0

City votes to tighten reins on WG&L

ALBANY, Ga. -- For Ward II Albany City Commissioner Ivey Hines, the perceived power struggle between the commission and the city's Water, Gas & Light Commission is not the real issue when it comes to a hazardous waste cleanup that could end up costing taxpayers as much as $9 million.

Ultimate responsibility for working out a payment plan to cover the cost of the state Environmental Protection Division-ordered cleanup of a decommissioned manufactured gas plant, Hines said at a commission work session Tuesday, lies with the City Commission.

"We can talk around this, back and forth, all we want, but this is this table's bill," Hines said during a discussion of WG&L's request that $750,000 in exploratory digging at the site be split 50-50 between the two entities. "Whether it's $750,000 now, $2 million later or $8 million down the road, this is ours. We need to swallow that."

Hines' comments were part of a spirited discussion during which Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard had to gavel down Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell for the second week in a row, and Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike laid out a plan for the city to have a greater hand in the utility's operations.

"All this ego stuff is irrelevent," Pike said. "We need to stop dancing around this thing. Because the truth is, the Water, Gas & Light Commission does not own anything. Every truck, shovel, light pole ... everything they use belongs to the city and, ultimately, to the taxpayers. WG&L is, in essence, an enterprise fund for the city, and any movement of funds (from WG&L to the city) is a transfer.

"They refer to (citizens) as ratepayers and we call them taxpayers, but the people of this city are who we all are responsible to. At the end of the day, none of this stuff belongs to any of us. It belongs to the people."

Pike offered a motion that would give the city manager authority to manage the cleanup utilizing all city and WG&L resources. That motion passed with a 5-1 vote. Postell voted against it.

Water, Gas & Light officials had sought half of the estimated $750,000 needed for exploratory digging at the Front Street site. The utility and city officials had argued over responsibility for funding the cleanup of the plant that was used from 1912 to 1948 to create energy from coal and oil.

Postell chastised WG&L officials for keeping the commission in the dark about the particulars of the cleanup until it became apparent the cost would be significant.

"No one at this table knew you were spending money on that plant," the Ward VI commissioner said to utility Assistant General Manager Keith Goodin. "Keeping things away from us is a problem. You looked at us as a stepchild, telling us what you wanted us to do. You hid factors from us. According to this city's charter, we should have been part of this process all along."

Postell later responded to Hines' comments about responsibility for the cleanup.

"We don't get what we're supposed to get from over there now," Postell said. "This is larger than giving them money. If we put them under city management, then we can hold them to the fire. They keep raping the money, and we need to give them direction to eliminate this problem.

"My God, we already know the extravagance they work under. We need a safety net so we're not left in a cesspool. I don't believe the city gives them money to have extravagant salaries and transportation. They've got five people with vehicles ..."

Hubbard told Postell he'd strayed from the agenda, but he persisted.

"This is about the agenda," he said. "It's about Water, Gas & Light refusing to do what they've been told to do."

Taylor said after the meeting he's ready to work with Goodin and other WG&L officials to come up with a financial plan of attack at the site.

"I'm waiting to get the (commission's) directive in writing, but it's my impression that the commissioners are asking me to review (WG&L's) cleanup plan and then come up with a way to utilize city and WG&L resources to fund the plan," Taylor said after the meeting. "It's a big undertaking, and I'm smart enough to know I can't do it all. It will take both sides working together to pull this off.

"I think the commission wants assurances, and I plan to work with Mr. Goodin and other WG&L officials to come up with a workable plan. I think we can all work together, and the city just wants somebody from this side of the house at the table."

Also at the meeting, the commission approved the rescheduling of planned meetings in December and January. The board will hold its work session on Dec. 11 and its business meeting Dec. 18. It also rescheduled its first 2013 work session for Jan. 8.

Taylor also sought, and the board approved, a measure to move the night business meeting each month from 8 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Ward 1 Commissioner Jon Howard had suggested holding the business meetings during morning hours, but commissioners rejected that suggestion.

Comments

Abytaxpayer 1 year, 9 months ago

Postell chastised WG&L officials for keeping the commission in the dark .......Hey Postell maybe you should talk to the Mayor she is part of the WG&L Board.....Maybe she thought you could not handle the FACTs.....

“Any movement of funds (from WG&L to the city) is a transfer”. We all know It is thief of profits from a professionally run entity to prop up the spend and tax Commission. Kind of sounds like spreading the wealth……Hmmmm where have I heard that before? O yea from the Fair Share in Chief. Even if you don’t work and earn it you get part of it!

1

FryarTuk 1 year, 9 months ago

When I hear Postell or Pike talk about city revenue I put my hand over my wallet instinktively.

2

Jack_Frost 1 year, 9 months ago

I still have yet to be given a good reason why WG&L should be so autonomous. Not one. Yet their employees will lobby commissioners and the mayor, telling them what a disaster it would be if the commission took them over, yet no one has said WHY.

0

Abytaxpayer 1 year, 9 months ago

Jack here is a GOOD reason for WG&L to be autonomous. Professionally run and profitable vs. answering to a commission of bureaucrats who know nothing about how to run a business (some may even face legal actions for their attempts to run a business). Responsible to ratepayers for some of LOWEST rates in Ga. Vs One of the HIGHEST Tax Rates in Ga. Go ahead give them the whole piggy bank and see how long it takes to completely bleed it dry. Just think of MEAG Funds as a reference.

3

Outtahere 1 year, 9 months ago

Postell later responded to Hines' comments about responsibility for the cleanup.

"We don't get what we're supposed to get from over there now," Postell said. "This is larger than giving them money. If we put them under city management, then we can hold them to the fire. They keep raping the money, and we need to give them direction to eliminate this problem.

"My God, we already know the extravagance they work under. We need a safety net so we're not left in a cesspool. I don't believe the city gives them money to have extravagant salaries and transportation. They've got five people with vehicles ..."

Could someone please refresh my memory on Postell? Isn't he the one that misspend several thousand dollars on extravagant meetings, twice? I'm starting to get the miscreants mixed up.

0

Outtahere 1 year, 9 months ago

All I did was copy and paste and the words ended up being huge. Ironic?

0

FryarTuk 1 year, 9 months ago

Yes. Check out his allowance expenditures throughout his tenure. And he is the one that entered into a conspiracy with Mr. Ethics - Al Lotta Bull, to take $40,000 from city revenue to spend on one of the private properties of a crony of Postell. Would have gone through except AH published reports of it.

0

chinaberry25 1 year, 9 months ago

All of the wasted money in Albany could have gone a long way to clean this mess up. Should have been done years ago when it was a lot cheaper. Just like Atlanta and her water wells. Way past time to have been done. With all the money dished out to build the welfare homes this could have easily been done.

1

RedEric 1 year, 9 months ago

Georgia Power just announced a rate DECREASE beginning this year. WGL recently announced a rate INCREASE for gas on top of an increase for electricity before this summer. I believe Georgia Power's rate decrease for electricity was due to a decrease in generating fuel which includes nat gas. There is a law called PURPA that Requires utilities to pass savings onto consumers. WGL's reason for price increase was that last years warm winter resulted in reduced income. How long are we going to pay for one warm winter. I would very much like to see the justification, the real one, for rate increases, why PURPA doesn't apply here and why these people are willing to spend $9 million for a simple oil contamination cleanup? I am beginning to believe the taxpayers of Albany need state intervention for protection.

0

Abytaxpayer 1 year, 9 months ago

Mead the thief of the MEAG funds is also what is driving WG&L rates UP....Just think of the 30 MILLION the City just stole to encourage new industry to come to Albany. That 30 MILLION would have gone a loooooong way to holding down rates.

1

1d2ec 1 year, 9 months ago

Is this what I am hearing form the city comission? If it ain't broke take it over and break it.

2

Jacob 1 year, 9 months ago

Careful Mr. Postell, just having a pretty face and BBIA (Being Black in Albany) isn't enough to maintain the status quo any longer. Both black and white citizens have about had enought. Ask your buddy, # 34.....

1

Sign in to comment