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Dougherty considers tax allocations

The Flint RiverQuarium is located in downtown Albany.

The Flint RiverQuarium is located in downtown Albany.

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County Commission heard requests from four organizations seeking to reallocate general special tax funding for specific requests during the county's work session Monday morning.

Officials with the Flint RiverQuarium, the Thronateeska Heritage Center, the Dougherty County Police Department and the Dougherty Sheriff's Office asked the commission for permission to use Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VI funds for needs that each said was pressing.

"Once we got the (recent heavy) rains, it was determined that the roof on our building was not repairable," acting RiverQuarium director Emily Jean McAfee told the commission. "And, unfortunately, the company that put the roof on is no longer in business. Warranty for the roof was transferred (to another company), but the warranty is worth only about $1,800, and that's not going to help us much.

"We'd like to use SPLOST funding we have available for equipment updates to replace the roof. We need to do these things immediately because they impact our day-to-day operations."

Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard endorsed the request, saying, "I think it is good to utilize the dollars that are available to make sure the RiverQuarium stays in tip-top condition."

Thronateeska Heritage Center Executive Director Tommy Gregors asked for permission to reprioritize almost $97,000 in SPLOST VI funds set aside for restoration of a historic train car at the center for use in the ongoing Tift Depot stabilization project.

"We can return to the train car project at a later date with no loss, but if we have to come back to the depot stabilization project at a later date, it would increase the cost," Gregors said. "What we propose to do is to use the $97,000 on the depot project and mount a fundraising campaign to replace the funds that we're asking you to reallocate."

County Administrator Richard Crowdis told the board the historic Tift Depot would have collapsed without the destabilization project.

DCP asked that SPLOST funds earmarked for police building improvements and equipment be allocated to purchase a new animal control truck ($42,000) and for encrypting county police radio equipment ($55,000).

"Albany police have already done this, and now they're waiting for us," Crowdis said after the meeting. "We have to make these improvements to be able to communicate with Albany police."

Sheriff's office officials also asked for SPLOST funding to finance the encryption improvements on radio equipment. The update would cost the sheriff's office's special tax fund $62,000.

"Our folks are asking for 'reallocation,' but this funding has already been approved by voters for improvements within the various departments," Sinyard said. "We always ask our department heads to bring requests like this before the commission so that everyone's clear on the funding being spent."

Solid Waste Director Scott Addison, after recognizing John Mathis as the department's employee of the year, told commissioners 141,584.3 energy units had been transferred to Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany's Landfill Gas to Energy project, a total of $171,798.83 being billed for the transfer. Minus almost $53,000 in electric costs, the county realized $119,124.84 in revenue.

Addison said the county's total tonnage at the solid waste landfill had declined 12 percent since 2008, but increased tipping fees drove revenue up by 14 percent. Construction and demolition tonnage increased by 14 percent during that same period, while revenue went up by 10 percent. Addison said the solid waste landfill had a projected 33 years of usage left, while the C&D landfill could operate for another 53-55 years.

Robert McDaniel with the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission asked the board to sign off on a federal transportation assistance grant request that is funded without the use of any county matching dollars.

"This is the blue-and-white van program," McDaniel told the board. "There are 17 of them operating in Dougherty, Lee and Terrell counties, and from July of 2011 to June of 2012, they made 84,168 trips in those counties."

Also at the meeting, the board:

-- Heard a staff recommendation to purchase six 2013 Dodge Police Interceptors for DCP at a cost of $141,006, more than $14,000 less than budgeted for the vehicles;

-- Discussed a grant easement being sought from the Department of the Navy for location of a holding pond at MCLB-Albany;

-- Heard from County Attorney Spencer Lee about the need to accept a deed conveying all streets, easements and detention ponds to the county at the Pecan Grove Corporate Park;

-- Got a staff report on a 100 percent Department of Transportation grant (for $117,857) that would be used for signage, striping and other road safety measures;

-- Were informed about a request to the Georgia State Properties Commission asking that 2.1 acres of land previously used as a state farmers market that has been abandoned by the state be returned to Dougherty County;

-- Heard requests for an alcohol beverage license for Better Brands of South Georgia at its new facility under construction at the Pecan Grove industrial park and for a one-day license for a Girls Inc. fundraiser.

Commissioners also welcomed District 6 Commissioner Jack Stone back after his health-related absence.

"Looking at this long agenda, it doesn't look like y'all have been doing anything while I was out," Stone quipped. "Well, it's now a fact: Jack's back."

Comments

Abytaxpayer 1 year, 4 months ago

The Fish Bowl strikes agasin....more wasted "FREE" tax money. Thanks DNR for the gift that just wont stop taking and taking. Bend over taxpayers the Fish folks are fishing in our pockets again.

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43cop 1 year, 4 months ago

"Bodine" Sinyard is at his stupid request again. Salaries, benefits, and equipment are needed by every department in County government and he is wanting to keep that "fish bowl" in tip-top shape. The small percentage (% ) of tax payers that suport this county are "BROKE" except for a few and let the few suport your "fish bowl" Sinyard. If you want it so bad, pay for it, you can afford it. You and Crowdis have been anti-empoyee since I can remember and why not allocate for the employee, they are the backbone of County and City government, so let them know it instead of hurting them.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 4 months ago

100% correct employees are the backbone of the city and county government not the talking heads sitting behind their desk. Employees should be taken care of before the fish are!

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tocar 1 year, 4 months ago

When are you commissioners going to realize that most residents in Dougherty County / Albany live in poverty or almost in a state of poverty? You keep spending and allocating monies to accomodate the upper crust. Maybe you should trade places with the majority of the taxpayers. You could not survive, but yet you keep asking for more and more. This is not a fishbowl for tourism. Ride the streets at night and during the day and see what the majorities are - then go figure.

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RiverRat 1 year, 4 months ago

Everyone pounds on the RiverQuarium while giving Thronateeska a pass! Why is that?

Mr. Fletcher has passed along misinformation. First, according to the tease: "Four Dougherty County departments seek special tax funding for needs that they say are immediate." Both Thronateeska and the RiverQuarium are PRIVATE organizations, 501(c)(3) not for profit "educational" corporations, not "departments" of the local government. Being given millions of taxpayer dollars does not change that.

Second, regarding Thronateeska's request to "reprioritize almost $97,000 in SPLOST VI funds", Mr. Fletcher says the $97K was set aside for "restoration of a historic train car at the center." In SPLOST 6, $100K was allocated to complete restoration of the historic railroad equipment exhibit, not just one "train car"! This project was started in 1999 with SPLOST 4 providing $500K to professionally restore the steam engine and other pieces in the collection. This became Tommy Gregors' project in 2002 when he became Executive Director and almost 11 years later it still is not finished. The project was underfunded from the beginning, but Gregors, with his board's approval, shifted remaining SPLOST 4 funds to "roof repairs" in Dec. 2009 to stop any further restoration work.

Since SPLOST 6 approval 2 years ago, there has been no work done by the museum toward completion of the project, except for work on one railcar being restored at a museum in Savannah, and even it is not finished.

Gregors' main focus is the new $2M Archives Building, another SPLOST 6 project for which he recently requested and received another $100k. He got $500k in SPLOST 6 to "stabilize" the Tift Warehouse. Now, he wants to take the "easy money" specifically allocated to finishing the railroad exhibit work, and throw it into this "stabilization" project.

Saying he'd "mount a fundraising campaign to replace the funds that we're asking you to reallocate.", is just another way for him to stop the railroad restoration work permanently. In almost 11 years, how much private funding he has raised? I'm not talking about SPLOST, museum memberships, facility rentals, trust income and such. I'm talking about real, directed fundraising. I think you'll find it is a very small number.

Check the records and you'll find that when he was requesting the $500k Tift "stabilization" money, he said he wouldn't be asking the Commissioners for any additional funds. He would finish it by mounting a fundraising campaign. Good to see he's been successful there...and Gregors' lap dog board is complicit in this.

Gregors should be made to finish the original SPLOST 4 project, like it or not, but watch him carefully! He'll spend as little as possible to make things look pretty, but not last very long. Just enough to get the commissioners off his back.

With the financial straits this city/county is in, we shouldn't be giving anything out to PRIVATE corporations.

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