WG&L rates may climb - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

WG&L rates may climb

May 31, 2007

Albany --  If you are a Water, gas and light customer, your utility rates may go up. There is a two million dollar shortfall in the utility's budget, and something will have to be done to make up for it.  A nearly $15 million gas plant cleanup and lower electric sales are also contributors to the problem.

We first told you back in August that the old manufactured Gas plant on Front Street was going to be a big problem for Water, Gas and Light and the City of Albany.  Now it could be a problem for you, too. "It is a concern and it's not just for the city commission now or the WG&L board now or the taxpayers now, but for everybody in the years to come," said City Commissioner Bob Langstaff, Jr.

That's because it will cost a minimum of $2 Million to clean up the site, as required by the Environmental Protection Division, but it could cost as much as $15 Million.  And that money has to come from somewhere.  "Nobody wants to get surprised with an unfunded liability," said Langstaff.

During a joint meeting Thursday between city commissioners and WG&L Board members, there was discussion as to who should pay for the cleanup.  The city or WG&L, which is owned by the city. So ultimately, the burden falls on you, the taxpayers or ratepayers, and here's why. 

WG&L could pay for the cleanup, but they may also have to hike up rates, especially since there's already a budget shortfall. "We are gong to have to look at a lot of different possibilities.  That is a possibility and hopefully we're going to keep
any kind of increase that is recommended very modest." said John Vanzant, WG&L Finance Director.

Or if the city takes responsibility, they may have to up property taxes, though Langstaff hopes that won't happen. "The burden on the property tax payers is about as high as it can go, and that we ought to be looking to spread that burden."

A burden that either way will fall on you to clean up. Another reason for the budget shortfall is that there were about $4 Million in extra costs to MEAG, the Municipal Electric Association of Georgia. 

In addition to possibly raising rates to bridge the gap, Commissioner Langstaff suggested raising utility rates in order to lower the millage rate in Albany since it's one of the highest in Georgia.

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