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Entertaining letters

By   /   August 15, 2012  /   Comments Off

Yesterday, I received an interesting letter in the mail.  In it, Bonnie Jefferson, who uploads articles and columns to the web here at the Journal but is not a journalist, received a letter accusing her of not having done her research regarding a column.  However, the letter was littered with evidence of a poor understanding of the column in question. In addition, Ms. Jefferson’s name only appeared on the article due to a computer anomaly which has been corrected.

The letter, which came from someone sharing the same name as a Water, Gas & Light employee, apparently took issue with my column supporting commissioner Bob Langstaff’s suggestions regarding the utility.  They first direct my attention to the city charter.  However, as they point out, the city charter can be amended.

They also point out that the city manager and the general manager for WG&L are on the same “level”.  I didn’t realize this was a point in contention, seeing as that is a huge part of the problem I noted.  Lem Edwards doesn’t answer to James Taylor, and doesn’t even really answer to the city commission directly – he answers to the WG&L board that happens to be appointed by the city commission…however it requires 2/3 of the commissioner to remove any member of that board.

The fact that tickled me to no end was this comment:

The innuendo that WG&L was not prepared for the clean up[sic] of the manufactured gas plant is ludicrous and uninformed also. The City and WG&L have known about this problem for years, and since 2005 WG&L staff  has been working with Georgia EPD and has a plan in place, mainly because the City deferred this project to WG&L.  WG&L knowing that MEAG was to refund to its rate payers a certain sum in the millions of dollars to be dispersed over ten years, planned to use a portion of that money for the clean up; however the City voted to take two-thirds (2/3) of that money, placing one-third into their general fund and one-third into a Trust Fund for projects that the City chose, might e used.  Take note that the money refunded was padi by WG&L rate payers and is credited to WG&L’s monthly MEAG bill.

The MEAG money was approximately $90 million.  WG&L’s split of that is $30 million.  This is for a cleanup that is expected to cost  upwards of $10 million.  Now, obviously WG&L doesn’t have all of that money, but they clearly should have received enough to have at least prepared for an eventuality that they should have seen coming.  In fact, they did see it coming, noting to me that they have had meetings regarding this for the last four to five years.

However, when the time came, they approached the City of Albany with their hand out, expecting the city’s limited funds to take care of something they knew was coming, yet clearly they didn’t do sufficient planning to deal with.

The letter writer goes on to argue that they have met all requirements necessary for the September 1 deadline, which flies in the face of what WG&L’s Keith Goodin told both the city commission and myself.  You see, from what Mr. Goodin said, the deadline isn’t met.  Goodin said he believes that enough has been done to ask for an extension on the deadline.  That’s a far cry from everything being completed.

Most of the letter attacks the Journal and even commissioner Langstaff, however it doesn’t change what appears clear to the naked eye.  WG&L was not prepared.  If they were, then they wouldn’t have needed to ask the city for money.

The letter makes a threat for higher rates, saying, “WG&L is on track with the clean up, has already met the requirements for the September 1 deadline, and will meet the monetary obligations for the cleanup, even if rates have to be raised to complete the project.” Of course, this was in a letter sent someone she believed to be a member of the press.

Maybe it’s just me, but this smacks of scare tactics, while illustrating much of the problem with WG&L.  The fact is, despite being a part of the City of Albany, they don’t consider themselves as such.  They don’t want to consider themselves as such.  They apparently have a horrible reaction to the idea as well.

Understand this: I did my research, and no fact I presented was actually disputed.  As for whether WG&L was prepared was a matter of opinion.  The letter in question did nothing to sway that opinion, and instead solidified my position that significant changes are needed at WG&L.

On a final note, I’d like to pass along a message to the letter’s author.  If you choose to respond to a column on our website, I urge you to also utilize the address for the Journal’s office which can be found on our website.  Sending that letter to Ms. Jefferson’s home, and a copy to my house, smacks of stalking.  Not a great idea in this day and age.

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