June 22, 2006
by The WALB-TV Editorial Board
It is disheartening to hear that sales tax money earmarked for downtown Albany improvements must now be used to clean up contaminated property. When the city of Albany took over the former site of a radiator shop on Broad Avenue in 2002, they knew there was contamination that would have to be cleaned up.
But now that the cost is estimated at one million dollars, city commissioners say the bulk of the cleanup money must come from Albany Tomorrow's revitalization budget. I want to be clear-- ATI had nothing to do with this blunder.
The city knew this property was contaminated when they assumed ownership; they knew it would have to be cleaned up and they were supposed to have a written, signed agreement with the previous owners to make sure it was handled. Now, it comes to light that the clean-up agreement was never even signed by city leaders.
The result: Sales tax money that you, the voters, approved spending on the Riverfront Park, the Bridge House restoration, the trails system to Chehaw Park, will now be spent on cleaning up a decades-old site.
The voters have not been asked for their input on this current problem, and this type expenditure was never mentioned in the request for voters to agree to the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
This costly mistake could have been avoided if our city leaders had looked closer at this contaminated piece of property, or had paid attention to details, and made sure the previous owners would pay for the cleanup.
Make no mistake, the poor handling of this blunder should result in voters questioning, or even rejecting a future sales tax referendum.