ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany City Commission effectively drew a line in the sand in its ongoing power struggle with the city's Water, Gas & Light Commission Tuesday, refusing to contribute requested funding in the initial phase of the cleanup of an environmental hazard site.
Commissioners voted to approve a requested $1.025 million amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 budget -- minus "the first bullet point of the request."
That bullet point in question called for $375,000 in funding, about half of the expected cost of the initial phase of an Environmental Protection Division-ordered cleanup of a former manufactured gas plant at 900 Front St. Commissioners then instructed City Attorney Nathan Davis to put their reply in the form of an ordinance.
Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff instructed Davis to word the ordinance so that WG&L officials would understand that "they need to fund the initial phase of the Corrective Action Plan" approved by EDP.
"It seems like we're going through the same gig where WG&L is telling us what to do," Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell said. "I think they can find that money on their own."
WG&L General Manager Lem Edwards was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Taylor drew vehement protest from the board when he told its members he had no authority to tell WG&L how the cleanup, expected to cost between $5 million and $10 million, should be funded.
"We gave you that authority," Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said, and Taylor sent staff to retrieve a copy of an ordinance whose wording he said gave him the authority to "find the funding for the cleanup."
"If you want me to do more, you need to tell me," Taylor said.
WG&L had asked the city to share a one-third cost of the initial stage of the cleanup, which will include exploratory digging at the site. The utility had planned to pay a one-third share, with the other third coming from insurance.
"They asked, and you agreed," Taylor said.
Commissioners said their intent was to have Taylor, not WG&L, in charge of the cleanup, including finding funding sources. Langstaff suggested waiting until a report is available on a study conducted by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government of the relationship between the city and WG&L.
"This kind of thing disturbs me about our relationship (with WG&L)," Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines said. He then asked Taylor: "Did you go to the (cleanup) bid conference?" The city manager said, "No."
"Did your designee attend?" Hines asked. Again Taylor said, "No."
Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta then offered a motion to approve the budget amendment "with a stipulation that the city manager have final authority on the gas plant cleanup." His motion died for lack of a second, and Pike followed with his motion to approve the budget amendment with the exception of the WG&L funding.
The commission also approved $100,000 in HOME funding to go to Flint River Habitat Humanity so that the organization can build two single-family, handicap-accessible homes on property at Rosebriar Avenue for income-eligible applicants.
The commission was to have held an alcohol license renewal hearing with officials of Legends Lounge, but the establishment's attorney had a scheduling conflict. That hearing was resecheduled for Jan. 29. Hearings for Big Daddy's Lounge and the Sandtrap nightclub will be held today.