ALBANY -- The city's newest commissioner wants to take a closer look at the relationship between the city of Albany and the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission.
Ward II commissioner the Rev. Ivey Hines said this week he thinks the commission should take a fresh look at the way the entity conducts business and operates as a subsidiary of the city.
"I think we need to discuss the official relationship and the danger of the functional relationship between us and WG&L," Hines said to his colleagues.
Hines made the comment after learning that, while WG&L conducts most of its work independently of the city of Albany, the City Commission is ultimately responsible, legally, for the actions of the utility.
"You mean we can get sued for something they do?" Hines asked. "That's crazy to me."
City Attorney Nathan Davis said Friday that, at the end of the day, the utility is a part of the city of Albany, even though it has its own finance department, own human resources department and own procurement department.
"That's the real linchpin of all of this; like the police department, the fire department, they're part of the city charter," Davis said.
WG&L is one of two city branches that has a separate board that manages the organization. The other is the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, which is overseen by the city's Aviation Commission. But WG&L is the only city department that doesn't submit its budget each year to the City Commission for approval.
Instead, the mayor of the city has traditionally served as the chairman of the WG&L board, presiding over meetings and carrying one vote on matters involving the board, including the budget.
Under the city's original charter, the intent of WG&L appears to have been to provide its utilities as essentially a nonprofit organization, with any revenues over and above expenses to be transfered into the city of Albany's coffers for what the framers of the charter likely intended to be the overall good of the city.
In the upcoming budget year, WG&L is expected to transfer $9 million of its $125 million budget to the city of Albany. The city, in turn, pays WG&L for streetlights and other electric service within the city limits.