How would you grade the City of Albany? - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

How would you grade the City of Albany?

January 31, 2006

Albany -- Do you think there's enough recreation for kids, are taxes too high, and do you feel safe? Albany commissioners asked themselves those questions during an annual review today.

They gave the City a "B" for 2005.

The City of Albany pumped million of dollars into airport improvements last year to make the airport more efficient and accommodating to the business community and to lure another carrier.

Commissioners hoped competition would lead to lower flight prices. But it doesn't look like that will happen any time soon because of the strapped budgets of many airlines.

City commissioner Dorothy Hubbard says, "The way the airports and the way the airline industry is in general, there are a number of them that are going bankrupt. They're not generating the funds since 9-11 that they were prior to that."

Improving Albany's airport was one of seven priorities commissioners set last year. Today they looked back to see what's been accomplished so far. Mayor Dr. Willie Adams said, "I would probably give us a good solid B."

The city's fiscal health improved. Albany now has $7 million in reserves, compared to less than half a million dollars five year ago. "We all should have at least a couple of months of operating funds in our bank accounts, because you never know what could happen," said City Manager Alfred Lott.

The city started aggressively collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in delinquent business license fees and other past due fees. "I think before start taxing people and start looking for other revenue, we should collect the revenue that's due to us," said Mayor Adams.

Commissioners gave the city's marketing effort a "C." The civic center director has been criticized for not doing enough to bring entertainers and events to the venue.

But City Manager Alfred Lott said the civic center is now offering promoters better deals in hopes of spurring more business. "If we give somebody a 50% break on staff cost, and we eat that to get 4,000 or 5,000 people in the city, I think it's worth the sacrifice."

A recent increase in the hotel-motel tax will bring in an extra $230,000 a year, which is ear-marked for marketing the city. And as they look to a new year, commissioners agreed their biggest challenge now will be making Albany safer.

The number of violent crimes dropped last year, but burglaries jumped eight percent. Leaders know if people can't feel safe in their own homes, the money spent to make the city's attractions and services better won't be worth the cost.

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