ALBANY, Ga. — Albany city commissioners tentatively approved Tuesday the second step in what could by late 2013 or early 2014 be a stormwater management plan that would have all users paying a fee that would allow the city to separate water in its storm and sanitary sewer systems.
Ron Feldner with Ecological Solutions presented a plan to commissioners at their work session that showed the potential to bring in an additional $450,000 a year to address aging stormwater and sanitary sewer infrastructure and expand infrastructure for future economic growth.
“We’re under permit right now to collect stormwater and sanitary in the same system,” City Manager James Taylor told commissioners. “Eventually, though, we will have to separate them. This stormwater user fee plan will allow us to make improvements to our system.”
The plan is based on a fee-for-service concept that would impact all users. And, as Feldner noted, since the plan calls for a fee and not a tax, the “large number of nonprofits in the city” would be responsible for payment as well.
Such a plan, initiated in Griffin in 1998 and used now by 50 other governmental agencies in Georgia, would set a fixed price for an average 3,000-square-foot dwelling. The average price in the state is currently $4 a month. Larger facilities, such as shopping malls, schools or hospitals, would pay an amount equal to the number of units based on the average dwelling multiplied by that $4 fee.
Feldner said credits would be given for specific green initiatives.
“Does the plan take into account structures that might be smaller than 3,000 square feet or other greenspace initiatives?” Commissioner Roger Marietta asked. “I don’t want the public to see this and think it’s just a flat $50-a-year fee for everyone.”
Feldner said that once the commission set a per-unit fee, fees could be determined for individual dwellings and businesses and what credits might be awarded for green initiatives.
“So, if you have a $4 fee for a 3,000-square-foot home, and someone has a 1,500-square-foot home ...?” Marietta asked.
“Two dollars a month,” Feldner replied.
The commission also received updates from directors of the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau and its Human Resources department during the work session.
The CVB’s Rashelle Beasley said $1,460,526 in hotel/motel tax income from 2011-2012 had been split equally by the city and CVB, giving each $730,262.
“Your CVB investment, according to the state of Georgia and the U.S. Travel Association, has contributed to $184.15 million in domestic travel expenditures for Albany,” Beasley said.
“We’re working with the hotels at every end, and this collection — the largest ever and a 7 percent increase over last year — is a product of all of us working together,” Beasley said before the meeting.
City HR Director Henry Cohen gave an overview of the department’s new policy manual, which will be discussed and eventually approved by the board.
“The original (manual) was adopted in 1981, and some sections are no longer applicable, others out of date,” Cohen said. “We’ve reviewed that manual and updated it to represent the best practices and compliance with current laws.”
Assistant City Manager Wes Smith asked for input so that he can present a list of possible sites for the city’s long-delayed multimodal transportation center. To remain eligible for federal funds, Smith told commissioners, a study on any prospective site would have to be completed.
Commissioner Bob Langstaff said he opposes spending any more money for a study when “it’s apparent from what’s been said around this table that no site will get four votes except the old Greyhound station.”
“Spending more money is pointless,” he said.
Commissioner Tommie Postell asked Langstaff if he thought certain commissioners were “in cahoots” with officials at the bus station that currently serves as the city’s transit system and transportation hub, then said, “I favor funding the study so we can get out of this 15-year quagmire.”
The commission eventually voted to tentatively approve $150,000 for a study after Taylor told them, “If there is no intent to find a permanent site (for the transportation center), I submit to you that the (Federal Transit Authority) will no longer fund (at $8,000 a month) the temporary site that they’ve been funding for the past 13 years.”