By Jeff Jobe
I have found that in most things in life we need a healthy dose of reality and just plain common sense. These are the qualities that resonate with me because I can either embrace the thought, seek answers to help clarify it, or discredit it.
Examples of this over the past few years have been the Glasgow Electric Plant Board rate structure and building a $6.5 million water park.
My initial questions regarding “Infotricity” were to clarify the program for our readers because it seemed confusing and strangely this was the approach to selling it: “It’s just too confusing, so you just have to trust me.”
I never dreamed I would be stepping into the hornets’ nest I was in by simply trying to understand the billing system and offer comparisons of our rates to other Kentucky communities.
Heck, they even tried to sue me and hired an attorney for recommendations on how to make me go away. Wouldn’t it be common sense to just provide rate comparisons so that we all could see how wonderful this program was if, indeed, it was that good?
When the water park project initially came about, I was astounded that anyone would even consider borrowing $6.5 million for such a project. It just didn’t make sense to me then, nor does it now.
The underlying movement at that time was to use money some identified as surplus in two accounts within the city budget, line items 085 and 089.
I didn’t look into these accounts at that time because we had new leadership in Mayor Harold MD Armstrong and long serving Council members like Wendell Honeycutt and even a new Councilman with common sense in Terry Bunnell. They asked enough questions and raised concern. So, it went away.
We now see the same Councilman, Patrick Gaunce, once again speak of using the surplus in line items 085 and 089 to help partially fund a portion of the old water park project repackaged as a Downtown Amphitheater and Farmer’s Market private/public project.
Months ago, I had asked our mayor, his city attorney and others before them and was told this money couldn’t be used for anything other than the specific issues they were designated.
But now this new movement has a new face for the Downtown Park effort, Wes Simpson, and he is repeatedly saying that there is money, enough money sitting in a reserve being used as a “rainy day fund”. He said it is his belief that this is, indeed, a rainy day. I agree.
I agree because we are about to go into a rainy season like we haven’t seen before. I’m proud that our newspaper was alone in reporting an estimated $450,000 shortfall in revenue, another $250,000 increase in health and pension costs annually and another expected $2.5 to $3 million in equipment needs over the next few years.
I’ve never been more appreciative that Mayor Armstrong and Councilmen Honeycutt and Bunnell are not politically timid. It seems they may be the only ones with the courage to speak up regarding common sense leadership.
Common sense tells us that either Glasgow will need to budget raising taxes, cutting services, laying off city workers, or using reserve funds to weather this storm.
Without a doubt, our city must question every penny spent and use any reserve we have to protect taxpayers, services offered, and the families of our city workers.
Seeing a need for this reserve, I requested any documentation regarding these specific accounts. I have found that the 085 account is identified as “landfill and sanitation”. I’m told this is the account that the complete operation for our landfill and garbage pickup is managed. Things like new trucks, buying new land, and opening cells for this operation will come out of this account.
The most recent audit shows a positive balance of $7,829,504 in the 085 account. Clearly, no money can be expensed from this account without it being associated with this specific need.
Now, the 089 account is identified as the “post closure account” and this account has a specific purpose which is to hold a reserve that would completely close or repair our landfill in the event of discontinued approval of use or disaster. The approval process states clearly that this amount should be based on the most costly means possible. Perhaps this means transporting all the waste we have to another site and assuring our land was back to its original environmentally acceptable state. No money can legally be expensed through this account for anything other than this purpose.
This account shows a positive balance on the most recent audit of $4,468,867.
On the surface, this would be bad news for Gaunce, Simpson, taxpayers, and city employees because this money might have a better use than building a reserve.
Yet, my friends at the Kentucky League of Cities explained that each year our mayor proposes a budget to our City Council and they work together to approve a workable plan.
If our mayor or those in the future would be so inclined to move $2 million from these accounts to pay for a specific project like the Downtown Park or use it to assure no tax increases, the elimination of services, and protection of our city employees because of the 700K immediate hit to our community, they can do so.
Without a doubt, Glasgow is blessed to have had leadership in the past that allowed these funds to build instead of wiping them clean as clearly some are trying to do. The rainy day is, indeed, here in Glasgow.
Jeff Jobe is founder and CEO of Jobe Publishing, Inc. His commentary reflects his personal views and does not reflect the views of personal or professional associations and affiliations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his previously published commentary at sckentucky.com