Ronald Reekes, regional manager for Wendel, answers questions from the public during a transit hearing on Albany’s multimodal site Tuesday at the government center.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Of the more than 40 citizens and current or former city officials who attended a public hearing on the site selection for a multimodal transit center at Albany's downtown Government Center Tuesday afternoon, it was the comments of Johnnie Hammond that likely had the greatest impact.
Noting that she spoke on behalf of neighbors and friends who regularly use the city's transit system, Hammond asked that the needs of the more than 1 million riders who utilize public transportation in the city each year be given the greatest consideration when a site for a long-delayed multimodal transit center is finally selected.
"The current location (at 300 W. Oglethorpe Blvd.) is accessible to so many things that (public transit customers) need," Hammond said during a question-and-answer session that followed a presentation on the advantages and disadvantages of four possible sites being considered by the city. "The people who use the transit system don't understand why the city would move the center.
"I would like to see the city, when they're making this decision, prioritize based on the needs of the people who actually ride the city buses."
Regional Manager Ron Reekes and his Wendel Companies colleague Stephanie Goris gave a detailed description of the four sites being considered by the city for location of the multimodal transit center, including the former China Palace restaurant and part of the Budget Motel at 301 E. Oglethorpe Blvd., the existing transit site, the location of the former Heritage House hotel at 732 W. Oglethorpe Blvd., and the site of the former Carmike Cinemas at 1121 Gillionville Road.
"We've looked at each of the four sites, completed an infrastructure analysis and done a test fit," Reekes said. "Our purpose is to find a facility that best allows the city to combine multiple modes of transportation at one convenient location.
"We've done about 100 of these facilities all across the country, and we try to create potentially architectually iconic structures that meet each city's needs. One of the priorities, though, since federal funding will be partially used to complete the structure, is the FTA (Federal Transit Authority) requirement that we look for a locally preferred alternative."
Many of the questions about the proposed multimodal center had to do with financing of the project. Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said that while a cost analysis of each proposed site is a next step in the process, the city is looking to utilize some $5 million in federal funds and as much as $4 million in approved special-purpose local-option sales tax funding to complete the project.
"We'll use the information provided by Wendel, and perhaps some of today's discussion, to come up with a magnitude of cost report to present to the City Commission next Tuesday," Smith said before the meeting. "We'll talk about the things we like and don't like at each of the four sites and make a recommendation to the commission at that time.
"Hopefully the commission will make a decision pretty quickly and we can move this project forward."
Five of Albany's six commissioners -- Tommie Postell, Roger Marietta, Ivey Hines, Bob Langstaff and Christopher Pike -- and Mayor Dorothy Hubbard attended Tuesday's public hearing, as did City Manager James Taylor, Transit Director David Hamilton and Downtown Manager Aaron Blair.
Former government leaders Arthur Williams and Victor Edwards also attended the forum.
"I don't know if you've taken into consideration that, once the city takes ownership of any new building that's built, as many as 14 minority contractors will lose work," Edwards said. "We talk a lot about economic impact here, but that impact of around $500,000 is going to hurt a lot of families.
"I know that existing building can be renovated for a lot less than $9 million. I hope that city leaders will take a look at the impact this will have. There are a lot of branches that come off this tree."