- Combat crime
- Improve quality of life
- Attract industry
- Fiscal responsibility
- Reduce blight
- Repair the sewer system
- An independent WG&L Commission
- Continue to revitalize downtown
- Disaster preparedness
- Green Initiative
What is to be done? Crime is a consequence and companion of poverty. Job creation and economic opportunity must be a priority for the mayor and city commissioners. Likewise, the city should provide and promote recreation and cultural outlets for its youth. The city’s immediate priority, however, must be public safety.
The city should reassess the structure of the police department, to assure optimal utilization of resources. It is imperative that police presence be dramatically increased throughout the city, even if this involves reassigning officers who are currently in administrative positions. Additionally, consideration should be given to merging and/or repurposing divisions, such as the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit and the Gang Task Force.
The Albany Police Department should be fully staffed, and attrition in the ranks must be reduced. I would recommend a bonus of $5,000 for officers who remain with the police department for five years, and would support a comprehensive study, conducted by an independent firm, to identify problems in the department and proposals to improve morale and working conditions.
The mayor and city commission should revisit “community policing”, particularly in impoverished neighborhoods. This approach, which brings officers together with the community in which they are stationed, has been successful in reducing crime and tensions between citizens and law enforcement in many neighborhoods. The city of Albany should have precincts in both East Albany and South Albany, which would be the base of operations for officers in those areas.
The city of Albany should adopt “hot spots policing”, which has been successful in reducing crime in high-crime areas. The Albany Police Department maintains detailed statistics on criminal activity, which identify where and when a disproportionate number of crimes are committed. “Hot spots policing” focuses on specific areas of the city with high rates of crime. While the term includes various strategies, police presence is always concentrated in those neighborhoods where incidents of crime are highest. Officers sometimes move into a “hot spot”, shortly after another officer has departed, to maintain the deterrence afforded by the consistent presence of law enforcement. “Situational strategies”, including demolishing abandoned buildings, removing graffiti, better street lighting, recreation for youth, and vigorous code enforcement, are components of “hot spots policing”.
The sheer number of felonies committed in this community has the potential to overwhelm the judicial process. Cooperation between local law enforcement and the district attorney’s office is essential to successful prosecution of these and other felony charges. The community must allocate sufficient funds to assure the district attorney has the resources necessary to successfully prosecute those individuals arrested and indicted for criminal offenses.
Local law enforcement should also continue to work with federal authorities to apprehend and prosecute individuals involved in extended criminal organizations. The federal government has greater resources and jurors are drawn from numerous counties in southwest Georgia.
Improve Quality Of Life
Many local residents, particularly those whose favorite pastimes are hunting and fishing, consider Albany’s quality of life to be unmatched. The city boasts many cultural institutions, including the Albany Museum of Art, the Albany Symphony Association, and Theater Albany, which are not usually found in a city of this size. Thronateeska Heritage Center serves to celebrate the history and culture of South Georgia  , and the Albany Civil Rights Institute “tells the story of the civil rights movement in southwest Georgia”. Albany’s biggest attractions, Chehaw Park and the Flint RiverQuarium, exhibit native and exotic wildlife in furtherance of their missions of education and conservation.
Participation in the city’s youth sports programs has, in the last ten years, plummeted. Primary factors include the advent of “travel teams” and a growing fascination with technology as opposed to recreation. The city commission must abandon the approach whereby funding for the Recreation Department “is the last approved, and first cut”. The inventory of parks maintained by the Recreation Department should be evaluated, with the understanding that underutilized facilities will be transferred to Public Works. This will allow staff to dedicate more resources to those sites which benefit the most citizens. The $2.9 million allocated to recreation in the SPLOST VII budget should fund renovation or replacement of facilities which have been neglected for decades.
The city could organize Fall and Spring youth basketball leagues, with teams from the various community centers (Bill Miller, Carver Gym, Henderson Gym, and Thornton Gym). This would involve minimal expense, as the contests would be held during regular operating hours and on Saturday mornings. The city should investigate the possibility of renovating Highland Park and/or constructing a tournament softball field at the Paul Eames Sports Complex.
The First Tee program should be revived, and the tennis center constructed, adjacent to the Civic Center. The Recreation Department would be responsible for these venues.
The city has an excellent minor league baseball park at the Paul Eames Sports Complex. City leaders should be prepared to enter into a favorable lease, for the park, should a professional, in all likelihood, independent, club have an interest in fielding a team in Albany.
Spectra Venue Management has increased the number of concerts and events held at the Civic Center and Municipal Auditorium. Continued downtown revitalization will further improve the quality of life for Albany’s residents.
The Greenway Trail, which is also referred to as “Rails-to-Trails”, has been a controversial issue for many years. The city commission purchased a 13-mile rail bed that extends from Albany to Sasser in April 2015, and committed to construct a 12-foot wide asphalt walking, biking and hiking trail the length of the property. The trail system will “run from downtown Albany, through Lee County, into Terrell County and finally terminate in Sasser”. The trail will connect to the Riverwalk, which extends from downtown to Cleve Cox Landing on Lake Chehaw, a distance of approximately two miles, and will eventually be extended from Albany State University (ASU) to Radium Springs. The city commission approved “slightly less than $2.5 million in SPLOST VII funds” to construct the remaining sections of the Riverwalk, also known as the Downtown Connector, in August 2018.
Sasser has secured a $100,000 grant to construct a railhead at the terminus, and Dougherty County has been granted $200,000 for a similar structure at Radium Springs. Additional funding will be provided by Dougherty County, which has earmarked $1 million in SPLOST funds, and the Board of Regents, which “has pledged $750,000 as part of the $1.7 million project to connect Albany State with the trail system”. South Georgia Rails-to-Trails has contracted to maintain the trail.
A second hospital would improve the quality of life for residents of the Albany metro area. High healthcare costs are a financial burden for individuals, businesses, and government, and competition in this market would reduce those costs. A second hospital would also provide greater employment opportunities for those in the healthcare industry.
The relocation of the Albany Museum of Art (AMA) presents an opportunity to establish the downtown as a regional hub for arts and culture. AMA will be positioned to coordinate programming with the school system and Albany State University’s Department of Arts, to extend its reach and service to the community. The Ritz Cultural Center should be preserved and reopened, as discussed elsewhere on this site.
The city and county commissions must support the community’s larger employers. Albany’s manufacturing base, though diminished, remains strong. The local Procter & Gamble (P&G) plant, which manufactures Bounty paper towels and Charmin toilet paper, was the state’s Manufacturer of the Year for 2019. This award was “based on a range of criteria, including its economic impact, community involvement and corporate responsibility, and commitment to workforce development and excellence”. P&G employs more than 500 people and “has a $300 million net impact on the Albany economy”.
The local Miller Coors plant, which is “[t]he third largest in the Miller Coors network in terms of employment”, “has a work force of 550 and brews up to 10 million barrels of beer a year”.
Coats & Clark announced its intention to relocate its North American distribution hub to Albany in November 2009. The distribution center, located on Holly Drive, sustained extensive damage on January 22, 2017. The distribution center, which was rebuilt and expanded to 370,000-square feet, reopened on June 4, 2018. The Albany-Dougherty Payroll Development Authority (PDA) authorized borrowing of up to $9 million to purchase the 39.5 acre site and also approved a five-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for Coats & Clark, to retain the distribution center. The distribution center employs more than 100, and Coats & Clark’s manufacturing facility, located at 901 Clarke Avenue, employs more than 200.
The announcement, in July 2018, that Georgia-Pacific, LLC planned to construct a production plant in Albany, was probably the best economic news the city had received in more than a decade. The 320,000 square-foot plant was expected to cost $150 million and “employ more than 130 full-time workers and generate an estimated $5 million in annual payroll”.
The local economy suffered a recent setback when Thrush Aircraft, a manufacturer of agricultural airplanes, laid off 113 employees. Thrush filed for bankruptcy protection on September 5, 2019, and has announced it is bringing in new leadership and will restructure to improve the company’s financial situation.
Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany (MCLB) “provides worldwide expeditionary logistics support to the Fleet Marine Force (FMF)” and other branches of the armed services. In 2016, MCLB employed 2,435 civilians and 355 military personnel, had a payroll of $454.5 million, and an economic impact of $1.5 billion.
Some jobs have been created in the retail and service industries. Outdoor Network, an online supplier of marine and powersports parts, relocated its primary distribution center to a 27,000 square-foot building on Seminole Lane in 2012. Prospective employees received work force training from Georgia Quick Starts through Albany Technical College.
The Southwest Georgia Regional Airport “is the second largest cargo airport in the state of Georgia”. United Parcel Service (UPS) operates an air cargo facility, completed in 2006, with funding through SPLOST. UPS most recently extended its lease, for five years, in 2016.
Hundreds of residents of metro Albany are employed by the call centers in Albany.
The hospitality sector has expanded considerably in the last ten years. There are currently some 900 rooms in northwest Albany. The director of the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), interviewed earlier this year, revealed $2.1 million in hotel/motel tax had been collected, “up from $1.2 million … when [she] came on board in 2008”.
State Highway 133 “is a major north/south corridor that plays a vital role in moving goods, particularly in the heavy agricultural southwest area of the state”. The road is being extended to four lanes, from Valdosta to Albany, in nine separate contracts. The five sections of the road between Moultrie and Albany are slated for construction between 2021 and 2024.
The city and county must acknowledge and address obstacles to economic development, including crime, poverty, and high healthcare costs. Our own negative perceptions of Albany is also an obstacle to economic development. There is, however, no reason to dispute or deny empirical evidence. We will move forward only with tangible achievements. Albany’s image and our quality of life will improve once crime, poverty and blight are reduced; once our sewer system is repaired to protect the Flint River; once our downtown is truly revitalized; once the Flint RiverQuarium and Chehaw’s Wild Animal Park are recognized for exhibitry and programming; once families prefer to live in Albany rather than the city’s environs.
There are, of course, incentives for prospective businesses, including a low cost of living, a technical college which is capable of training skilled workers, numerous cultural institutions, and a location which allows manufacturers to reduce the expenses of transportation and delivery. Community leaders currently have an opportunity to distinguish Albany as a prospect for industrial and high-tech employment, by investing heavily in solar power.
First, state and local governments will, in the coming years, be required to significantly reduce dependence upon fossil fuels. The Clean Power Plan, adopted by the Obama administration in August 2015, sought to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the United States 32% by 2030, relative to 2005 levels. The plan assumed a shift from coal-fired plants, which are the largest supplier of fuel-powered electricity, to renewable energy. Though the Trump administration repealed the Clean Power Plan, this (or a much more ambitious policy) will be embraced should a Democrat win the 2020 presidential election. The state of Georgia would, in that event, be required to submit a plan demonstrating how the state will reduce carbon pollution by 2030. This would increase the demand for green energy and would accelerate the burgeoning solar industry.
Second, there is an immediate demand for green energy. Renewable energy increased from 9% of energy generation in 2008 to 18% in 2017. Tech companies account for “50% of corporate investment in offsite renewable energy in the United States”, though other corporations, in an effort to reduce their carbon footprints, have made green energy commitments. Anheuser-Busch intends to “be 100% powered by renewable energy” and Walmart intends to increase its use of green energy to 50% by 2025. Smaller companies are, “through aggregated deals”, banding together to purchase clean power “at prices similar to those paid by some of the biggest corporate users of renewable energy”. “Companies in the U.S. have already agreed to buy 5.9 gigawatts of clean power this year, more than double the total from 2017.”
Third, there would be a market for all of the solar power the city of Albany could reasonably produce. Georgia Power is marketing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to meet the demand for green power. Customers, usually businesses, purchase RECs to assure all or a portion of the electricity utilized by that customer was sourced from renewable energy. Georgia Power has increased solar capacity to provide Google, Target, Johnson & Johnson, and Walmart with RECs.
Fourth, corporations may construct facilities or even relocate to Southwest Georgia should renewable energy be available to meet all of the company’s demand for electricity. Walton EMC recently entered into an agreement with Facebook to supply all renewable energy for the data center Facebook will be constructing in Newton County. Walton EMC has contracts to purchase solar power from farms in Calhoun, Colquitt, and Early Counties.
This is not a pipe dream or some science fiction tale. Indeed, the first net-zero installation within the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy is right here in Dougherty County. MCLB entered into an agreement with Dougherty County in December 2009 to purchase landfill gas produced at the county landfill, and entered into a 22-year contract with Chevron Energy Solutions to design, develop and operate the $16 million project, which was expected to save $1.5 million annually in energy costs. The cogeneration plant has a 1.9 MW combined heat and power generator. The landfill gas is channeled to the cogeneration plant through a subsurface pipeline from a compression station at the landfill approximately four miles away. The project “brought renewable energy generation to 22 percent of total energy consumed …”, and “[reduced] MCLB Albany’s carbon emissions by 19,300 tons annually, equivalent to removing 16,000 cars from the road”.
MCLB subsequently installed a second generator, with a capacity of 2.1 MW. The $4.5 million expansion essentially doubled the base’s renewable energy production.
Georgia Power signed a real estate outgrant to construct, own and operate a 150-acre solar farm within the base in 2016. The $75 million project has 138,000 ground-mounted photovoltaic panels with the capacity to “power up to 5,000 homes”. The project was a few weeks from coming online when a tornado cut through the base on January 22, 2017, destroying about 7,200 panels.
P&G had established a goal of using 30% renewable energy in its domestic operations by 2020. The PDA approved a $250 million bond issuance to finance construction of a biomass energy plant on property adjacent to P&G in December 2014. It was announced the plant would also supply energy to MCLB, which would make it the “first Department of Defense installation in the country to realize net-zero consumption”.
P&G selected Constellation, a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., to construct, own and operate the cogeneration plant. Constellation was also awarded the contract to install an 8.5 MW generator on MCLB.
“The plant’s fuel supply comes from locally abundant biomass including discarded tree limbs, branches and scrap wood from local forestry operations, crop residuals, such as pecan shells and peanut hulls, and mill waste, such as sawdust.” The plant “provides P&G with 100 percent of the energy used to manufacture Bounty paper and Charmin toilet tissue” and also supplies steam to a 9.5 MW steam-to-electricity generator at MCLB. The electricity is sold to Georgia Power. Constellation will have about 35 full-time employees to operate the facility.
My proposals for transitioning to solar power are set forth, in more detail, elsewhere on this site.
More Information on this topic COMING SOON!
Media coverage documents previous efforts to identify and demolish blighted properties. A recent article, covering demolition of a fire-damaged home and several burned-out and abandoned trailers, stated more than 100 properties are on a demolition list. An earlier report stated the city had already demolished more than 300 homes and blighted properties, and that Code Enforcement had “170 homes on the list of dilapidated structures in the legal process with the city to be condemned and demolished”.
Abandoned and dilapidated structures are a symptom of economic decline. Municipalities must address blight, as such properties are frequently utilized for various criminal activities. Vagrants and the homeless sometimes occupy these buildings. Such properties decrease the values of real estate in the immediate vicinity and drive neighbors to relocate. Slum and blight also impact our perception of this city. The prevalence of litter, shuttered buildings, and unattractive businesses are factors in the negative perception many residents have of Albany.
Most citizens do not appreciate the magnitude of this problem. 15% of the homes in Albany are, according to two websites, vacant, while another lists that figure as 13.48%. New residential construction in Dougherty County has slowed to a glacial pace. Thus, any responsible program must begin with an understanding that there is no demand for much of the surplus housing stock.
The city should retain an assistant city attorney, whose primary responsibilities will be acquisition of dilapidated and tax-delinquent properties. All residences and buildings which meet the definition of “blighted” in section 36-204 of the City Code should be indexed using a Geographic Information System (GIS). The owners of these properties should thereafter be cited and notified that the “blight tax” will be assessed, unless the subject property is brought into compliance with the building code or deeded to the Land Bank. The assistant city attorney would work closely with Code Enforcement, and would be responsible for pursuing condemnation of properties when owners fail to remedy the building code violations. The assistant city attorney would also assure that the “blight tax” is assessed, unless the subject property is brought into compliance with the building code or deeded to the Land Bank.
Properties which are deemed insufficient for rehabilitation will be demolished, while those residences which could be satisfactorily renovated could be transferred to the Land Bank’s inventory. The assistant city attorney would be responsible for preparing the documents necessary to accomplish transfer of properties obtained by gift of deed or foreclosure. The assistant city attorney would make quarterly reports to the city commission.
The purpose of the Land Bank is to return “underutilized, blighted, and tax delinquent properties to productivity”. The city will require a strong and active Land Bank, should it pursue a more aggressive acquisition and demolition policy. This will involve hiring a director for the Land Bank, and assuring the Land Bank has adequate resources to bid on tax-delinquent properties which are marketable or could be renovated at reasonable expense.
The Land Bank would provide low-interest loans for owner-occupiers, who seek to make improvements to their residences. The Department of Housing and Urban Development provides funding to renovate and improve existing residences in disadvantaged neighborhoods through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the Home Partnership Program. These programs, revenue from the sale of city-owned rental properties, and loan repayments would finance a strong and active Land Bank.
Alternate uses for properties must be considered. Community gardens could be cultivated in neighborhoods where three or four adjacent lots are cleared of residences. The city could deed large parcels to businesses which commit to construct and operate grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods. Likewise, contiguous parcels could be offered to developers seeking to construct subsidized housing for low-income citizens. Lots could be utilized for in-fill houses and deeded to nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity, and to individuals who can obtain a conventional loan to construct a residence in a distressed neighborhood.
I question the necessity of Fight Albany Blight (FAB), insofar as the program seems to duplicate the work of Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful (KADB). FAB could operate under the auspices of KADB. The program could partner churches and civic organizations willing to adopt a block or even an entire neighborhood in disadvantaged areas of the city. The partner would commit to provide labor to clean the block or neighborhood of litter and debris at least once a month. Relationships would be established between citizens who might otherwise never come into contact with each other. The residents of the neighborhoods would have an appreciation for those volunteers who take time to attend to their neighborhoods, and most of those volunteers would have a new-found empathy for those fellow citizens living in poverty.
FAB, should it be retained, could also be commissioned to supervise individuals performing community service. These individuals could be required to clean up trash and litter, from parks, along major corridors, and illegal dumping sites. Other cities offer part-time summer employment for at-risk youth. City beautification is one assignment which would be appropriate for these students, should the city adopt such a program.
The city can and must do a better job of assuring businesses, restaurants, and hotels situated on arterial streets, including Oglethorpe Avenue, Broad Avenue and Slappey Drive, are not unsightly. Code Enforcement should be more engaged in addressing this problem, which defaces neighborhoods and has, over time, contributed to the dissatisfaction many residents have with the city. Code Enforcement and the police department should become proactive in combatting illegal dumping. Excessive signage should be removed from the shoulders of the streets, and the city must abide by the ordinances adopted by the city commission.
Blight is not restricted to distressed neighborhoods in the city. Citizens and businesses should also take greater responsibility for maintaining their properties. While it is only natural to be infuriated to wake up and/or come home to observe trash in one’s yard or the streets in front of or beside one’s property, the trash should be removed every day. Local businesses should have employees remove litter from parking lots and the general premises each morning. We must collectively accept this responsibility, as improving the appearance of our community begins with maintaining our own homes and businesses, as well as the surrounding property.
Repair the sewer system
Albany has a combined sewer system, which is designed to collect stormwater, sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipes. All of the sewage and wastewater is diverted to the wastewater treatment plant, which is located at 2726 Joshua Street. The city is permitted to treat and discharge 32 million gallons per day, and the average flow, from 2016 to 2019, was around 15 million gallons per day.
Approximately 60 million gallons of water fall on the sewer system’s drainage area with each inch of rainfall. The additional volume of stormwater exceeds the storage capacity of the piping system and treatment plant, resulting in a combined sewer overflow (CSO), causing untreated human waste and industrial wastewater to be discharged into the Flint River.
Very few citizens are aware that the city of Albany discharges hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of gallons of sewage into the Flint River following heavy rainfall events. The sewage released as a result of mechanical failures covered by the media in 2018 and 2019 is only a fraction of the volume of untreated sewage discharged into the Flint River when there is a CSO.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required municipalities to eliminate discharge of untreated wastewater into rivers and streams, pursuant to authority granted that agency under the Clean Water Act, which was initially enacted in 1972. This is most feasibly accomplished by a separated sewer system, whereby one set of pipes is used for sewage and industrial wastewater, and another is used for stormwater. In a separated system, sewage and industrial wastewater would continue to be channeled to the wastewater treatment plant, following heavy rainfalls. The pipes dedicated to stormwater would divert runoff, unsullied by sewage, into the Flint River.
The city of Albany had separated approximately 40% of the combined sewer system by 1992, when it discontinued “progressive implementation” of the proposed separation. The city has, since that time, repeatedly obtained permits from the Environmental Protection Division (EPD), the state regulatory agency, allowing discharge in the event of heavy rainfalls.
Flint Riverkeeper measured E.coli in the river between the abandoned railroad trestle and the Broad Avenue Bridge on Mondays for fourteen months in 2018 and 2019. The amount of E.coli in the water, following heavy rainfalls, was sufficient to present a health risk to people fishing and swimming in the water. The presence of unacceptable levels of sewage and other pathogens in the Flint River, in and downstream from Albany, is also evident by unpleasant odor and cloudy water.
The city commission has finally recognized the sewer system must be separated. Constantine Engineering has been retained to assess the existing infrastructure and provide alternative project designs. Constantine will make recommendations for improving the city’s sewer system and accomplishing complete separation. Existing pipes, many of which are located under paved roads, will have to be removed and replaced. Water and gas lines and telecommunication cables will have to be relocated. Constantine’s representatives have already identified numerous engineering challenges, including the topography. There is a minimal slope to the Flint River from the areas on the west side of the river where the sewer system is still combined. The high clay content in the soil and neighborhoods where the elevation is low, which are, consequently, subject to localized flooding, are also considerations. Changing weather patterns such as high intensity, short duration storms, and more frequent tropical storms, can be evaluated using computer models, which simulate the flow of excess water in such events. Constantine is expected to complete its evaluation and present a report to the city commission in March or April of 2020.
The city commission has also retained ESG Operations to provide preventative and corrective maintenance on the sewer system. This firm will monitor the day-to-day operations of the city’s sewer system, to include remedial repairs. ESG will also make recommendations to reduce the accumulation of chemicals and debris in the sewage system. Fertilizer, pesticides, and yard waste (grass clippings, leaves, pine straw, twigs) are routinely diverted into gutters and channeled into catch basins throughout the city. ESG will review utilization of the city’s sewer cleaning equipment and schedules for these machines. ESG will also educate the public on the problems created when chemicals and debris are mixed with runoff.
The city secured a $15 million loan, from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA), to fund repairs to the sewer system, in January 2018. The funds were utilized to stabilize the interceptors on both sides of the river and upgrade several lift stations. These and other engineered improvements should address the issues which caused the spills in 2018 and 2019. This work does not, however, address modification of the combined sewer system.
We will not have estimates of the costs associated with separating the sewer system until Constantine submits its report next spring. The project, which will take from 3-7 years, contingent upon funding, will probably cost between $150 million and $300 million. The city, fortunately, is on the verge of repaying the $35 million bond which financed rehabilitation and improvements to the Joshua Street Wastewater Plant in the late 90s. Thus, the city will have additional bonding capacity to finance the initial phases of this monumental undertaking. Future SPLOST funds will be available, and residents should expect an increase in sewage fees. Constantine’s report will make recommendations for other funding sources, including federal dollars, which may be available to defray some of the costs of separating the sewer system.
An Independent WG&L Commission
The city commission should restore WG&L to its former status or consider seeking legislation to make WG&L a completely separate entity. This would involve a long-term agreement, whereby WG&L is required to purchase all electricity generated by the city, to the limit of demand, and to pay the city a certain percentage of all revenue. WG&L would be governed by an independent board, which would be appointed by the city commission or elected. The members of the board would hire a general manager, with expertise in managing a utility.
Elected officials should not set rates for electricity and gas, nor have the authority to meddle in the operations of a public utility. Elected officials cannot be expected to understand what accommodations must be made in billing to account for fluctuations in the prices of electricity and natural gas. Most importantly, there should be complete transparency in the amount of funds transferred from the proprietary operations of WG&L to the city’s coffers. Otherwise, citizens will reasonably suspect that the city is utilizing these operations as a revenue stream.
An independent board would also be better qualified to make decisions regarding long-term investment for these utility services. The city commission recently borrowed $18.3 million to finance the replacement of analog meters with “smart meters”. The “smart meter” transmits, in real time, information regarding consumption and operation “to a meter data management system, which is software that performs long-term data storage and management for the vast quantities of data delivered by the meters”. This indebtedness should have been incurred separately from routine city operation.
WG&L, once established as an independent entity, could construct its own solar farm or farms. Revenue from monthly utility bills could finance the payments on any bond. This would further the Green Initiative and, with solar power purchased from the city, would make the city almost “carbon neutral”.
Essential public services, such as solid waste, sewage, and stormwater drainage would be restored to the ambit of the city commission.
I have been a proponent of consolidation for decades. There are compelling reasons to consolidate the city and county governments. Dougherty County, at 335 square miles, is a small county. There is only one municipality in the county. More than 80% of the county’s population, according to the 2010 census, resides in the city of Albany. There is only one school system in the county, and many services have been integrated, pursuant to a state law, passed in 1997. OCGA § 36-70-20 et seq.
A charter committee, appointed in 2003, retained a consultant and submitted its report, recommending legislation seeking repeal of the city’s charter to allow for a consolidated government, the following year. The city commission, after some delay, voted in support of the proposal, though the initiative stalled when the county commission failed to request that consolidation move forward when it finally addressed the issue in 2007. Legislation was nonetheless presented to and passed the House in 2009, though Sen. Sims refused to introduce the legislation in the state Senate.
Elected officials routinely derail proposals to consolidate, as they understand they might well be one of the first casualties of the process. This was true with the previous effort, as some commissioners repeatedly opposed the initiative, asserting their constituents were opposed to consolidation.
A consolidated government has advantages in attracting new industry. A study of the Athens-Clarke County consolidated government confirmed expenditures “increased at a lower rate under the Unified Government compared to the two former governments”. Research documents the benefits of consolidation, and most anecdotal evidence is positive.
The biggest advantage of consolidation is that the community would speak with one voice. The city and county commissions argue over the allocation of SPLOST and T-SPLOST revenue. The county commission, moreover, has repeatedly refused to fund cultural attractions, leaving the city with the full responsibility of subsidizing struggling entities which are vital to the quality of life in this community. It is unreasonable to expect county commissioners to appreciate the operations and importance of the airport, the challenges of revitalizing downtown, or the fact that recreation is indispensable to quality of life in this community. County commissioners are naturally unwilling to sacrifice county projects for city priorities, such as repair of the sanitary sewer system, even though most of them live in the city. The mayor and city commissioners are, conversely, unfamiliar with the operation of the Dougherty County Jail and other facilities and offices which are maintained and financed by the county commission.
Some individuals objected to the previous consolidation proposal, asserting it was a concerted effort to reverse gains African-Americans had made in municipal elections. Subsequent demographic changes invalidate any such concerns. Finally, any proposed electoral map would be subject to Justice Department review, as the boundaries of the current county commission districts will be revised following the 2020 census.
The citizens of Dougherty County should be allowed to make this decision. A committee would be appointed to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of consolidation. Public hearings would be held during the course of the committee’s research, following which a draft charter would be formulated. Questions would be answered and concerns addressed during the process.
Consolidation would be accomplished should a majority of citizens in both the city and the county vote in favor of the referendum. Art. IX, § III, ¶ I, Constitution of the State of Georgia; OCGA § 36-60-16.
Continue To Revitalize Downtown
Albany Tomorrow, Inc. (ATI), the nonprofit organization established to promote and coordinate the revitalization of Albany’s downtown, made great strides. Though private investment did not follow the construction funded by public dollars, there is no question that ATI’s accomplishments represent a sea change in this sector of the city. The C.B. King Federal Courthouse, the Albany Law Enforcement Center, the Department of Human Services building, and the Central Square Government Complex, restored a vivacity that had been missing in downtown Albany for more than a generation. The Flint RiverQuarium is downtown’s flagship which, with added and improved exhibits, could be a destination. The Ray Charles Plaza and Riverfront Park, with Turtle Grove, the Splash Pad, and the Albany Welcome Center, located in the restored Bridge House, are regional attractions. Visitors have had the option of staying in downtown Albany since the Hilton Garden opened in 2005.
The revitalization of downtown had stalled prior to the Great Recession (December 2007- June 2009). The lull in activity concluded with construction of Pretoria Fields, a brewery, which is located on the south side of the one hundred block of Pine Avenue. The brewery, which opened in late 2017, is a popular meeting place for young Albanians. The Flint, an upmarket restaurant, opened on that same block, earlier this year. These unique and complementary venues are located in beautifully renovated historic buildings.
Two downtown landmarks are about to have new life. The old Gordon Hotel, which is known to most of us as the “WG&L building”, was marketed after the city relocated the operations of the Albany Utility Board to the former Security Bank building at 401 Pine Avenue. Title was transferred to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), with the understanding that “the DDA would file for a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site”. The building will be developed as an 88-room hotel “with a rooftop restaurant and a data center that will focus on blockchain technology”. The city will loan the developer $3 million from the Job Creation Development Fund, and will lease space, as the city’s data center will remain at the site.
The city purchased the former Rosenberg’s building, which has housed the Albany Herald since 1986, from Southern Community Newspapers, Inc., earlier this year, for $850,000. This includes the parking lot on the north side of the one hundred block of Pine Avenue. The Albany Herald “will be leasing space back from the city in the grand old building while searching for a location …” The city manager, at the time the transaction was announced, emphasized the city was “actively looking for a developer who will put that property back on the tax digest at an even higher value”.
The boundaries of Albany’s downtown, on the west side of the Flint River, would be Tift Avenue on the north, Jefferson Street to the west, and Whitney Avenue to the south. Numerous cultural attractions, including the Albany Civil Rights Institute, the Central Library, and Thronateeska Heritage Center are located within this area. These organizations will soon be joined by the region’s most visible cultural entity.
The Albany Museum of Art (AMA) had agreed to relocate downtown, during the years when new buildings were being constructed with public funds. AMA reconsidered, and decided to remain at its current location on Meadowlark Drive in northwest Albany. This decision was revisited, after the building was ravaged by the straight-line winds which struck areas of the city on January 2, 2017. The roof was blown off of the building, exposing the art work and other contents to heavy rains. AMA’s executive director described the building as “a total loss”. Staff, trustees and volunteers ventured to the museum the following morning to move the collection, which “includes 19th-20th-Century American and European paintings, drawings, sculptures, watercolors, prints, and photographs, and what has become one of the largest collections of traditional African art in the Southeast outside of a university setting”, to a secure location.
AMA announced it would be relocating to downtown Albany, following months of negotiation, after a prominent local businessman donated the former Belk building, located on North Washington Street, to the city, with the understanding that the property would be conveyed to AMA. AMA intends to construct a new facility, which, at 53,000 square feet, will be more than twice the size of the current location, providing more space for exhibition, classrooms, and events. Costs, which will include an outdoor sculpture garden, are estimated at $10 million.
Albany must prepare for the pending closure of the Oglethorpe Bridge. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has included $16 million in its FY22 budget to replace the bridge. Traffic will be detoured during construction, which is expected to take two years. This will require modifications of routine traffic patterns, as most motorists crossing the river downtown do so on the Oglethorpe Bridge. An article on the reopening of the Broad Avenue Bridge stated an average of 29,900 cars had crossed Oglethorpe Bridge during closure of that bridge, and that “traffic counts on Broad [were] expected to return to their former levels of nearly 12,000 vehicles per day”.
ATI’s consultants emphasized citizens, with disposable income, needed to reside in downtown, to provide a vibrancy and support restaurants and other entertainment venues. Ashley Riverside, consisting of 132 units, was completed in 2004. Flats@249, which is 66 one bedroom apartments in the former Albany Hotel, opened in 2018.
The city commission entered into an agreement, with Spectra Venue Management, “to manage the civic center, municipal auditorium and amphitheater”, in April 2018. Spectra’s general manager, in a report to the city commission detailing the first year of the contract, announced ticketed events increased from 15 in FY18 to 28 in FY19, paid attendance to concerts and events had more than doubled, $117,000 had been generated from sponsorships, and the underutilized Municipal Auditorium had hosted three sellout performances. The basketball court in the Civic Center had been refinished, the HVAC system upgraded, a new boiler installed, and $137,000 had been invested in kitchen and concession improvements.
The Civic Center could be the hub of additional activity, should the long-delayed tennis center be constructed on that property. The project was funded in SPLOST III, which was approved in 1994. An early proposal had a 16-court complex being constructed in Tift Park, at a cost of “around $2.4 million”. That option did not materialize, as while the county commission was prepared to construct the tennis center, the county was not willing to fund operations, estimated at “between $100,000 and $150,000 a year …” The county commission subsequently considered allocating the available funds to construct “an eight-court tennis center near the Paul Eames Sports Park as part of a multiphase, multimillion-dollar city-run recreation complex …”
The county should construct a five-court clay tennis facility downtown, near the Civic Center. The center court would have seating on four sides, and the four exterior courts would have seating on the side adjacent to the center court. The courts and amenities should be sufficient to sponsor tournaments. A small pro shop could be manned by an employee, who would manage tournaments and possibly supervise a “Reading and Rackets” program, which would offer tennis lessons and tutoring to at-risk youth.
The city should also revive First Tee. $1 million in SPLOST IV funds were allocated to construct a nine-hole golf course and clubhouse behind the Civic Center. The budget for the program, which “sought to develop life skills for at-risk youngsters, through golf instruction and principles”, was $150,000 per year. First Tee could, presumably, be operated in coordination with the tennis center, if constructed in the same area of downtown.
The city, at present, is aggressively marketing downtown. Events, such as the Downtown Albany Street Festival, the annual July 4th fireworks display, Chalk Fest, and the annual ASU and Christmas parades, bring throngs to the downtown. The city should continue to partner with organizations to increase the frequency of these family-friendly events.
It appears the transit facility which has been debated for almost 20 years will finally be constructed. The city commission, on May 20, 2013, selected “the current home of the bus terminal station on Oglethorpe as the preferred Multimodal Site”, “because of its proximity to the central downtown area”. The city received $1.9 million in additional funding from the State Road & Toll Authority in 2016. A news article covering that allocation quotes the city’s transit director as having reported “the city currently has access to $4.8 in federal funding and $611,000 in additional state funding, plus $611,000 in matching city funds, to go toward the 2014 estimated project cost of approximately $8 million”. That gentleman stated the transit center “is expected to be a ‘one-floor layout’ that should be in excess of 10,000 square feet”, and “will feature many modern amenities such as free WiFi access and ‘real-time’ displays that will allow passengers to have a better idea of where buses are and what their wait times will be”. It was necessary to acquire “property adjacent to the existing station so that arrivals and departures will become easier for buses that will enter and exit the facility between Highland Avenue and Oglethorpe”.
The city should reconsider plans to demolish a section or all of the Ritz Cultural Center, which is located at 219 S. Jackson Street. The Ritz Cultural Center is adjacent to the Ritz Theater, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. This property should be reopened, to provide training in the visual and performing arts, for at-risk youth. Programming could possibly be coordinated by the Dougherty County School System, with assistance from the staff of the Albany Museum of Art and students in ASU’s Department of Education and Teaching and Department of Arts. The Ritz Theater should be promoted and utilized as a monument to the era when the Harlem Business District was the commercial and cultural hub of Albany’s African-American community.
Renovation of one of the historic properties downtown into condominiums would be the realization of what twenty years ago seemed to be a pipe dream. The downtown also needs additional retail, and professionals should be encouraged to return to or relocate in the downtown. The city should be prepared to offer incentives to viable prospects.
A primary objective of revitalization efforts was to “increase opportunities to use the river for recreation and learning experiences …” Citizens must understand true revitalization of downtown will require protecting that section of the Flint River which flows through our community. CSOs can impact the experience of encountering the Flint River, and recurrent incidents have been catastrophic for small businesses which lease kayaks and canoes, and sell bait and tackle. The loss of these small, specialty businesses would deprive the community of sources of equipment necessary for visitors who wish to personally encounter the river. Thus, separation of Albany’s combined sewer system is essential to all of those activities – recreation, entertainment, education – which make the downtown river corridor such a special place.
The Flint River is both a natural treasure and economic engine for our city. Flint Riverkeeper has a goal of having the Flint River reclassified as a “full immersion” river, which means it would be safe for swimming and scuba diving. The city of Albany should partner with Flint Riverkeeper, and strive to restore this great natural resource to pristine condition. Citizens and tourists alike would, thereafter, have the opportunity to fish, kayak, swim, or simply watch wildlife and the majestic flow of the river.
Albany endured two floods in the 1990s. The city and surrounding areas were devastated by straight-line winds on two separate occasions in January 2017, and Hurricane Michael caused extensive property damage and widespread power outages in October 2018. The city must be vigilant, as it is not a question of if, but rather, a question of when the next disaster will strike.
Meteorologists and the news media are the primary sources of information for the general public. Helpful information is available on the city website, though many citizens do not have internet access. The city has a Whelen Siren System, comprised of 14 sirens located throughout the city, which serve to warn residents when extreme weather conditions pose an imminent threat. Additionally, residents receive notification by telephone when the National Weather Service issues an extreme or a severe alert.
A disaster preparedness plan must be comprehensive, insofar as the proper response depends on the nature of the extreme weather. There must be contingency plans for emergency housing, to include designated shelters, and an evacuation plan when most if not all of the city is expected to be impacted by the given force of nature. It is imperative that the most vulnerable residents, including low income families and the disabled, are properly educated as to the specific plan, so that they may take the necessary precautions and secure transportation to shelters or a designated evacuation site.
We should learn from each disaster. The city should have assistance agreements with Georgia Power and EMCs in this area. The city should also educate residents on how they should prepare for an impending natural disaster.
Two recent investments by the city commission should be of some assistance. The LED street lights, being lighter and more flexible, are more resistant to heavy winds. Monitors connected to the “smart meters” will identify each account which is no longer in operation following an extreme weather event.
More importantly, the city will need to place utility lines underground. SPLOST VII includes an allocation of $3.5 million to install utility lines underground. More recently, the city received an $8 million grant to fund installation of utility lines and fiber optic cable for the Sandy Bottom circuit, which includes Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. The city will be contributing $2.6 million to the project, which will cost $10,620,000. Thus, this is a transition which will require a substantial investment over many years.
The Green Initiative is a bold program which, if adopted and implemented, would establish Albany as a unique city in the Southeast United States. Greenhouse gas emissions would be dramatically reduced, and the city would realize savings from reduced fuel consumption and lower maintenance costs. Citizens would, upon completion of the proposed solar farms, pay only a fraction of the cost they currently pay for electricity. The demand for clean energy will also channel industrial prospects to Albany.
Several businesses are currently constructing or seeking to construct photovoltaic power plants in Dougherty County. Amazingly, local elected officials have yet to recognize the potential savings and opportunities for economic development presented by such an operation. We are, ironically, within a few months of purchasing electricity from Georgia Power, which was captured and generated within a few miles of downtown Albany.
Transition to solar power is the linchpin of the Green Initiative. Solar could, within a decade, feasibly become Albany’s central energy source. The city’s residents would reap the benefits from this investment for generations.
The city would, in stages, construct solar farms on 800 acres in Dougherty County, which would generate sufficient electricity to supply almost ⅔ of the city’s current demand. The first project would be a 200-acre farm, with construction to begin and be completed in 2020. The $35 million development would be funded with $15 million from the MEAG Fund and $20 million from SPLOST VII. Approximately 200 jobs would be created during construction. The solar farm would generate sufficient electricity to service 6,000 households.
A second 200-acre farm will be constructed in 2022. This project will be funded by a bond. Revenue from the sale of electricity from both farms, approximately 80 megawatts per year, would cover the payments on the bond. Payment of the balance on the bond would be one of the projects listed on the next SPLOST referendum.
Funding for the third phase, being a 400-acre solar farm, would be addressed after the indebtedness on the second farm is fully paid. Federal funding will be available to defray a portion of this expense, should the federal government take decisive action to address climate change.
It will be some time before the power generated at installations constructed by the city can be sold to the Albany Utility Board (hereinafter “WG&L”), as WG&L is, pursuant to a series of purchase agreements, contractually obligated to purchase electricity from MEAG. The city of Albany will enter into a purchase agreement with one or more utility providers to sell the electricity generated at its solar farms until such time as WG&L can purchase power directly from the city. Revenue will be invested until the second solar farm is constructed and in operation, following which these funds and income from the sale of electricity from the first two solar farms will be applied to payments on the bond which finances the second solar farm.
It is contemplated that the city will sell all power generated at the solar farms to WG&L for not more than 50% of the open market price for electricity, once the bond on the second solar farm is satisfied. Ad valorem taxes would be reduced, and a portion of the revenue will be dedicated to specific programs and/or projects, such as recreation, demolition of blighted properties, and the Land Bank. WG&L would pass the savings onto consumers, and it is contemplated that rates would be at least ⅓ lower than those paid by customers of competing utilities, such as Georgia Power and Mitchell EMC. Lower bills would be a benefit to residents and existing businesses, and would offer a tremendous incentive to industrial prospects. Virtually all of the electricity consumed by WG&L’s customers would be sourced from solar power, should WG&L also construct a solar farm. The city’s carbon footprint, in that event, would be minimal.
Georgia Power is in the process of closing five coal-burning plants. The corporation’s motivation is financial rather than ethical, as solar power is now less expensive than electricity produced at many older coal-fired plants. Southwest Georgia’s abundant sunshine and level terrain are optimal conditions for production of solar power. There are two solar farms in Mitchell County and another under construction, which “will produce enough electricity each year to power an estimated 30,000 homes”. NEXTera Energy is constructing a 120-megawatt project on a 1089-acre site in Dougherty County.
Hybrid and electric vehicles, in addition to being environmentally friendly, are cheaper to operate and maintain. The transition to hybrid and electric vehicles will be relatively simple. EV charging stations should be installed at various locations throughout the city, including in the downtown area. The accessibility of charging stations will encourage citizens to purchase electric cars.
The transit service should likewise transition to hybrid buses. Federal and state funds are available to assist with the purchase of energy-efficient buses which, unlike passenger vehicles, continue to be more expensive than traditional buses.
The city commission should commit to convert its passenger fleet to electric and hybrid vehicles by 2025, and to replace each bus with buses which would qualify for funding under the “Low or No Emission Vehicle Program”.
All wood waste (limbs, root balls, pine cones, Christmas trees) and yard waste (grass clippings, leaves, pine straw, twigs) which is not sold to Constellation, as fuel for the biomass plant at P&G, would be converted to mulch. The investment would be the cost of an industrial grinder and the salary of the individual who operates that machine. These expenses would be offset by a substantial reduction in tipping fees and the sale of mulch. More importantly, hundreds of tons of plant material would be diverted from the landfill.
The volume of recyclables collected in Albany is negligible. The city, county, and school board should establish programs to educate students as to the importance of recycling. The city should install recycling bins in public places, and increase the number of drop-off sites. The city should also encourage a private collector to offer curbside recycling. Citizens who pay for this service would pay a reduced fee to the city.
 There are currently 33 individuals, being detained in the Dougherty County Jail, awaiting trial, on charges of murder.
 Citizens summoned for jury duty in Dougherty County should be questioned to determine whether they have reservations about serving, due to a fear of retaliation. Individuals who respond affirmatively should be excused from service.
 One website which ranks “livability” gives Albany the highest score (A+) on amenities, and high scores on “cost of living” (A-) and weather (B+). www.areavibes.com/albany-ga/. Albany received an F in the four remaining categories – crime, employment, housing and schools – resulting in a score of 56, “which ranks among the lowest in the nation …” Id.
 A new planetarium was constructed in 2008, and the train depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. www.heritagecenter.org.
 Fletcher, Carlton “Spectra officials paint positive one-year picture” Albany Herald (Jun. 1, 2019).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Flint River Trail System flows in all directions from downtown Albany hub” Albany Herald (Jul. 22, 2018); see also, www.flintrivertrails.org and Flint River Trails System Master Plan and Implementation Strategy at www.albanyga.gov.
 Fletcher, Carlton “Albany Commission approves Downtown Connector trail” Albany Herald (Aug. 14, 2018).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Flint River Trail System flows in all directions from downtown Albany hub” Albany Herald (Jul. 22, 2018).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Albany Commission approves Downtown Connector trail” Albany Herald (Aug. 14, 2018).
 I have been supportive of the proposed hospital, to be constructed in Lee County. See Dorough, Bo “Dougherty commissioners should drop opposition to Lee County hospital” Albany Herald (Sep. 17, 2017).
 See Mauldin, Alan “Albany city employees could see changes in health coverage” Albany Herald (Sep. 22, 2017).
 Training in the visual and performing arts was offered, for at-risk youth, at this location, for many years.
 “Procter & Gamble plant in Albany named Manufacturer of the Year” Albany Herald (Apr. 20, 2019).
 Id. The plant, in 2007, employed 1,200 workers. www.georgia.org (Sep. 25, 2007).
 Parks, Jennifer “Local Miller Coors plant primed for growth” Albany Herald (May 18, 2017).
 “Coats & Clark to locate North American Distribution Hub in Albany” www.georgia.org (Nov. 23, 2009).
 Crow, Gypsy “Coats & Clark distribution center reopens in Albany a year after storm” Albany Herald (Jun. 4, 2018).
 Lewis, Terry “PDA OKs $9M deal with Coats & Clark” Albany Herald (Dec. 22, 2017).
 Crow, Gypsy “Coats & Clark distribution center reopens in Albany a year after storm” Albany Herald (Jun. 4, 2018).
 Bishop: “MCLB is not on the list” www.bishophouse.gov (May 1, 2005) (press release confirming MCLB-Albany was not included on the most recent Base Realignment and Closure list).
 Mandel, Eric “Georgia-Pacific planning third southeastern lumber facility in 12 months” Atlanta Business Chronicle (Jul. 31, 2018); Snyder, KK “Albany/Dougherty County: Forging Ahead” Georgia Trend (May 1, 2019).
 “Restructuring brings layoffs to Albany aircraft company” WALB (Aug. 28, 2019); Mallory, Ariel “Thrush Aircraft works to get reorganized” WFXL (Aug. 28, 2019).
 Mauldin, Alan “Albany-based airplane manufacturer lays off 113 as it struggles to reorganize” Albany Herald (Sep. 25, 2019).
 Parks, Jennifer “Metro Guide 2018: Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany: an economic engine for region” Albany Herald (Oct. 28, 2017)
 West, Jim “Company bringing 112 jobs to Albany” Albany Herald (Jun. 24, 2012); Southerland, Randy “Albany/Dougherty County: Ready to Do Business” Georgia Trend (May 1, 2013).
 www.airport.albanyga.gov “AirCargo” tab.
 “UPS extends lease at Albany airport, keeps jobs in town” WALB (May 5, 2016) (“keeping 80 jobs in town”).
 www.hotels.com – Baymount by Wyndham (62); Courtyard Inn & Suites (72); Courtyard by Marriott (84); Fairfield Inn (87); Holiday Inn Express (80); Park Inn (61); Quality Inn (82); Towne Place (80); and Wingate by Wyndham (86).
 Snyder, KK “Albany/Dougherty County: Forging Ahead” Georgia Trend (May 1, 2019). A 2013 increase in the state hotel/motel tax from 7 to 8% was expected to “bring in around $200,000 per year in new revenue”. Highfield, Courtney “Hotel and motel tax bill could bring big bucks to Albany” WFXL (Mar. 15, 2013).
 Colby, Carl “Public Invited to View SR/133 Moultrie to Albany Widening Plans” Sylvester Local News (Aug. 3, 2016).
 Carter, Danny “Contract adds another link to Highway 133 improvements” Albany Herald (Nov. 29, 2015).
 www.dot.ga.gov “Sunbelt Parkway/SR133” (estimated cost-$172.5 million). The project is funded through the Governor’s Road Improvement Program, which seeks “to ensure that virtually all Georgia communities have close access to four-lane state highways and the interstate”. Colby, Carl “Public Invited to View SR/133 Moultrie to Albany Widening Plans” Sylvester Local News (Aug. 3, 2016).
 One study identified Southwest Georgia as the second most expensive market in the United States. Rau, Jordan “The 10 Most Expensive Insurance Markets in the U.S.” Kaiser Health News (Feb. 3, 2014), available online at https://khn.org/news/most-expensive-insurance-markets-obamacare/. See also, Rau, Jordan “In rural Georgia, federal health insurance marketplace proves unaffordable to many” The Washington Post (Feb. 1, 2014).
 See “Editorial: How do Albany leaders combat negativity about the city?” WALB (Jun. 27, 2017) (“what are city leaders going to do to address the negative perception created by these widely circulated reports?”);
Bleau, Sarah “Industry leaders say negative perception stunting city growth” WFXL (Feb. 28, 2012) (opinion expressed by former president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission).
Our biggest challenge in Albany is ourselves. Sometimes we have such a negative self-image of who we are as a community that we lose sight of the fact that we do have competitive advantages over many other communities in the state of Georgia and around the country.
 Badenhausen, Kurt “The Best Places for Business And Careers 2018: Seattle Leads The Way” www.forbes.com/ places/ga/albany/(Oct. 24, 2018) (cost of living 13% below the national average).
 See www.areavibes.com/albany-ga/, which gives Albany the highest score (A+) on amenities.
 “Coats & Clark to locate North American Distribution Hub in Albany” www.georgia.org (Nov. 23, 2008) (“Albany’s strategic location in proximity to major trucking corridors” made Albany “an excellent fit for [Coats & Clark’s] new North American distribution center”); Bleau, Sarah “Industry leaders say negative perception stunting city growth” WFXL (Feb. 28, 2012) (Equinox Chemical compared shipping rates and confirmed “it was actually significantly less to ship from Albany than Missouri”); “Outdoor Network to create 112 jobs in Albany” WALB (Jun. 25, 2012) (Outdoor Network CEO asserts “Georgia in particular provides an opportunity for us to speed up our delivery times because of the logistics in the state …”).
 Less than 1% of the local workforce is employed in high-tech jobs. Badenhausen, Kurt “The Best Places for Business And Careers 2018: Seattle Leads The Way” www.forbes.com/places/ga/albany/ (Oct. 24, 2018).
 Weise, Elizabeth “Tech firms like Google, Amazon push power companies toward solar and wind, a blow to coal” USAToday (Apr. 22, 2018).
 Eckhouse, Brian “It’s Not Just Facebook and Google Buying Clean Power Anymore” Bloomberg (Nov. 1, 2018).
 Id. The demand increased 100% in one year.
 “Georgia Power to add 177MW of solar resources for C&I REDI program” https://southerncompany.mediaroom. com/2018-04-09-Georgia-Power-to-add-177-MW-of-solar-resources-for-C-I-REDI-program.
 Brooks, Greg “Facebook chooses Walton EMC to build state’s largest solar project” Gwinnett Forum (Dec. 14, 2018); Merdant, Emma “Facebook Closes Record 200 MW Solar Deal With Georgia Co-Op” Green Tech Media (Dec. 6, 2018).
 Parks, Jennifer “Outlook: Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany moving toward net zero energy costs” Albany Herald (Feb. 25, 2016) (“Being net-zero means you produce just as much renewable energy as you use in a year”); see also, “Marine Corps Plans First Net Zero Energy Military Base” Facility Executive (Nov. 1, 2016).
 Parks, Jennifer “MCLB-Albany growing by leaps and bounds” Albany Herald (Mar. 3, 2011) (“Biological decomposition of the solid waste generates landfill gas, of which the primary component is methane”); Jackson, Pamela “MCLB Albany inks 1st landfill gas to energy project in Corps” www.albany.marines.mil (Dec. 23, 2009); “chevron and marine corps logistics base albany complete navy’s first landfill gas power plant” www.chevron.com (Sep. 26, 2011) (landfill “receives approximately 100,000 tons of municipal waste each year. The biological decomposition of the waste generates landfill gas that is approximately 50 percent methane by volume.”).
 Parks, Jennifer “MCLB-Albany growing by leaps and bounds” Albany Herald (Mar. 3, 2011).
 “MCLB landfill gas energy program completed” WALB (Sep. 23, 2011).
 www.powersurety.com “Renewable Energy Microgrid” link under “Capabilities” tab.
 “MCLB landfill gas energy program completed” WALB (Sep. 23, 2011).
 Fletcher, Katie “Expanding Energy, Decreasing Dependency” Biomass Magazine (Oct. 31, 2014); see also, Fletcher, Carlton “Landfill gas-to-energy program lauded by EPA” Albany Herald (Feb. 9, 2014).
 Fletcher, Katie “Expanding Energy, Decreasing Dependency” Biomass Magazine (Oct. 31, 2014).
 Parks, Jennifer “Ground broken for solar farm at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany” Albany Herald (Apr. 28, 2016).
 Parks, Jennifer “Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany bringing storm recovery, green projects to reality” Albany Herald (Mar. 25, 2017).
 Wise, Laura “Charmin and Bounty Manufacturing Now Powered by Biomass” Triple Pundit (Sep. 27, 2017) (“Biomass energy is energy created using renewable materials such as wood chips, pecan shells and peanut hulls as feedstock for fires that produce steam.”)
 Fletcher, Carlton “PDA approves bond issuance for P&G biomass plant” Albany Herald (Dec. 3, 2014).
 Hudson, Phil “P&G Constellation to build $200M biomass plant in Georgia” Atlanta Business Chronicle (Feb. 12, 2015).
 Parks, Jennifer “Naval Facilities Engineering awards $170 million contract for MCLB biomass project” Albany Herald (Oct. 27, 2016).
 “Constellation Completes 50-MW Biomass Plant for Procter & Gamble” Power Engineering (Sep. 26, 2017); “P&G, Constellation Build 50-Megawatt Renewable Energy Plant” Industry Week (Sep. 26, 2017) (plant materials “would otherwise have been left to decay, burned or potentially sent to landfills”); see also, McEwan, Brad “Albany Green Energy biomass plant begins test run” Albany Herald (May 21, 2017) (plant will utilize 100 tons of wood a day).
 “Constellation Completes 50-MW Biomass Plant for Procter & Gamble” Power Engineering (Sep. 26, 2017).
 Wise, Laura “Charmin and Bounty Manufacturing Now Powered by Biomass” Triple Pundit (Sep. 27, 2017)
 Fletcher, Carlton “Demolition of Albany eyesore begins” Albany Herald (Sep. 25, 2019).
 Wallace, Jim “Condemned houses will be demolished” WALB (Jul. 23, 2013).
 “[R]esearchers at the University of Vermont sifted through 10 million geotagged tweets from 2011” “to determine the country’s ‘happiest’ and ‘saddest’ cities and states”. Caldwell, Carla “Twitter study: Albany is #2 saddest city, Ga. 47th happiest state” Atlanta Business Chronicle (Feb. 22, 2013). The article references a (now removed) story from the Albany Herald, which noted “[m]ost of the comments focused on crime issues, and what some say is a lack of leadership in government and education …” Id. [citing Sumner, J.D. “Study points to Albany’s self-loathing” Albany Herald (Feb. 20, 2013)]. Albany was also ranked as one of the country’s “saddest” cities in subsequent studies. See “Average Happiness Ranking of United States Cities for” tab at www.hedonometer.org. These studies are instructive, insofar as they reflect the opinions of adolescents and young adults, who are the primary users of twitter.
 www.neighborhoodscout.com/ga/albany/real-estate; www.bestplaces.net/housing/city/georgia/albany (home values in Albany have fallen 7.8% in the last ten years).
 In 2007 there were 188 building permits issued for single-family residential and 48 permits for duplexes and multi-family dwellings, whereas in 2017 there were only 35 building permits issued for single-family residential and no permits issued for a duplexes or multi-family dwellings. Source: Albany Planning and Development Commission.
 In order for the property in question to be subject to official identification as blighted and subject to increased taxation, the property must be determined to be:
- (1) Unfit for human habitation or unfit for commercial, industrial, or business use and not in compliance with applicable codes; or
- (2) Vacant and being used in connection with the commission of drug crimes; or
- (3) Constituting an endangerment to the public health or safety as a result of unsanitary or unsafe conditions; and
- (4) Not a dwelling house, which is being used as the primary residence of one or more persons.
Sec. 36-204. – Blighted condition designation.
 Properties which are dilapidated or are known to present a threat to public safety should receive priority for demolition.
 Fletcher, Carlton “Albany, Dougherty officials consider land bank” Albany Herald (Apr. 15. 2017).
 The Land Bank would adopt strict policies, such as a lending limit of $20,000 or 40% of the home’s fair market value, whichever is greater. All contractors would have to be approved by the city and bonded, and construction would be monitored by Planning & Development.
 A portion of “blight tax” payments would be transferred to the Land Bank.
 The city of Albany “owns over 300 vacant, buildable parcels within South Albany that were acquired through a Buy Out Program from 1995-1999”. South Albany Revitalization Plan (Apr. 2019). Construction in areas of South Albany involve greater expense, as structures must be elevated “to comply with the Albany-Dougherty Floodplain Ordinance”. Id.
 Many areas of South Albany are classified as “food deserts”, as “residents no longer have access within a one-mile radius of a grocery store that serves fresh produce or healthy food …” Id. This situation is a major concern for South Albany, with its higher concentration of low income residents, and “creates not only health problems in the community but economic problems as well”. Id.
 The most detailed information I have located are the references in the East Albany Revitalization Plan (Nov. 2017) and the South Albany Revitalization Plan (Apr. 2019). FAB’s priorities are listed as: “waste removal, demolition, boarding, mowing, vacant lot reuse, building rehabilitation and redevelopment, code enforcement, and standard of living”. Id.
 The county would be requested to waive tipping fees for participants in the program.
 The city should install surveillance cameras in close proximity to these sites. See Lewis, Terry “Another illegal dump site found in east Albany” Albany Herald (Aug. 29, 2018).
 “Combined Sewer System Evaluation” tab on the city website: https://www.albanyga.gov/Home/Components/ News/News/1282/ (Sep. 18, 2019).
 Rainfall on impervious surfaces, such as streets, alleys, and parking lots, flows into the sewer system.
 See the “Combined Sewer Overflow Animation” for the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba on youtube.com and the “Combined Sewer System” tab on the Henderson Water Utility website: http://storage.hkywater.org/adobe/flash/ HWU_combined_web.swf.
 Evans, Mary Anna “Flushing the Toilet Has Never Been Riskier” The Atlantic (Sep. 17, 2015); Tibbetts, John “Combined Sewer Systems: Down, Dirty, and Out of Date” Environmental Health Perspectives vol. 113, pp. 464-467 (2005).
 E.coli indicates the level of fecal material, from warm-blooded animals, in fresh water. It is measured in cfu (colony forming units). 61-151 cfu/100 mL is considered normal, while people are advised to stay out of the water when E.coli levels equal or exceed 235 cfu/100 mL. E.coli levels exceeded 4,000 cfu/100 mL following two heavy rainfall events, and exceeded 400 cfu on several other occasions, during the time the water was sampled by Flint Riverkeeper.
 McCarthy, Kailey “Albany City Commission Approves $1.7M contract for new sewage system company” WFXL (Apr. 23, 2019). The Stormwater User Utility Fee reportedly pays the costs of the contract with ESG.
 It appears Albany does not have an ordinance prohibiting residents from placing yard waste into catch basins.
 Constantine will include a recommendation for “Green Infrastructure”, which would strain most of the chemicals and debris from the stormwater discharged into the Flint River, following heavy rainfalls.
 Fletcher, Carlton “City given $15M loan for sewer upgrades” Albany Herald (Jan. 24, 2018). “The city has also applied for a $25 million GEFA loan for work on the Holloway Basin …” Id. See also, Fletcher, Carlton “Commission OKs $15M GEFA loan” Albany Herald (Jul. 26, 2018) (engineering director informed city commission “the sewer interceptor system, which encompasses 6.2 miles of area in close proximity to the east and west sides of the Flint River, was constructed in the early ’50’s”). The city commission had previously requested a $40 million loan for sewer rehabilitation. Fletcher, Carlton “Albany’s GEFA sewer loan process moves forward” Albany Herald (Aug. 7, 2016).
 The city of Columbus spent $95 million, and the city of Augusta spent $200 million, in separating their respective sewer systems a few years ago.
 Otherwise, city commissioners would be involved when WG&L is in the process of disconnecting a constituent’s service as a sanction for nonpayment.
 Gray, Typhani “High utility bills have local residents upset” WFXL (Aug. 27, 2019).
 Lewis, Terry “Albany City Commission approves $18.3 million smart meter loan” Albany Herald (Dec. 14, 2018). The cost of the project was $20.8 million, with $2.5 million paid from the MEAG fund. Id. Smart meters “can reduce or eliminate the costs of physically visiting meters to collect readings for billing purposes”. “Smart Meters and Disaster Recovery” www.nema.org. These devices have a display which allows the ratepayer to monitor consumption, and thereby reduce usage.
 See Alcorn, Jessica, Shana Jones and John O’Looney “Going Solar in Georgia: Opportunities for Local Governments” Carl Vinson Institute of Government (2016) (identifying alternatives for funding).
 Most solar is “instantaneous”, meaning it must be transferred to the grid at the time the energy is captured. This means there must be some base load source, to provide electricity at night. Solar energy can, however, be stored, utilizing batteries, though this process is not yet cost-efficient.
 The county’s population was 94,565, and 77,434 of those individuals resided within the city. Additionally, many more residents live within ½ mile of the city limits.
 Fletcher, Carlton “County plans to revisit consolidation” Albany Herald (Feb. 20, 2016).
 Id. The county would have been divided into an urban service district and a general service district “to assure that the citizens of Albany-Dougherty County, Georgia shall pay for the services that they receive but will not pay for a service that they are not receiving”. The proposed government would have been headed by a CEO and eight commissioners. I would prefer a mayor-commission-manager form of government, with six commissioners, elected from the same districts as utilized by the school board.
 Fletcher, Carlton “The truth behind the consolidation myth” Albany Herald (Jul. 28, 2018) (arguing elected officials recognized “they stood a strong possibility of losing their seats”).
 Fletcher, Carlton “County plans to revisit consolidation” Albany Herald (Feb. 20, 2016).
 See generally, Rasmussen, Patty “Macon/Bibb County: Consolidation And Diversity” Georgia Trend (Mar. 1, 2013).
 Smith, Douglas “A History of the Unification of the Athens-Clarke County Government” (May 1997); see also, Selden, Sally and Richard W. Campbell “The Expenditure Impacts of Unification in a Small Georgia County: A Contingency Perspective of City-County Consolidation” Public Administration Quarterly vol. 24, pp. 169-201 (2000).
 “A Review and Comparison of Georgia’s Three Largest Consolidated Governments” Carl Vinson Institute of Government (Dec. 2011).
 Fletcher, Carlton “The truth behind the consolidation myth” Albany Herald (Jul. 28, 2018).
 African-Americans comprised 65% of the city’s residents, and 60% of the county’s residents, according to the 2000 census. African-Americans, by 2010, comprised 67% of the county’s population.
 A poll of voters taken at five precincts on November 13, 2012 revealed over 61% supported “the consolidation of Albany and Dougherty County into one unified government”, and that over 64% wanted the issue placed on the ballot for referendum. Dankwa, Kwame and Timothy Sweet-Holp “The Effects of Race and Space on City-County Consolidation” Current Urban Studies vol. 3, pp. 247-260 (2015).
In years past, local governments and nonprofits made a substantial investment in downtown. City and county offices are here, along with the convention center and attractions such as the Flint RiverQuarium. The private sector, though, failed to return the compliment by putting its dollars in as well.
Southerland, Randy “Albany/Dougherty County: Ready to Do Business” Georgia Trend (May 1, 2013).
 Southerland, Randy “Albany/Dougherty County: The Next Big Thing” Georgia Trend (May 1, 2007).
 Shelton, Whitney “Albany’s Pretoria Fields Brewery has long-awaited grand opening” WALB (Dec. 9, 2017).
 McClung, Madison “The Flint restaurant now open in downtown Albany” WALB (Jun. 17, 2019).
 Lewis, Terry “Downtown Development Authority, city of Albany reach agreement on old Water, Gas and Light building” Albany Herald (Jan. 8, 2019).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Developer to bring $13.5 million ‘boutique hotel’ downtown” Albany Herald (Apr. 8, 2019).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Albany commission agrees to purchase Herald properties” Albany Herald (Apr. 26, 2019).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Herald, city of Albany complete purchase of property” Albany Herald (Jun. 3, 2019).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Albany commission agrees to purchase Herald properties” Albany Herald (Apr. 26, 2019).
 Lewis, Terry “Hit hard by powerful storm, Albany Museum declared ‘total loss’” Albany Herald (Jan. 3, 2017).
 Lord, Rachel “Belk building donated to Albany Museum of Art for downtown move” Albany Herald (Jun. 28, 2019).
 Fletcher, Carlton “GDOT plans to replace Oglethorpe Bridge” Albany Herald (Mar. 20, 2019)
 Id. The Broad Avenue Bridge was closed, abruptly, in February 2009, after the DOT “found major deterioration” in the bridge’s footings. Jeffers, Wainwright “Oglethorpe Bridge now Downton Albany’s only river crossing”. WALB (Feb. 14, 2009). Construction of the nearly $12 million project began in 2013, and the bridge was dedicated and reopened on November 11, 2015. Lewis, Terry “Albany honors veterans by opening the new Broad Avenue Bridge” Albany Herald (Nov. 11, 2015); “State of the art Broad Avenue Bridge is dedicated” WALB (Nov. 11, 2015).
 Lewis, Terry “Wednesday’s Broad Avenue bridge dedication highlights Veterans Day activities” Albany Herald (Nov. 7, 2015).
 Green, Tessa “Flats@249 grows downtown community” Albany Herald (Jul. 14, 2018).
 Haskins, Amanda “City leaders decide on management company for Albany Civic Center” WALB (Apr. 10, 2018). Spectra manages 154 facilities nationwide, including those in Macon and Augusta. Id.
 Fletcher, Carlton “Spectra officials paint positive one-year picture” Albany Herald (Jun. 1, 2019).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Dougherty County community tennis center part of mega sports park plan” Albany Herald (Feb. 21, 2014).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Proposed Dougherty County tennis center passes two-decade mark” Albany Herald (Oct. 23, 2016).
 Miller, Dave “Budget woes curtail First Tee” WALB (May 1, 2012).
 Sumner, J.D. “First Tee of Albany officially closed” Albany Herald (May 1, 2012).
 Miller, Dave “Budget woes curtail First Tee” WALB (May 1, 2012).
 First Tee and the tennis center could be open alternate dates between August 15th and May 15th to reduce operational costs.
 See www.visitalbanyga.com.
 Fairley, Jessica “Commissioners select existing bus terminal as multimodal site” WFXL (May 8, 2013).
 McEwan, Brad “Albany Transit to receive $1.9 million for new transit center” Albany Herald (Jun. 23, 2016).
 Id. The transit director, in a more recent interview, stated the existing building “will be torn down and a new center will be built on the site”. “Federal Transit Administration awards Albany $4.25 million transit grant” Albany Herald (Sep. 26, 2018).
 This is, presumably, the property the city acquired to proceed with construction of the transit facility at its current location. Mauldin, Alan “Commission hears concerns regarding bus station project” Albany Herald (Oct. 9, 2019).
 Albany Downtown Riverfront Master Plan.
 See Chinoy, Suhil “The Places in the U.S. Where Disaster Strikes Again and Again” New York Times (May 24, 2018) (“climate change is expected to lead to stronger, wetter hurricanes …”); Older, Malka “Climate change means the government faces more costs from natural disasters. If only it admitted it.” www.nbcnews.com (Oct. 1, 2019) (“Hurricanes might not be becoming more frequent, but they are certainly becoming more intense, and they are doing so in ways consistent with the predicted impacts of climate change”).
 www.albanyga.gov, “Destructive Weather Info” tab under “About Us” – Albany Fire Department.
 www.albanyga.gov, “Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan” link from “AFD Pre-Hazard Mitigation Plan” tab under “About Us” – Albany Fire Department.
 Parks, Jennifer “FEMA encourages emergency preparedness before next hurricane” Albany Herald (Dec. 25, 2018).
 Fletcher, Carlton “Albany Commission’s SPLOST list big on infrastructure” Albany Herald (Jul. 4, 2016).
 Mauldin, Alan “Federal grant funds will pay for extensive infrastructure improvements” Albany Herald (Aug. 31, 2019). This circuit, which extends from Roosevelt Avenue to the south, 8th Avenue to the north, Washington Street to the east, and Monroe Street to the west, is “one of the 52 circuits that serve city residences and businesses”. Id.
 See generally, “The Environmental Review of Solar Farms in the Southeast U.S.: Maximizing Benefits & Minimizing Impacts to Drive Smart, Sustainable Development of Solar Power” Southern Environmental Law Center (Mar. 2017).
 The balance of the “Utilities Fund”, which is approximately $5 million, and $10 million from the “Job Investment Fund”. This will leave about $9 million in the “Job Investment Fund”.
 $24 million was allocated for “Roadway, Traffic, Sidewalk & Bridge”. These projects will be financed with the $53.6 million to be collected from the T-SPLOST, approved on March 19, 2019.
 MEAG is authorized to sell power on the open market if the specified amount exceeds WG&L demand. WG&L, in that event, must pay MEAG any difference between the contract amount and the price received on the open market.
 WG&L will continue to contract for natural gas.
 Hsu, Andrea and Mary Louise Kelly “How Georgia Became a Surprising Bright Spot in the U.S. Solar Industry” NPR (June 24, 2019); Kempuer, Matt “Georgia solar on rise as coal plants shuttered” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Feb. 15, 2019); Bruggers, James “How Georgia Became A Top 10 Solar State, With Lawmakers Barely Lifting A Finger” inside climate news (Jun. 14, 2018). Georgia Power has constructed solar power projects at army bases near Augusta, Columbus, and Savannah, at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base near St. Mary’s, and at MCLB-Albany. Williams, Dave “Georgia Power to build solar project at Marine Base” Atlanta Business Chronicle (Jul. 16, 2015).
 Saunders, Jessica “Shell’s U.S. solar platform to invest $150M in southwest Georgia” Atlanta Business Chronicle (Feb. 28, 2019).
 Mauldin, Alan “Solar farms sprouting up all over southwest Georgia” Albany Herald (Jul. 4, 2019).
 Id. See also, Mauldin, Alan “Solar plant under construction near Albany set to begin production in December” Albany Herald (Jul. 28, 2019).
 Loeffler, John “NYC Shows How Electric Vehicle Fleet Can Create Dramatic Savings” Interesting Engineering (Mar. 20, 2019); Coren, Michael “New York City says electric cars are now the cheapest option for its fleet” Quartz (Mar. 18, 2019); see also, “Electrifying City Fleets” United States Conference of Mayors (Mar. 16, 2018).
 Currently, Five Star Nissan has the only charging station in Albany. The next closest station is at the Visitor Center in Americus. solvingev.com.
 The FTA provides funding, through the “Low or No Emission Vehicle Program”, to state and local governments for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses.
 “Low emission Diesel Electric Hybrid Buses” https://www.athensclarkecounty.com/DocumentCenter/View/ 47094/Transit-Hybrid-Electric-Bus-Fact-Sheet.
 Any available funds from the grant the city received last year should be utilized to purchase hybrid buses. “Federal Transit Administration awards Albany $4.25 million transit grant” Albany Herald (Sep. 26, 2018).
 Community service workers assigned to drop-off sites should be trained on the operation of these facilities and interaction with the public.