ALBANY, Ga. — Despite spirited debate on the matter at a prebriefing and Commissioner Tommie Postell’s declaration that he would push to table a vote that would extend Medicare B reimbursements given post-65 city of Albany retirees, the Albany City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to continue the $96.40 monthly payments, which City Manager James Taylor said set the city budget back more than $400,000 a year.
The commission also approved an option that will require retirees to prove, by Dec. 31, they are eligible to receive the Medicare B reimbursements. Taylor had recommended doing away with the reimbursements altogether.
“The budget issue is not going away, but we didn’t feel we could deny our retirees these funds they’ve been receiving as part of their retirement,” Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said Wednesday. “We are going to have to make cuts, but we had to do right by the people who have given so much to the city.”
Taylor said Wednesday he will continue to bring cost-cutting options to the commission.
“I have one client: the city of Albany,” he said. “I have to do what’s best for all of the city’s residents. My job is to bring options to the commission. I don’t take (the vote) personally, but at some point we’re going to have to bite the big bullet and make some tough choices.”
Also at the meeting, the commission approved a resolution that would authorize the city manager to develop a written plan and use all city assets — including Water, Gas & Light Commission funds — to manage a hazardous waste cleanup site at a former manufactured gas plant site at 900 Front Street.
The cleanup is projected to cost the city between $3 million and $9 million.
“(WG&L General Manager) Lem (Edwards) and I talked last week, and he’s ready to go with this,” Taylor said. “We wanted to get past this vote, make sure everything was in place, then we’ll move forward. The one order we have is to begin assessment (of the site) by March.”
Commissioners also approved a $185,000 settlement payment to now former Albany Fire Department employee Roderick Jolivette, who had three lawsuits and an EEOC claim pending against the city. Jolivette agreed to drop the suits and resign from his position with the city, although he will be paid pension up to the time that he would normally have retired.
Commissioners also approved its Long-Term Financial Planning Committee’s recommendation that a one-third share of Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia credits, which could amount to between $20 million and $30 million by 2017, be used to spur economic development in the city and county. The LTFPC will work with the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission to determine standards of qualification for the funds, which will include number and/or types of jobs and financial investment.
The city also voted to move its night meetings to 6:30 p.m. rather than 8 p.m. starting Nov. 27.