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City approves additional funding for senior center

ALBANY — Kay Hind, the executive director for the SOWEGA Council on Aging, let out a sigh of relief after the Albany City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve $300,000 in additional funding to finish the council’s — and Hind’s — long-in-the-works Senior Life Enrichment Center.

“Thank you so much,” a jubilant Hind said. “You won’t regret this.”

Hind told commissioners the additional funding was needed for landscaping, irrigation and other construction costs associated with the $7.9 million project, which is expected to be finished in January.

“The building is about 85 percent complete, and I’m here today to tell you that your money is being spent very well and prudently,” Hind said, indicating some $2 million in special-purpose local-option sales tax funding approved by voters and allocated by the city for the project. “If things continue to go smoothly, we expect to move everything in in December and have a big celebration in January.”

Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff asked City Manager James Taylor what SPLOST money would be used to supply the Council on Aging the requested funds.

“We’ve got $1.1 million left in the bridge fund,” Taylor said, indicating SPLOST funding that was approved for demolition and reconstruction of the condemned Broad Avenue bridge. That $7 million project was eventually financed through state and federal funds, leaving the SPLOST money available for other projects.

Asked what the other $5.9 million of the SPLOST bridge allocation had been used for, Taylor replied, “Police vehicles, street sweepers, funding for the crosswalk at Albany Tech.” Taylor later said he could give a full accounting of usage of the funds.

Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike spoke in favor of providing the funding for the senior center.

“My philosophy is to never mess with children or seniors,” Pike said. “That’s why I’m always good to (fellow commissioner Tommie) Postell. That’s also why I ask my colleagues to support this request.”

Commissioners also engaged in an animated discussion over implementation of a strategic plan, which is one of the primary re-election campaign issues supported by Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines.

“As leaders of this city, it is our responsibility to determine what tomorrow’s yesterdays will look like today,” Hines said. “To arrive at that point, we need to have a plan in place.”

Joseph Whorton with the Georgia Municipal Association outlined a basic formula by which the city could put together a strategic plan.

“Any plan you implement should reflect you community’s values, and that makes widespread and diverse participation in a steering committee important,” Whorton said. “You also must allow the community to come up with this plan without government input. If the people of a community put a plan together, no governmental body’s going to ignore it.”

Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell argued against spending what Whorton said was $80,000 to $100,000 to devise and implement a plan.

“We’ve got plans sitting on shelves collecting dust now that nobody’s using,” Postell said. “You can plan all you want, but if the people don’t want it you’re promoting a blind horse running in the Kentucky Derby. The city of Albany has already spent thousands of dollars on plan after plan after plan.

“We don’t have the money to put in a toilet and flush away.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the commission voted to allow area American Legion Posts to erect a World War II monument on land in Veterans Park. Charles Nicholson asked the commission to approve the request so that area veterans groups could erect the $19,350 monument by Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day.

“We just want to use that land; the monument is paid for,” Nicholson said. “It won’t cost the city a dime.”