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Albany commissioners look at realignment of WG&L

Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission General Manager Lemuel Edwards explains the organizational structure of the utility to the Albany City Commission.

Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission General Manager Lemuel Edwards explains the organizational structure of the utility to the Albany City Commission.

ALBANY, Ga. — ALBANY — After a lengthy meeting with Water, Gas & Light Commission General Manager Lem Edwards Tuesday, some members of the Albany City Commission are considering restructuring the utility so that the utility’s general manager reports directly to the city manager.

Legally, WG&L is a municipal utility, owned by the taxpayers of Albany but operated mostly by Edwards, who was hired by the WG&L Board of Trustees. That board is made up of political appointees of the Albany City Commission and the mayor of the city of Albany.

In some ways, WG&L operates much like a city department, such as the city having liabilities for any lawsuits. But in other ways the utility stands as an autonomous entity complete with its own finance, risk managment and human resources department.

It’s a convoluted knot the City Commission appears eager to untangle.

Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff, whose father served as WG&L’s regulatory attorney until his death two years ago, put it simply to Edwards Tuesday morning.

“How would you feel if you reported to the city manager?” Langstaff asked.

“Our positions are equal and always have been,” Edwards replied. “There are two appointees — one runs the utility and one runs the city.”

In addition to concerns over duplication of services, commissioners expressed concerns over liabilities that the utility may have but could ultimately be passed on to the city, like the cleanup of a decades-old manufactured gas plant near Society Avenue that could cost between $2 million and $10 million.

“If the citizens of this community are going to be on the hook for something or could potentially be on the hook for something, then we need to know about it as soon as possible so we can take steps to deal with it,” Langstaff said. “They (WG&L) knew about it for decades, and we found out about it accidentally a few years ago.”

That plant was used up until the 1940s, when it was shut down. Edwards said that since he joined WG&L in 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency had instructed WG&L not to disturb the site. But in recent years, EPA has changed its mind and is now ordering that the site be cleaned up.

Edwards said he intends to ask the board that governs the Longterm Financial Planning Fund to pay for the cleanup Friday.

Langstaff also said he’s concerned about the legal liability that WG&L had placed on the city by offering merit pay increases while the city of Albany itself doesn’t have a merit pay program in place for its employees.

Edwards attempted to justify the merit raise policy by saying that the department has lost many highly trained employees over the last few years and that merit increases and cost-of-living adjustments help keep them in Albany.

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said the commission would deliberate on the information presented Tuesday and discuss it more at a future work session.

Comments

Cartman 2 years, 1 month ago

If the city is going to use WG & L as a cash cow; why doesn't the city and county, through the Hospital Authority, rake some of the money out of Phoebe? It is a public non-profit hospital. It is sitting on hundreds of millions in reserves. We could use the tax break. The hospital is where the real money can be mined. When will local leaders realize this? Have you ever wondered where the enormous prices charged by Phoebe go? Hey local leaders! Dig. Find out. We own the hospital. Only you can find out. Only you can take back control.

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WeAreThey 2 years, 1 month ago

See Cartman? No one wants to respond to your comment or say 'Amen'. All the blowhard bloggers who have thousands of words to say about DCSS are pretty mum when it comes to Phoebe. I think they're all Phoebe employees who get paid to stir the pot on every other topic to keep the focus off Phoebe. Or, they are just plain folks who are just plain scared.

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Albanite 2 years, 1 month ago

Lem Edwards is out of control. He either needs to be demoted and placed under the City Manager's supervision or terminated immediately.

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Jacob 2 years, 1 month ago

Lem Edwards is the ONE official in this geeked up town with any fiscal repsponsibility whatsoever. He needs to be promoted to city manager and run the whole show instead of the current crop of clowns, thieves and idiots.

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Abytaxpayer 2 years, 1 month ago

Albanite. Please support your rant....What has Lem done that you think is out of control. That is other than move WG&L light years ahead of the city management. The City Commission wants to get their hands on MORE of the money WG&L has in reserve just like the MEAG funds the city Commission views it as "Free Money" for them to waste. Seriouly do you want WG&L run like the City?

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Progressive 2 years, 1 month ago

I would also like to know why Albanite feels so negatively about Lem. From the trends I have seen, I WOULD NOT TRUST the CITY Commissioners to manage cutting my grass, much less the WG&L business. For example, the mayor still has not publicly denounced the racist remarks by City Commissioner Tommy Postell, thousands of dollars illegally contributed to private entities such as ACRI, wasted funds on illegal loans that have not been paid back, etc. etc. etc. Maybe the liability issue needs to be addressed so that it falls back to WG&L, and not on the City. Then they have no claims to have it report to the City Manager. Just curious if this is even a possibility.

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Cartman 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm curious as well. If it was Lem Edwards vs any Albany City Commissioner - I vote Lem.

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1d2ec 2 years, 1 month ago

For the 50 years I have lived in Albany, WG&L seem to be the only department that could depend on to follow through with service. As usual if it ain't broke BREAK IT.

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howsad 2 years, 1 month ago

So sad...that the Cast of Clowns (better known as the City Commission) feel that they can run the WG&L Commission better than it is currently run. With the likes of Comm Pike, whose fiscal incompetence is just coming to light, and Comm Postel, who would hand out jobs and contracts based on race, it would be a real fiasco and end up costing the citizens down the road. What should be done is an evaluation of the duplication of services that exist in the HR and IT areas, and take appropriate action to meld them into departments that support both entities. Ms Mayor is the Chairman of the Board of WG&L. What is her stand on this issue?

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FryarTuk 2 years, 1 month ago

You could see the imperial strategy at the end of the year when Roger Marietta and Chris Pike knifed Carol Fullerton in the back to keep her off the WG&L commission. These two bums joined up with Postell and Jr. Langstaff to muscle out Fullerton because she had too much gravitas and would prevent the rape of WG&L consumers. Instead of approving Fullerton they elevated former city commissioner Morris Gurr a warmed over political hack who agreed not to run again. It's a cooked up deal. Jr. Langstaff couldn't earn a living if he flipped hamburgers but his family lived and lives sumptuously on the backs of WG&L consumers and now he wants to team up with Postell in an unholy alliance. The purpose of this gangbang aint purdy. Lem Edwards stands 5 feet above these urchins. Remember Lem Edwards doubled as the city manager and WG&L manager until they hired the Baltimore flash, ethical Al Lott. Edwards didn't break a sweat. The issue is a contrived dilemma and I hope the Mayor is up to dealing with it. She won't find any help from that political harlot Roger Marietta who, as my grandfather would say, aint fit to tote guts to a bear. I never really understood that but it fits Caspar Milquetoast Marietta to a tee. I despise that two faced buzzard. I warned you guys about this long time ago in squawks and commentary. Hold on to your hats folks you are about to see some more three stooge episodes with Postell, Jr, and Roger (excepting if he finds a better offer).

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