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Vinson report presented to city

ALBANY, Ga. -- Asked about the Albany City Commission's expressed desire to have more of a say on operations of the city's Water, Gas & Light Commission, city and WG&L officials have offered virtually the same reply: We're waiting for the report from the Carl Vinson Institute.

The wait is now over.

Carl Vinson Institute of Government Senior Public Service Associate John O'Looney offered an overview of the study by the University of Georgia-based research institute at Tuesday's commission meeting, clearing the way for action by the city.

"It's premature to guess what action the city might take now," City Manager James Taylor, who last week was officially named interim general manager of the utility as well, said after Tuesday's commission work session. "I think the next step is for the commission to consider the study and then decide what they want to do with it."

Vinson Institute representatives met with city and WG&L officials and also talked with comparable cities that are part of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia to determine what strengths and weaknesses there might be in independent or fully consolidated utility models to give Albany officials a clearer understanding of what issues might await as they consider more control of WG&L.

"I don't think they told us anything we didn't kind of know already," Taylor said. "They did point out challenges that won't come any faster or go away with any type of merger (between the city and WG&L).

"It gives the commission something to think about as we move forward. Ultimately, whatever decision is made will come from them."

O'Looney discussed such topics as the transfer of funds from WG&L to the city, which he said was low when compared to other cities in Georgia, consolidation of such duplicated services as HR, IT and finance, the impact politics might play on WG&L policies with more control by elected officials and salary issues that would immediately arise with complete consolidation of the two entities.

"One of the things this study proves is something that's always been clear: Management is all," O'Looney said. "Without the right management in place, you can consolidate or remain independent. It won't matter."

Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff suggested taking "baby steps" as soon as possible as a means of easing into more of a merger between the two entities. By having the city manager more involved in WG&L business, Langstaff suggested, the commission will have a clearer understanding of issues that arise.

"One of the things I want to know is how much WG&L invested in installing fiber (optics) and why they now want to sell it," Langstaff said. "It might be an aggravation to them, but we need to look at the long-term impact. Because, as the courts have ruled, ultimate responsibility falls on the city."

Earlier in Tuesday's meeting, Assistant City Manager Wes Smith sought direction on a request by Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines to research development of a citywide strategic plan. Smith noted that such a plan would require funding and a considerable investment of time.

"I feel we need to move forward with this issue," Hines said. "The total community needs to be involved in the process, and we need to deal with all the issues that impact our city: poverty, illiteracy, economic distress. We need to do what we can to stop this brain drain with our community's children."

Langstaff said he wasn't sure if, with Taylor asking department heads to make 10 percent across-the-board cuts to their budgets, now was the best time to finance a costly strategic plan.

"Regardless of the economic realities, we need a plan in place," Hines said.

Chehaw Park General Manager Doug Porter told the commission of park officials' plan to increase general admission fees to $3 for adults and $2 for children, and commissioners gave non-binding approval to a request from Downtown Manager Aaron Blair for $302,082.03 in funding for streetlights in the historic Old Northside neighborhood currently being developed.

The money, which would be used to purchase and install 29 pedestrian lights and 18 street lights along Tift and Residence avenues, would come from unused Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax II funds.

"There are lights out all over the city," Langstaff said. "I'd hate to see new lights installed before we get the ones we already have working. There's not an endless pot of money for that."

Taylor said citizens could help WG&L officials repair lights that are not on by calling 311 or using a special smartphone app to report the outages.

The commission also tentatively approved Hatcher Tractor Co. of Albany's $136,500 bid to supply crushed asphalt that will by applied in several alleys throughout the city. Public Works Director Phil Roberson said the cost of the asphalt is $8 to $10 a foot, as opposed to $140 a foot for paving alleys.

Comments

dickyboy 1 year, 6 months ago

I get so disgusted when I hear the word consultants... tens of thousands spent on these people every year.. are Albany leaders too stupid to figure out what needs to be done? Some of these people are making in excess of $70000 per year and can't figure out what needs to be done without consultants..

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VSU 1 year, 6 months ago

Another example of paid officials not earning or doing their jobs. We have elected commissioners and school board members that get paid regardless whether they show up for meetings to vote etc. and you have high paid officials that can't make a decision and pay thousands ...correction waste thousands of dollars to hire consultants to do the job they are not capable of doing.

Albany officials reminds me of Mayor Pike of the Andy Griffith show, Mayor Pike couldn't make a decision on his own, if one person made a notion, Pike was for it, if another person was against the notion, Pike would change his mind and say it was a bad idea.

I guess they don't want the responsibility shoved in their face if a plan goes wrong, they can blame it on the consulting firm. "Well this was what the consulting firm recommended, don't look at me, it wasn't my idea."

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B4it 1 year, 6 months ago

Just another thought for putting this in perspective = Consultants only make recommendations based on comparative data. It is still up to the local elected officials and citizens to make the FINAL decisions on whether to accept the consultants recommendations.

For instance, there was a previous study by outside sources to combine the Albany City and DoCo governments with a unanimous vote to approve this action by prominent representatives from both the City and County. Several Grand Juries have also unanimously approved this cost saving initiative. However, some of our elected officials in both the City and County have continually ignored these recommendations --- and we are still having budget issues due to their lack of leadership.

It is interesting to see that some of the City Commissioners think that combining the City and WG&L is a good way to reduce expenses, but they can't see the same cost reductions by eliminating duplicated services by combining the City and County governments. Can you say "self-preservation" is not an issue here?

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

I think the Commission isn't make the report public because it recommends abolishing the city and assigning its functions to WG&L. That's a merger I would favor.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 6 months ago

Not all consultants make the kind of money city officials pay and many actually work for what they do. A real estate person is a consultant and they earn their salary. So do forestry consultants. Neither are just showing data comparison. Both have to actually work to earn their living.

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B4it 1 year, 6 months ago

China... my comments above were not meant to degrade consultants. They were to point out that the ultimate decisions to implement outsourced recommendations are left up to the commissioners and citizens.

No matter what type of consultants (as you point out a few examples) they all work to use a type of "comparative data" when making recommendations ---, whether it is from their own years of comparative experiences, written materials, or comparative discussions with client reps, etc. A consultant (or sales rep) can not make good recommendations to buy a specific car, or suggest how to take care of plants/trees, or suggest a home or home selling price, or even suggest consolidating duplicated government services, without having some experience with comparative data/information to know if it will be of benefit to the paying client. Again, just another perspective to consider.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

"Regardless of the economic realities, we need a plan in place," Hines said.

Oh brother, the Chris Piker mentality - just write a check.

You can see what these bozos plan- to eviscerate the management of WG&L the only functional service of the city and replace it with the city management quality of Postell, Piker, Hines, Junior & Milquetoast Mayretta. Don't you jes' luv it?

"I don't think they told us anything we didn't kind of know already," Taylor said. "They did point out challenges that won't come any faster or go away with any type of merger (between the city and WG&L)." Sounds like a very wise man who is not eager to tend to someone else's knitting.

Bob Langstaff suggested taking "baby steps" as soon as possible as a means of easing into more of a merger between the two entities." Isn't there a charter in place that precludes this or doesn't it have to be changed by the legislature?

BTW how can us taxpayers get a copy of the Vinson Institute Report?

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AnotherMom 1 year, 6 months ago

A citwide strategic plan to stop the brain drain of our community's children??? How about stopping children from having children? How about people taking advantage of what is currently available in education? Two of my children have graduated from DCSS & one is currently attending. My children have all received a very good education - there is absolutely no reason why all the kids in this town can't also receive a good education. The problem is not with the system we have; the problem is with the people in this town who have a gimmee-gimmee attitude. They want everything handed to them on a silver platter & want to blame someone else when things don't go their way. It is so frustrating to listen to the complaints of some of these people.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

The City Commission is about to rob, rape and plunder WG&L for their consultant buddies and housing development pals. You think our city streets are bad? You just wait when we can not get electricity and natural gas in our homes. Compare the terrible cable service the city forces on us. That is a foretaste of what is to come with the utilities. Now you see why Milquetoast Mayretta and Honest Chris Piker stabbed Carol Fullerton in the back to remove her from the utility board. These folks are up to no good. Watch how quickly they go through what's left of the 90 million dollar MEAG fund.

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