Utility board recommends multi-million-dollar infrastructure upgrades in Albany

Two new projects were recommended by the city's utility board Wednesday. / Mary Green

People who live in Albany could soon be seeing huge infrastructure repairs.

If they're approved by city commissioners, two new projects that were recommended by the city's utility board Wednesday could cost about $45 million to complete.

The first is the installation of an advanced metering infrastructure, or AMI, system, along with upgrades to LED streetlights.

Consultant Greg Johnson of Katama Technologies told the board there are currently several problems with the city's aging utilities infrastructure and that the city will continue to lose money if it does nothing about it.

Johnson said this AMI is a smart, two-way system that allows for communication between individual utility meters and the utility company, Albany Utilities.

The city is also considering an upgrade to LED streetlights because they said the currently light system is outdated and has several failures each day.

The total cost for the combined project would be about $27.5 million, but Johnson said the city would save about $36 million over the next 10 years with these upgrades.

"We're going to be able to be more efficient," Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said. "We're going to be able to know what is happening at the various homes and places where the new meters and the new light information will be installed."

City Manager Sharon Subadan told the board this is a cost the city can afford. She said when they voted to increase utility rates last year, the decision came with the cost of this upgrade in mind.

The other big project the city could soon be paying for is to fix part of the sewer system during an eastside-westside sewer interceptor rehabilitation.

Gulf Coast Underground, the company recommended to complete this work, said some of the pipes in those interceptors are around 50 years old or even older.

Gulf Coast Underground President Spencer Tuell said they'll start by assessing the pipes and their condition with cameras, sonar and lasers. Then he said part of the repair work after that will involve lining the pipes, instead of going underground and completely replacing them. Tuell said that liner has a lifespan of about 50 years.

"It's minimal inconvenience to the taxpayers and the local citizens here in Albany, and it's a much quicker process than if you were to try to dig and relay all of the sewer lines along the Flint River," he said.

The city said the cost for this project could be as much as $15 million, though Tuell said he doesn't expect it to be that much.

City commissioners will still need to give both projects their approval before work can begin.

Voting on the LED streetlights and sewer interceptor rehabilitation is scheduled for next Tuesday, while the AMI system vote will come in August.

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