ALBANY, Ga. -- Creating a city safe for its residents is again the Albany City Commission's top priority for 2012 with economic prosperity and marketing following in close proximity, officials say.
The list of 2012 priorities has been released following the board's annual retreat with city department heads this week at the Resort at Lake Blackshear near Cordele.
City Manager James Taylor said Thursday that he's promised the commission that he and his staff will create more precise definitions for the priorities, metrics to judge how well the staff is meeting those priorities and goals for how the staff intends to carry those priorities into 2012 and beyond.
"We have to do a better job defining our priorities," Taylor said. "We can talk about eradicating poverty, but that's such a broad and far-reaching topic, its hard to ever see if you're really making any progress.
"What we want to do is put together a better document in 2012 than we had in 2011.... it will be our first attempt to make (the priorities) quantifiable, executable and feasible."
The top priority is "Safe Community," followed by "Economic Prosperity," then "Marketing the city of Albany for the future," "Infrastructure Development," "Leadership and Workforce Development," and "Social Prosperity."
From his perspective, Taylor said that he believed the retreat, which allowed staff members to interact with commissioners for the first time, went well.
"The truth is, we're a team," Taylor said. "A team of elected officials. A team of staff members and a team of citizens. We all have to work together or we can fail, it's really as simple as that."
Taylor says that there are several initiatives that are in the pipeline for 2012 that he believes are important for economic development.
The first is the expansion of sewer lines out Philema Road and into Chehaw Park. That would allow, Taylor said, for Chehaw to advance their master plan, Albany and Dougherty County residents to potentially hook on and would improve the sanitary sewer situation in that part of the county.
The second would be to expand the sewer and infrastructure around the Walmart in East Albany. As a growing corridor, Taylor said that improving the infrastructure in that area would be one way to entice new businesses to an area that is seeing a lot of new retail activity.
Taylor also said that its his goal in 2012 to begin chipping away at the city's anti-business perception. Plans are in the works, he says, to invite local business owners to the civic center to air grievances with city policies they view to be hurting small business so that he and the staff can begin finding alternatives.
"We've got to get them involved so that we can become business friendly," Taylor said. "I want as many as we can get down there, even if I have to feed them, to start the dialogue."
Finally, Taylor said that the city has to take a hard look at the proliferation of non-profits in Albany that are using city resources but are exempt from paying any local property taxes.
"Depending on where you get your number, we have between 620 and 765 non-profits in this town. Some big ones, some smaller ones, some churches...but everyone is using the city roads, the city infrastructure, they have access to police and fire service all tax free," Taylor said. "I'm not saying that we need to tax them, but we need their help. We need them to come to the table and do their part as well so that the taxpayers aren't the only ones shouldering the burden."
As city manager, Taylor's job is to run the day-to-day operations of the city government, implementing the policies and ordinances set by the elected board of commissioners.