Ward I Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard discusses the city’s proposed multimodal transit site during the commission’s meeting Tuesday.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany City Commissioners gave tentative approval Tuesday to a local preference policy that will give local vendors an option to match bids on goods and services that are within 2 percent of the lowest, responsive and responsible bid submitted by out-of-town vendors.
The new policy, if officially approved by the board at its May 28 night meeting, would replace the city's current reciprocity ordinance that invokes a local preference only when local vendors are bidding against out-of-town vendors whose city or county of location also has a local preference.
"I've been against (a local preference policy) in the past because I've not wanted to discourage outside vendors from bidding here," Central Services Director Stephen Collier told the commission. "But in this economy, with bids on government contracts offering very little margin, I've come to see that it could be an advantage to our local businesses.
"I'm therefore going to recommend that we repeal our reciprocity policy and institute a local preference policy."
Collier said the 2 percent figure was chosen to mirror the Dougherty County School system's existing policy.
Mayor Dorothy Hubbard lauded the proposal, which, with a "friendly amendment" added that would call for the commission to consider the impact of the policy after three years, passed by a 5-2 vote.
"I've been for doing something like this since I've been on the commission," Hubbard said. "We have to stay in the ballgame by working with our local businesses, making sure they're not short-changed."
Commissioner Bob Langstaff offered only lukewarm support for the proposal.
"I'm worried about losing competition, but I guess the 2 percent (cutoff) makes it palatable," Langstaff said. "We live in a free-market society with a global economy. We're interfering with that process."
The commission also voted 5-2 to select the current bus transfer station at 300 W. Oglethorpe Blvd. as a Local Preferred Alternative site for the city's proposed multimodal transit facility, the next step in moving forward with the long-delayed project. Langstaff suggested that the site, labeled "Site B" by the city, was the preference of citizens who are regular patrons of the city's transit system.
Asked by fellow commissioner Tommie Postell why he recommended that site, Langstaff said, "Frankly, I don't think any other site will get four votes from this table."
"That's an assumption," Postell said.
"Yes, but it's based on what I've heard," Langstaff countered. "I've listened to you talk, I've listened to Roger (Marietta) talk, I've listened to Jon (Howard) talk. I'm basing this on what I've heard, and I don't want to spend money on a study and then have everyone vote no. I don't want to go down that road again."
Langstaff was referencing work completed at a site on Roosevelt Avenue that was discontinued when Native American artifacts were discovered at the site. Postell referenced that site as well.
"I don't know if No. 1 or No. 2 or No. 3 is the best site until they've all been evaluated," the Ward VI commissioner said. "I'm concerned about throwing away another $260,000 of taxpayer money, which we've already done on Roosevelt. I want to know the actuality before we spend any more money.
"This is something I think we need the vote of the citizens on before we move forward."
Assistant City Manager Wes Smith explained that selecting a local preferred alternative site would lead to an environmental assessment on all three remaining sites, and should all be deemed acceptable, would lead to more in-depth assessment at the preferred site.
Commissioners also voted to tentatively approve a 3 percent excise tax on motor vehicle rentals in the city, a collection that would add some $179,000 annually to city coffers. City Commissioner Christopher Pike and City Attorney Nathan Davis brought the matter to the commission after investigating state law that allows for the excise tax.
"Most of the money paid for car rentals is paid by people from out of town," Pike said. "This is an opportunity for us to collect revenue that would go into our general fund."
Postell, who challenged Pike on a number of items during the meeting, asked if the city was not "double-taxing" citizens. When Pike said he'd learned of the state law at a Georgia Municipal Association meeting, Postell chastised, "We don't need that; we're not here to campaign."
Pike's Ward III seat is one of three up for re-election in the Nov. 5 municipal election. He already has an announced challenger for his seat, businesswoman B.J. Fletcher.
In a later discussion of proposed alcohol license fee increases, which, if formally approved by the board, would raise various alcohol licenses from $30 yearly for wine-only licenses to $800 for full liquor, beer and wine consumption licenses, Pike asked if the city might consider adding a stipulation that approved licensees start selling alcohol within a specified period or lose the license.
"There are people applying for licenses for abandoned buildings and not using them just to keep competitors from being able to get a license on the same block, since we limit the number of licenses in a given area," Pike said. "We're losing revenue."
"You can't take my driver's license from me just because I don't drive my car for a year," the Ward VI commissioner said. "You need to go back to GMA."
Hubbard gavelled Postell down for the second time in the meeting. Earlier, when approval was sought for city travel, a measure that's usually passed with no discussion, Postell asked Pike about $130.40 he'd listed for a Governor's Review Commission trip to Atlanta. "You're spending our money, and I want to know what you did," Postell said.
When Pike responded, "I spent my money," Postell replied, "No, you spent the city's, the taxpayers' money."
The commission also appointed Commissioner Ivey Hines to serve as voting delegate and flag-bearer at the annual GMA Convention June 21-25.