ALBANY – With Albany’s high rates of crime and poverty, declining population and aging infrastructure, mayoral candidate Kermit “Bo” Dorough says the city needs a change in leadership.
Dorough, an attorney, is challenging incumbent Mayor Dorothy Hubbard in the Dec. 3 runoff set for Tuesday. The two finalists garnered the most votes in the seven-candidate field in the Nov. 5 general election, but neither achieved a majority of support.
“During a 12-month period starting March 2018, we have (had) repeated mechanical failures that caused sewage to overflow into our streets,” Dorough said.
Sewage ran into the Flint River in March 2018, followed two months later by another spill totaling 855,000 gallons of sewage, Dorough said. In July of that year, some 200,000 gallons of sewage poured out of a manhole, and in December there was an overflow of some 1.2 million gallons into the Percosin Canal system, as well as spills into the river again in February and March of this year.
The city began in 2015 assessing a storm water utility user fee, Dorough said, but he questions whether it has been used for the stated purpose of maintaining the joint storm drainage/sewage system, which appears to have had little done in the way of improvement in years.
“The city’s figures show there have been $3.4 million in transfers out of this account,” he said. “That not only looks fiscally (irresponsible), but it is probably illegal. In 2015, the city discontinued regular maintenance of catch basins throughout the city. The city has the responsibility to maintain those catch basins.
“If I’m elected mayor, we’re going to return to routine maintenance. You’re going to see street sweepers. When’s the last time a citizen has seen a street sweeper? We’re going to clean those catch basins and keep them clean. Lift stations are going to be properly maintained.”
In 2015, Dorough said, his opponent declared that her wish would be to spend 99 percent of proceeds from a proposed special-purpose local-option sales tax on infrastructure.
Of the nearly $60 million in estimated proceeds from SPLOST VII, $4 million was allocated for sewage improvements.
“Less than 10 percent is allocated to fix the sewer system,” Dorough said.
When it comes to crime, Dorough said the biggest policy change needed is increasing police presence in communities. Committees have drafted plans on crime and addressing blighted properties, Dorough said, but those plans appear to be on the shelf gathering dust.
One of the most prevalent comments made on the Safe City Coalition survey, he said, was that officers need better pay. The Albany Police Department has had a high level of vacancies for years.
“And they didn’t do that,” he said. “What kind of message does that send to those who are on the front lines? It shows a lack of leadership.”
Dorough also said he thinks the city should install solar panels to generate energy for sale and to be on the cutting edge as the country heads toward a greener future. Solar energy costs less to produce, he said, and savings can be passed along to ratepayers, and the profits generated can help lower property taxes.
Providing recreational opportunities also is a priority, and as mayor, Dorough said he would consult with residents and Recreation and Parks Department personnel to determine what is needed to improve facilities. The city Utility Board also should return to being an independent agency.
“If I’m elected, we’re going to do something for the entire city,” he said. “We’re going to improve our parks in south and east Albany. Services will be just as frequent and efficient in every section of the town. It’s a clear choice between someone who wants to serve as a caretaker and someone who has an ambitious plan to reduce crime, create jobs and address the problem of slum and blight and improve the quality of life.
“What I’ve said on my website — bodoroughformayor.com — (is) we will know when we’re moving in the right direction when families who have the option to live in the (unincorporated) county or Lee County or somewhere else in southwest Georgia say: ‘We want to live in Albany.’ We’ve got to make changes if we’re going to get there.”