Kingston council in financial dark
by Neil McGahee
Sep 10, 2013 | 2285 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If Kingston had a movie theater, the most popular film might be “Where in the World is Michelle Jones.”

Indeed, it seemed the Kingston city clerk was the only one with the answers to some pertinent questions and she wasn’t there.

A 6 p.m. work session was canceled due to several members saying they weren’t aware the session had been called. At the regular business session, discussions were limited by the council members not knowing the financial condition of the city, especially concerning Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds and water revenues, responsibilities of Jones’ office.

The city had been debating whether to apply for a $1.3 million loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, a state agency that provides interim financing and grants to local governments for infrastructure improvement. The city would apply for a temporary loan from GEFA to be applied to the well system, then after the construction is completed, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture pays off the loan and the city makes payments to the USDA over a long term. However, GEFA requires a notice to proceed be issued by a set deadline or the interest rate jumps by one percentage point.

Some residents were clearly troubled by the idea of incurring such a large debt when the city’s fiscal condition was unknown.

“Like many residents, I am retired and on a fixed income,” Kingston resident Larry Posey said. “I know that you’re trying to approve a resolution for a $1.3 million loan, but I haven’t seen any audit how we stand. How are we going to handle this without raising the rates? And, if we do raise them, how much?”

Council member Chuck Wise also debated the idea of assuming such debt when water revenues have been declining.

“Our water revenues have decreased for the past few years,” he said, “and they are decreasing again this year. So we have to ask what’s causing this decline?”

The council voted to table discussion.

Next the council considered contracting the November city elections to Bartow County Election Supervisor Joseph Kirk’s office for a $4,400 fee, something that didn’t sit well with Mayor Ron Casey.

“I’m not happy with this,” he said. “I don’t like to see government have to pay large amounts of money to hold elections. The fees, we’re looking at $2,090 for absentees in Kingston and $619 on election day. This is going to add up to a good bit more money than what we’re looking at there.”

Kirk replied that his department was contacted because there weren’t enough election volunteers.

“They all quit because of your office,” Casey said, his voice rising. “Did you support that ruckus last week when they called you up to certify and you said you couldn’t?”

Casey was referring to Kirk’s presence in Kingston Friday, Aug. 30, the last day of qualifying in the county. Jones was absent so she could take care of personal business, so she contacted Kirk to act as a notary while Kingston Treasurer Dawn Clark handled the paperwork.

“I was out there acting as a notary because they needed a notary in the office — the normal notary had to step out — and I volunteered to fill in. That’s all it was,” Kirk said.

After a bit of grumbling, council agreed to the contract.