Commissioners grill water gas and light manager - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Commissioners grill water gas and light manager

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Albany City Commissioners today grilled the Water Gas and Light General Manager about how the municipal utility is run, as they began work on the city's future Five Year Plan. 

Some Commissioners said W.G.and L. may need to be restructured, and come more under City Manager control.

Albany city commissioners repeatedly asked Water Gas and Light General Manager Lem Edwards about his department's willingness to work under the city commission, reporting to the City Manager. 

"We do not.  I take you to task on that, we do not do that. I would not have a problem reporting to Jim Taylor.  But there have been some city managers, no.  I would not report to," said Lem Edwards, Albany Water Gas & Light General Manager.

With their 122 million dollar budget, Albany City Commissioner Ivy Hines said he had questions how Water Gas and Light functions as almost a separate entity, but still part of city government.

"I think some of that needs to be worked out a little bit clearer so we have a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities in the process," said Ivey Hines, Albany City Commissioner.

W.G.and L. General Manager Lem Edwards said the utility's structure was set up with a separate manager and board to keep politics out of providing power, natural gas, and water to the city.

"If I was a commissioner and I was trying to seek re-election, I could go out and say if you vote for me I'll get your rates lowered, and that kind of thing," said Edwards.

Commissioner Tommy Postell said now with a city manager style government, that separation is no longer needed.

"The idea is sort of asinine now.  It's just not working.  And it's creating too many problems.  So in our five year plan we want to try to work and straighten it out," said Tommie Postell, Albany City Commissioner.

"City government is politics. Everything that the city commission does is politics," said Hines.

Commissioners grilled Edwards about the former manufactured gas plant on West Society, that the EPD is requiring to be cleaned up and the cost could be between 2 to 10 million dollars.  

Commissioners said they need more information about W.G.and L. requirements and liabilities like that to prepare for Albany's future. 

Edwards declined our request for an interview, saying he did not want to get further involved in city politics.  Mayor Hubbard said they would continue their work on the five year plan at their next meeting.

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