Boulevard and an extra $100,000 to the Thronateeska Archive Project for the addition of shelving.
"I think we need to make sure what's being asked for is absolutely necessary," Langstaff said. "I don't believe in this stroking the check and hoping for the best."
City officials noted that certain establishments — Big Daddy's Lounge on East Broad Avenue was mentioned by name — that had required police calls during the past year had been removed from the approved list of alcohol license renewals that will be voted on at next week's meeting. Most establishments were approved for renewal, but Code Enforcement officials said others would receive further scrutiny before a binding vote at next week's meeting.
Approval was given to five one-day alcohol licenses for special events, a license transfer and a new license application.