The Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission was founded 100 years ago to serve as Albany’s municipal utility.
ALBANY, Ga. -- The city of Albany's Water, Gas & Light Commission board was given a homework assignment at its monthly meeting Thursday morning, one that could result in increased deposits for its new customers.
Fiscal Affairs Director John Vansant shared the results of, and asked board members to take a closer look at, a survey sent to other state utilities asking for information on the deposits each charged. Vansant has pushed for deposit increases to offset bad-debt losses suffered by WG&L. He said the utility has already accumulated $687,000 in bad debt in the first seven months of the current fiscal year.
"I'm giving you this for information purposes at this time, but I'd like your feedback on it," Vansant said. "I'd like to hear from you which direction you'd like to go in."
Vansant said WG&L customers pay a maximum $100 deposit for all three services provided by the utility (water, gas and electricity). Most other utilities that responded to the survey showed much larger deposits.
The fiscal affairs director asked the board to consider increasing deposits after giving a financial statement that shows WG&L operating at $1.2 million less than had been budgeted for the year, primarily because of mild weather in August and January.
Vansant also outlined a plan by which the utility will increase its reserves from a current $3.8 million to more than $7 million by the end of the fiscal year (June 30) and to almost $11 million by the end of FY 2014.
Also at Thursday's meeting, Assistant General Manager for Operations Keith Goodin said recent heavy rains had hampered efforts to complete Phase 1 of the WG&L-funded 900 Front St. hazardous waste cleanup that started Feb. 18.
"We'd budgeted to test 5,000 gallons of water from the site, but we're already at 17,000 gallons," Goodin said. "That's an extra expense because we have to test all the water before dumping it in our drainage system. It's also caused delays in the project because we have to vacuum the water out the holes we're digging, plus the crews don't work in the rain.
"What we've found so far, though, is that the contamination has been pretty much contained. It's too soon to tell, but early indications are that this is not a horribly significant problem."
John Lansing, the pricing and sales manager for Electric Cities of Georgia, reprised a presentation he'd made to the board in November for the benefit of interim General Manager James Taylor and new board members Judith Corbett and Chad Warbington. He stressed that the collective was recommending an 11 percent rate increase on small commercial businesses and small seasonal decreases for larger businesses so that WG&L's rates remain basically the same but still lower than Georgia Power's.
"With the rate changes we're recommending, WG&L would stay pretty much revenue neutral," Lansing said.
Before the business portion of the meeting, the board presented a plaque of appreciation to recently retired General Manager Lemuel Edwards.
"We present this to you on behalf of your staff and the Water, Gas & Light Commission," Albany Mayor/WG&L Chairwoman Dorothy Hubbard said. "And we want to thank you, thank you, thank you for your service."