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Albany, Dougherty County officials eye service agreement negotiations

Albany, Dougherty County have separate agreements on 26 shared services

Fire protection is one of the shared services between Albany and Dougherty County. Albany and Dougherty commissioners will be looking at a new agreement on this service in 2014. (Albany Herald file: Jim West)

Fire protection is one of the shared services between Albany and Dougherty County. Albany and Dougherty commissioners will be looking at a new agreement on this service in 2014. (Albany Herald file: Jim West)

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Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard said Albany officials should look closely at their cost-sharing agreements to avoid duplicated services with Dougherty County after Albany commissioners reluctantly accepted 60 percent of funds generated over the next 10 years by the local-option sales tax. (Albany Herald file)

ALBANY — With bruised egos still smarting from local-option sales tax negotiations that went to nearly the 12th hour before Albany officials reluctantly agreed to a plan backed by the county rather than risk losing millions of dollars in tax revenue, the next big battle looming between the Albany and Dougherty County commissions revolves around a service delivery strategy that includes 26 separate intergovernmental agreements.

Sparked by House Bill 489, the so-called “duplication of services” legislation, city and county officials negotiate what they feel is equitable compensation for services provided by one government for citizens in both the city and county. For example, the county pays for fire protection provided by the city, and the city pays for solid waste collection and disposal provided by the county.

When a preliminary Carl Vinson Institute of Government study apparently indicated the county should be paying the city more for fire protection services, that became a sticking point in the LOST negotiations. After the City Commission relented and agreed to a LOST split percentage that — at 60 percent — was much less than its members had sought, the renegotiation of these intergovernmental agreements became something of a rallying cry for city officials.

“We need to keep this in mind when we meet with our friends across the street (the County Commission) to renegotiate those intergovernmental agreements,” Ward I City Commissioner Jon Howard said at the time.

Those agreements resurfaced Monday during the County Commission’s business meeting when District 5 Commissioner Gloria Gaines asked County Administrator Richard Crowdis for a report on the process. One of her colleagues, District 6’s Jack Stone, offered a comment that will no doubt fuel the ongoing debate leading to the negotiations early next year.

“We need to look real hard at the amount of (recreation) money the county is spending at (Robert) Cross Park and at Radium Springs,” Stone said. “The city is always talking about the money we owe them, but they use these facilities quite a bit. We need to discuss this.”

Crowdis acknowledged that fire and recreation agreements between the two government entities would be renegotiated next year, and others would follow in 2015.

Other specific areas that are part of the city/county service delivery strategy include maintenance and operations at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, animal control, E-911, the Economic Development Commission, Emergency Management Service, Emergency Medical Service, facilities management service, Information Technology, jail services, Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful, library services, occupation tax assessment and collection, Planning and Development, police service, procurement, sewer service, solid waste disposal and collection, storm drainage, tax collection, traffic engineering, transportation, water service, and water/sewer rates.

During Monday’s meeting, Dougherty commissioners also:

— Approved a quit claim deed that transferred titles of 13 lots in the Woodland Oaks Subdivision to Flint River Habitat for Humanity;

— OK’d additional special-purpose local-option sales tax funding for a Philema Road sewer extension project;

— Paved the way for work to begin on the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority’s canoe/kayak launches;

— Declared certain vehicles and equipment owned by the county as surplus;

— Authorized the sale of an acre of land and the building at 631 Branch Road after declaring both surplus.