Dougherty Co. commissioners consider EDC funding - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty Co. commissioners consider EDC funding

Commissioners discussed EDC funding on Monday. (Source: WALB) Commissioners discussed EDC funding on Monday. (Source: WALB)
EDC funding was a major sticking point as commissioners voted on a new county budget on Monday. (Source: WALB) EDC funding was a major sticking point as commissioners voted on a new county budget on Monday. (Source: WALB)
District 3 Commissioner Clinton Johnson (Source: WALB) District 3 Commissioner Clinton Johnson (Source: WALB)
EDC Director Justin Strickland (Source: WALB) EDC Director Justin Strickland (Source: WALB)
Commission Chairman Christopher Cohilas (Source: WALB) Commission Chairman Christopher Cohilas (Source: WALB)
DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) -

Dougherty County may not live up to its financial commitment to the Albany Dougherty Economic Development Commission.

EDC funding was a major sticking point as commissioners voted on a new county budget on Monday.

The budget they eventually did pass slashes the county's share of the EDC budget by 20 percent.

Those in favor of the cut said that the EDC isn't doing enough to bring new jobs to East and South Albany.

Baffled EDC leaders said that's just not true.

District 3 Commissioner Clinton Johnson led the majority.

"All of Albany, all of Dougherty County, is not developing," said Johnson.

Johnson asked for an amended budget at the 11th hour, just days before the June 30 deadline, wanting $200,000 instead of the $250,000 the county promised the EDC.

Johnson, along with Commissioners Harry James, John Hayes, and Anthony Jones, voted for the amended budget.

"There hasn't been a plan to change the economic downturn for so many people, I'd like to see that happen," explained Johnson.

"We don't work for one specific area, we work to bring jobs and investments to the entire community, so it's unfortunate when politics gets involved," said EDC Director Justin Strickland.

According to data from the EDC, the majority of the 410 new jobs and $245 million in investments in the last year and a half happened with businesses in South and East Albany, like P&G and Thrush Aircraft.

Strickland called Monday's vote a "disinvestment" in new jobs based on incorrect information.

"And, while it's disappointing personally, our mission at the EDC is still to work toward creating new jobs and new investment for the community, in my hometown of Albany," said Strickland. "We will do the best we can with the resources we are given."

"We agreed on funding the EDC, fully, at our retreat. We have gone through the entire budget process and at the end of the day this happens, it isn't a sign of a good and a stable government," said Commission Chairman Christopher Cohilas.

Cohilas, along with Commissioners Ewell Lyle and Lamar Hudgins, who serves on the EDC Board, voted against the amended budget.

"It's not something (where) the EDC can force (a private business) to build where they don't want to build, it's pretty simple," said Hudgins.

According to county leaders, the chamber, the city commission and the county have an agreement to equally share the burden for funding the EDC, at $250,000 a piece.

It's unclear if Monday's vote to fund at a lesser amount will impact how much the city and the chamber give the EDC.

A second issue which was raised, and was part of the amended budget, was removing a $30,000 line item to pay for a consolidation study.

District 5 Commissioner Harry James, who was in favor of removing the study money, said "I think we have fought that battle and didn't need to go back and spend money to study it."

Another potential consequence of the amended budget vote is the possibility of the county losing a seat on the EDC board for funding less than its expected share. According to the EDC website, the city, county and chamber have equal appointments on the EDC board currently.

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