ALBANY, Ga. — Retired educator Jesse Massey ended his impassioned plea to the Albany City Commission for funding to help finance the summer National Youth Sports Program held at Albany State University for the past 37 years with a simple but pointed request: “Talk to me, commissioners.”
It was Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell who did most of the talking, asking Massey for an accounting of the program’s funding, but commission followers might have expected Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff to add a curt “I told you so.”
Langstaff had suggested in December that his colleagues’ decision to give the Flint RiverQuarium $150,000 in emergency funding might potentially open the floodgates for other agencies to seek such funding.
Massey held up a copy of the Dec. 12 Albany Herald with a headline proclaiming “City gives RiverQuarium $150,000” as he asked commissioners to reconsider their decision not to help finance the summer program that offers activities for as many as 500 underprivileged area youths.
“You told me two years ago not to come back, but I’m back,” Massey said. “You said then you didn’t have money in the budget to give to nonprofits, but then I read in the newspaper that you’d given money to the RiverQuarium. I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly says it in black and white in The Albany Herald.
“So I’m here today to ask you to rescind that decision. I hope you’ll reconsider. We’re asking for money, not for us to put in our pockets; it’s for the kids.”
Postell, though, questioned Massey’s statement.
“When we scrutinized NYSP, we found a lot of money was going for salaries, not for kids,” Postell said. “That’s why I voted against it in the first place. I need to know where your salary scale is now.”
Massey said the program had to “compensate professional people for professional work.”
“NYSP was set up for volunteers,” Postell countered. “Yes, there are some costs involved, but when you pay these volunteers you diminish the funds that are supposed to go to the children.
“If you get proof that something has changed, we’ll listen to that.”
Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike asked Massey for an audited accounting of the program’s funding for the past five years.
“We spend $35 million a year on public safety; certainly we can spend a couple of dollars on kids,” Pike said.
Also at the meeting, which was shorter than usual because Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and City Manager James Taylor were leaving to visit the city’s national Congressional delegation and its federal lobbyist in the nation’s capital, the commission reviewed and approved — with a few additions — the city’s revised Human Resources Policy Manual and gave tentative approval to:
Up to $297,280 for the Albany-based Labor Finders temporary service for part-time employees;
$70,242.25 to Consolidated Pipe Co. of Leesburg for PVC pipe and fittings;
$78,700 to Town & Country Equipment Co. of Albany for a mini excavator;
$123,000 to John Deere Tractor and Albany Tractor Co. for heavy machinery;
$42,340 for residential asbestos surveying from SACS of Bluffton, S.C.