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Battle to make WG&L a city department grows heated

Water, Gas & Light in Albany

Water, Gas & Light in Albany

ALBANY, Ga. — The Water, Gas & Light Commission here may inevitably be reaffirmed as a proper department of the city, but if Tuesday night's first-reading discussion and vote on the matter by the Albany City Commission is any indication, it won't happen easily.

The commission voted 4-3 to change the city charter to reaffirm WG&L as a city department with responsibility for hiring and firing of the utility's general manager the authority of the city manager. A second vote on the change must be completed at a subsequent commission meeting before it becomes law.

"This just took a lot of me tonight," an exhausted Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, who also serves as chair of the WG&L Board, said after the contentious discussion that was part of a three-hour-plus meeting. "I'm ready to go home now and collapse.

"There are issues that I could have brought up about some of the things that were discussed, but I did my best to try and keep this from becoming personal."

Hubbard at one point did chide certain of her colleagues who had complained about the management practices of the utility.

"There's enough blame on this issue for everyone," she said after listening to commissioners' comments. "I wasn't going to get into this, but the fact is y'all sat around and complained about this (in the past) and I listened, but we all did nothing."

Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta started the discussion by commenting, "Before we vote on this, I'd like to note that the current (WG&L) structure is working."

Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell, who has long sparred with utility officials for operating separately from the city, countered Marietta's statement.

"(The charter change) is a vehicle we need so we don't have to beg for information (from WG&L)," Postell said. "What they're doing over there is not working."

When Hubbard said appointed WG&L Board members deserved more trust from the commission, Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike replied, "My vote is not a reflection of the current commission over there, it's to correct 30 years of stuff that's gone wrong."

Marietta then said, "The next time rates go up in the city, and they will go up again at some time, the citizens are not going to blame Water, Gas & Light. They're going to blame this commission that wanted more control."

Ward IV Commissioner Bob Langstaff, an attorney, entered the fray with argument that grew increasingly impassioned. He ended his discussion with a discussion of WG&L's radio system.

"Do you know what kind of radio system they have over there?" he asked Hubbard, who acknowledged that she did not. "Well, I know. Back when we spent $6 million in SPLOST funds to upgrade the city's radio system, procurement asked WG&L if they wanted the same Motorola radios we were getting. They said no and refused to discuss it.

"As soon as we bought our system, they went to Americus and bought a Kenwood system. Now, do you know what other cities and counties located on our radio system? The city of Thomasville did, and Lee County and Crisp County. So if a tornado hits and power lines are down in Thomasville, Leesburg and Cordele, we'll know about it. But unless our first responders get a phone call, they won't know because they can't communicate with Water, Gas & Light."

Postell called WG&L's operation "cancerous."

"This has been going on traditionally down through the years," he said, turning to Hubbard. "You're not going to be over there but four or eight years ..."

An exasperated Hubbard replied, "You got that right."

Postell continued: "All this buddy, buddy, buddy and going off to some retreat eating cold chicken and drinking warm tea don't get it with me."

Tuesday's meeting was destined to be a long one as a number of Northwest Albany citizens lined up to speak out against developer Danny Blackshear's proposed single-family, townhouse and apartment development off Old Dawson Road. More than a half-dozen residents got up to speak against the development, most complaining about the effects the development would have on surrounding property values and already heavy traffic on Old Dawson.

Comments ranged from simple requests urging the commission to require a second entry/exit road onto the property to notification of petitions opposing the development to long statements about the land use map.

"Please consider our neighborhoods and the lack of a need for new construction," Ellen White said before the commission voted to table action on the zoning request for a month.

Postell suggested tabling the matter, saying, "I don't want to be rushed, I don't want to be led and I don't want to be misled."

The commission voted to amend city code so that the director of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport will now report directly to the city manager, and after a lengthy discussion in the briefing that preceded the meeting, voted 5-2 to approve $500,000 in department of Housing and Urban Development HOME funding for the AME Bethel Housing LP CHODO to refurbish a 98-unit apartment complex on Swift Street.

Langstaff, who'd said in the prebriefing he had questions about the cost of the project ($10.6 million), asked to table the matter, but his motion was voted down 5-2. The commission approved the funding by the same vote.

"At the end of the day, this is about the CHODO," Pike said after some commissioners said during the prebriefing that they'd received emails and calls from citizens concerned about the funding. "We all know the political implications in this city. I feel comfortable enough about the project not to lose a half-million dollars over saving face from some emails we've gotten."

Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines also supported the measure, saying, "I don't understand the concern. This is a half-million dollars in a $10 million project that will become an eyesore if we don't revitalize it. And it's not like Bethel doesn't have skin in the game, so to speak. They're investing an amount equal to what we are."

The commission also authorized Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI funds to construct a new fire station in East Albany to replace one built over a sinkhole and to upgrade the city's 911 center.

Comments

FryarTuk 1 year, 5 months ago

If you like Mediacom, crime prevention and streets in Albany, you're going to love WG&L under Postell, Langstaff and Pike. What a trio.

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VietVet1 1 year, 5 months ago

Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines also supported the measure, saying, "I don't understand the concern. This is a half-million dollars in a $10 million project that will become an eyesore if we don't revitalize it. And it's not like Bethel doesn't have skin in the game, so to speak. They're investing an amount equal to what we are."

If the tenents treated it like THEY PUT MONEY IN IT taxpayer wouldn't have to continue fixing THEIR eyesore!!!!

Giveme, giveme, giveme - theme song

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dingleberry 1 year, 5 months ago

And the outfit that built the housing now owned by Cutliff had "skin in the game" too, Ivy. A great big $100,000 to which the city added $2.5 million and now the whole thing is failing after writing off $1 million and being asked to write off another $750,000 or so.
The only "skin in the game" put into most of these projects is that put in by the taxpayers. In the case of Bethel, there has already been a lot of flesh added since it got about $3.3 million in loans and subsides in 2011. Is Bethel going to repay its $2,5 million loan still outstanding?

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GeeGee 1 year, 5 months ago

How much longer does Pike have in office before election? Needs to keep his mouth shut.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 5 months ago

I can answer your question. His time is up in Jan. 2014 not unless he runs again and wins. FYI, he plans to run again.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 5 months ago

ROFLMAO Pike tells the truth for ONCE. He is not the least bit concerned about "Saving Face." Boy is he right on the money no one gives a crap about two faced lying cheating public figures in Albany who use their position for their on personal gain. So why would we think the "Piker's" has a face to save? Lord help Albany if he does run again and wins. Albany needs Business Leaders not LOSERS. For sure his kind of leadership can run Albany straight into the ground, he has proved his business leadership time after time. How many faided shell games does it take to be a falure?

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MRKIA 1 year, 5 months ago

LANGSTAFF SAYS THAT WHEN THE RADIO SYSTEM WAS LAST UPGRADED TO THE TUNE OF 6M DOLLARS THE COMMISSION "ASKED" WGL IF THEY WANTED THE SAME RADIOS. THEREIN LIES THE PROBLEM. THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN "TOLD" THAT ALL DEPARTMENTS WOULD BE ON THE SAME SYSTEM. WHO WAS STUPID ENOUGH TO APPROVE AND PURCHASE A SEPARATE SYSTEM THAT WOULD NOT INTEGRATE WITH THE SYSTEMS IN THE AREA. THIS APPEARS TO BE A WIDE-SPREAD PROBLEM WHERE EVERYONE DOES WHATVER THEY WANT INSTEAD OF WHAT COMMON SENSE CALLS FOR OR HAVE BEEN DIRECTED TO DO. WHAT A BUNCH OF MORONS.

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dingleberry 1 year, 5 months ago

"At the end of the day, this is about the CHODO," Pike said after some commissioners said during the prebriefing that they'd received emails and calls from citizens concerned about the funding. "We all know the political implications in this city. I feel comfortable enough about the project not to lose a half-million dollars over saving face from some emails we've gotten."

Well you idiot, you have lost the money now. What is wrong with not spending money rather than throwing it into the wind on another disaster? And let me just mention that while you are not kiting checks and sticking it to locals you do business with, you really should listen to what those who pay the taxes you so freely wee-wee away are saying.

Albany's poverty comes from such housing you dim-wit. Most of the projects built with federal money in the past 15 years are in some form of failing. Every one of them will need to be shored up with more money in the near future. Get ready folks, it is coming!

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MRKIA 1 year, 5 months ago

REGARDING THE INPUT FROM CHRIS PIKE: I INITALLY HAD A GOOD FEELING ABOUT MR. PIKE WINNING A SEAT ON THE COMMISSION. HE APPEARED TO AN INTELLEGENT PROMISING YOUNG MAN THAT WOULD MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE. BOY WAS I WRONG. THE MAN LACKS FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY. HE HAS NOT HELD HIMSELF TO THE HIGHER STANDARD EXPECTED OF AN ELECTED OFFICIAL. HE HAS WELCHED ON HIS DEBTS AND IS CONSIDERED A DEADBEAT. THIS GUY IS A WANNABE ENTREPRENEUR AND A POOR ONE AT THAT. ( BLACK EXPO, SEMI-PRO BASKETBALL TEAM) ELECTING HIM WAS A MISTAKE. RE-ELECTING THIS CRIPPLE WANNABE PIKER WILL BE A BIGGER MISTAKE.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 5 months ago

Funny how Postell and Langstaff talk so bad about WG&L. Mayor Hubbard sits on the WG&L board and could and should keep the Commissioners informed of any and everything they need to know...Postell and Langstaff should tell the truth, they want the whole checkbook because they got a taste of “FREE Money” with the MEAG funds now they want more WG&L “FREE Money.” So much for some of the lowest rates in Georgia. The nerve of the "Piker" so he wants to correct 30 years of stuff that's gone wrong at WG&L. So tell us "Piker" how are you going to collect on all your constituents who have been skipping out on paying their bills at WG&L..WG&L has one of the highest no-payes in Georgia. Yea “Pike” show us the money….More BS from the King of Bull.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 5 months ago

With actual major problems with crime, gangs, taxes, poverty, budget, consultants, sand dunes, Cutliff Grove, massive indigent population in the city of Albany and the only thing Langstaff and Postell can talk about are some radios at WG&L theoretically, possibly, potentially creating communication issues is a bit of a stretch. No one can show the wisdom of this city government dissolving WG&L and forcing it into concubinage with Postell, Langstaff, Pike, Hines and the like. When Milktoad Mayretta teamed up with the unholy alliance of Pike, Langstaff, Postell, et. al. to deny Carol Fullerton reappointment to WG&L Commission, the die was cast. The city will plunder, pillage, rob, rape, steal and usurp every last dime of the WG&L money to pay for the profligate ventures and blunders of the lunatic commission. Even with the need to re-invigorate the utility infrastructure 60 million dollars of the 90 million MEAG account has been appropriated without fiduciary accountability. That money will be spent and then what? The destruction of WG&L by the dysfunctional Commission makes absolutely no sense whatsoever .

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dingleberry 1 year, 5 months ago

Successes are always pointed out, Fryar, and perhaps the only hint of one in all that you wrote about is the radios. We are opening the WG&L chastity belt for all to take their share of its offerings. And I am no fan of putting WG&L and the Airport Authority under the thumb of the city manager--not a good move as we will see in the future.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 5 months ago

ding, I agree they are about to rape the WG&L coffers. However, I don't believe "fair shares" should be divvied up. I would like to see the fiduciary obligation of the city and authority to be fulfilled. Fix the infrastructure, improve services where needed, add street lights, fix street lights, replace old water and gas supply lines. And finally please lower the rates to businesses and customers as possible. 30 million dollars will be squandered on so called economic development projects. Who are they kidding, not the public. I have no confidence in the abilities of Postell, Langstaff, Hines, Piker, Milktoad Mayretta or any other to manage the kind of money they are pushing around. In their wildest dreams they have never responsibly managed this kind of public trust nor private wealth for that matter.

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jglass 1 year, 5 months ago

BIG MISTAKE is the City takes over WG&L. You guys who have WG&L as your utility carrier, just wait!!!!!

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Thurman 1 year, 5 months ago

I had the impression that the mayor's service was for four (4) years, full time, 23/7/365. IF after a three (3) hour meeting she is so tired she needs to go home and collapse, then maybe she is not mentally and physically fit for this job.

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