Editorial: Are MEAG funds being invested or wasted?

Published: Aug. 30, 2018 at 3:02 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2018 at 4:12 PM EDT
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) - In a 10 year period, Albany city officials received an estimated $84 million in funding from MEAG, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.

The question to all former and current city leaders is, what do we have to show for that money? The millions were the return of an investment decades ago in the Municipal Competitive Trust Agreement.

Since March 2009, Albany has received tens of thousands of dollars each month, to repay an investment in MEAG's de-regulation. Through the years, Albany's city commission decided to put one-third of that money into their general fund.

One third went to Water Gas & Light, which was eventually folded into the city coffers. The final third went into an economic development fund.

That money flow will end in December, and again, the question to city leaders remains: What do we have to show for all those millions of dollars?

If just put into a  passbook savings account, that would generate $840,000 a year. But what if that money had been invested into income-earning investments, what would that mean for Albany's future?

The energy company NextEra is talking about building a huge solar energy power farm in Dougherty County. The company knows that even paying rent for the land, and tax to the county, they will turn a profit.

That is what wise planners do with available money. They invest it in profit-generation projects to earn more money. City leaders through the years, have told us they spent some of that money on general funding of the city, to keep tax rates low.

But we still seem to have high property taxes. We have an education tax that is as high as allowed by law. We see very few tangible assets that can be shown to help the tax base.

We have had six sewer spills this year, and are told it's because the city's infrastructure is woefully archaic, and needs millions of dollars of modernization.

Should city leaders have taken that MEAG money and invested in sound money-generating projects, to help fund city operations for future decades?

And used that money to pay for infrastructure maintenance and repairs?

The answer is obvious. Officials tell us there is still approximately $23 million in that economic development fund.

We call on Albany city leaders to make smart investments with that money.

All those Albany Utility customers, shocked by their high utility bills, will be watching.

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