City commissioner proposes more city control of Water, Gas, and Light

Albany city commissioner Bob Langstaff outlined the issue and risk management with the manufacturing gas plant that Water, Gas and Light is tasked with cleaning up. / Ashley Knight

There is environmental contamination at the manufactured gas plant owned by Water, Gas and Light that closed in the 40's. The Environmental Protection Division told WG&L last week they have to start digging Sept 1.

"For the last 20 years, Water, Gas and Light has taken on the task of managing the cleanup at the manufactured gas plant and they just decided to come to us recently and say, oh by the way we don't have the money to clean it up. Well I don't like learning about stuff at the eleventh hour," says Commissioner Bob Langstaff.

Langstaff says that magic number is $750,000 just to begin; the entire project could be $10 million.

Langstaff actually sits on the Long Term Financial Planning Committee which brings together city commissioners with WGL board members, and what he learned at last week's meeting was Water, Gas and Light hasn't put any money aside to tear down these buildings. He says, he doesn't think the city should give them the money, saying the money would be better spent building up the city's economic development.

"I want to preserve that money and want to use it for a deal closing fund to attract a large manufacturer; it would be a game changer for Albany," says Langstaff.

Also proposed was an amendment to the charter, requiring the utilities manager to report directly to the city manager. It would require the city to approve WG&L's budget each year. However, the motion was turned down.

"The mayor had asked that she be given some time to get some information from Water, Gas and Light, let us look that information over and then make an informed decision about how we move forward," says Commissioner Chris Pike.

But commissioners agree, there needs to be more oversight in the future.

"Ultimately the taxpayers are responsible for what happens at Water, Gas and Light, and so when they make a decision, whether it be good or bad, it could impact the citizens, it could impact the financial stability of the city," says Pike.

The city will address the matter at a future meeting.