$500k spending decision deferred

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marshall County Roads Superintendent Jerry Williams has spent half the $1 million borrowed for road repair and has requested support for his plan to spend the other half next year.

"Nobody was informed that it would be three years," Williams said during a recent meeting of the county commission's Budget Committee when further discussion by the full commission was deferred until late this month.

Commissioners borrowed money to supplement the roads department budget under a program that Williams has called traditional and needed for maintenance to prevent the need for major repair jobs.

But Williams contends his department got the money with the understanding that it could be spent in two years, not three.

"So we started spending this in 2010," Williams said in a reference to the 2010-11 fiscal year that started in the summer last year and ended more than three months ago.

Commissioner Mickey King, a member of the budget committee for several years, had a different recollection on the spending plan.

"We had a discussion in the hall at the last budget session and Sheldon (Davis, another commissioner) said it was for three years," King said during committee discussion Sept. 22.

Williams advised budget committeemen, "We'll have $400,000 for 2013."

The roads superintendent again complained about a lack of notification - a memo documenting the three-year spending plan.

"A document like this needs to be faxed to ... the (roads) office," Williams said.

King replied that situation can be fixed, but borrowed money for maintenance must be spent over a longer period of time.

"Budget-wise," King said, "we need to stretch it out for three years."

Williams enumerated spending on asphalt, pipe and other supplies, and he explained personnel training issues, adding that if he could spend the $1 million in two years, "I won't be asking for nothing next year."

The spending decision request was discussed four days before the Sept. 26 commission meeting and budget director Freda Terry pointed out that if the decision was to be made then, commissioners would have to suspend the rules for a change in the agenda to consider something that had not been advertised as a topic for the meeting.

"If you suspend the rules," King interjected, "people won't know about it."

The public is to be informed about what commissioners are to discuss and decide.

While Commissioner Tom Sumners was willing to have the committee vote to recommend the full commission deal with Williams' request on Sept. 26, he withdrew a motion to that effect as other commissioners saw the spending issue as needing more public awareness.

Commissioner E.W. Hill agreed with King.

"Who knows where the economy is going to be in two years?" King asked.

The Budget Committee unanimously voted to recommend that Williams' request be considered when the commission meets at 6 p.m. Monday Oct. 24.