ALBANY, Ga. — The Albany City Commission gave non-binding approval Tuesday to utilization of $1.69 million in Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI funding to build a pedestrian bridge across South Slappey Boulevard for use by students at Albany Technical College.
Asked by Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard if building the structure, initially projected to cost $865,000, would jeopardize any other SPLOST-approved projects due to additional costs, City Manager James Taylor said it would not.
“Unless we’ve made a $7 million mistake somewhere, no, this project will not jeopardize other SPLOST projects,” Taylor said.
Voters had approved more than $7 million as part of the SPLOST VI referendum for replacing the condemned Broad Avenue bridge, a project whose funding was subsequently provided completely by the state Department of Transportation. Taylor indicated the additional funding for the pedestrian bridge for Albany Tech could be deducted from the Broad Avenue bridge replacement funds.
Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta asked SRJ Architects President Mike Johnson, whose firm had given Albany Tech the updated $1.69 million estimate for the bridge, why the new estimate exceeded the original figure.
“I’m not sure where that original number came from,” Johnson said. “(Albany Tech) came to us (for a bid) after the fact.”
Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell said he wants the project estimate as accurate as possible.
“Whatever we vote on, I’d like for them not to come back to us for more money,” Postell said. “This project is in my ward, and I am in favor of it. But I’d like for this to be a one-time deal.”
Tuesday’s work session got off to a rousing start when, after Mayor Dorothy Hubbard asked for a moment of silence in recognition of Monday’s bombing victims in Boston, former commissioner Henry Mathis challenged current Ward II commissioner Ivey Hines and other members of the board on their plans to take a bigger role in the operation of the city’s Water, Gas & Light Commission.
“My question to Commissioner Hines, my commissioner, and to this board is ‘Why now?’” Mathis said. “The Water, Gas & Light Commission is one of the most efficient and effective departments in Albany. If we allow commissioners to be in the Water, Gas & Light business, what’s going to stop them from telling voters they can set rates while they’re campaigning?
“I also want to know if this action they’re taking requires General Assembly action. Does the city’s charter allow (WG&L) funds to be transferred to a nonprofit entity? And my other question is whether, in the last seven years, any member of this commission has benefited monetarily from WG&L funds? If so, I want you to get that out there.”
Mathis’ comments got no response from the commission.
Planning Manager Mary Teter told the board new traffic counts taken along Old Dawson Road over a recent seven-day period indicated the average count on Old Dawson from Pointe North Boulevard to Colonial Drive was 16,824. A previous count, taken over a four-day period, indicated average traffic at that section of Old Dawson was 16,100 vehicles a day. The new count surpasses the highway capacity of 16,600 vehicles.
The information was given in response to developer Danny Blackshear’s proposal to develop land off Old Dawson and citizens in the area’s attempts to stop him for, among other reasons, the traffic congestion on the road during peak morning and afternoon hours. The issue will be addressed more fully at a public hearing during next Tuesday’s night commission meeting.