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The judge-executive’s refusal to abide by a motion he voted for to use rent money from the Extension office to pay down debt on the county park has at least one magistrate demanding it be done.
Magistrate Forrest Dale Stevens questioned Judge-Executive Steve Cornish during last Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting, asking him why that rent money isn’t being used to pay park debt.
Cornish, who earlier in the meeting revealed that the county is facing a potential $385,000 shortfall next year, said that motion only requires payment “if the money is available at the end of the year.”
Stevens, who made the motion in September 2008, insisted that no such language was included and, according to a copy obtained last week by The Anderson News, he is right.
The motion only declares that rent money from the Extension office be applied to park debt, and also includes a provision for the $100,000 the fiscal court gave the Extension before allowing it to become its own taxing district to be placed in the road department budget.
During the meeting, Cornish and Stevens went back and forth on the issue, prompting to Cornish to tell Stevens that if he wants it done, he should make a motion and let the fiscal court decide.
“I already made that motion,” Stevens replied, adding that he would check his records and bring the matter up again.
Following the meeting, Stevens said he intends to see that the park debt is paid.
“I already made that motion and I don’t need to make another,” Stevens said. “But I can add to that motion so it’s done monthly, which is better on interest instead of waiting until the end of the year. It can be done, and it won’t be no trouble.”
Cornish, who after the meeting declared that the $385,000 deficit represents “very preliminary” figures, said the county simply cannot afford to make the payments because of its financial situation.
“Making an extra payment on the park debt is a great idea, but we may need that revenue to balance the budget, which must be done by state law,” Cornish said. “We have a couple of court members who lose sight of that.”
Stevens and Magistrate John Wayne Conway have insisted for months that Cornish’s constant stance that the county is facing budgetary shortfalls is not true and that the county will end this year like last with leftover money in its general fund.
“I know what’s going on,” Stevens said. “The judge is moving money around.”
Stevens pointed to FEMA money the county received to cover expenses related to last year’s collapse of Gilbert’s Creek Road. He said that money came in, but was never applied to the road department line items that show the county has already spent 90 percent of what was budgeted.
Instead, he said, that money just goes into the general fund.
“The money comes back in but it doesn’t go to the road department,” he said. “They fool around and don’t do it, but there’s more money there than Cornish is letting on.”
Stevens has also questioned revenue and expenses from concessions at the county park.
“They talk all the time about losing money in the concessions, but they’re not,” Stevens said. “I’ve seen the books, and they’re doubling their money. That money should go back into the park, but it’s going into the general fund.”
Cornish bristled at Stevens’ take that he’s “moving money around.”
“That’s untrue,” Cornish said. “I can’t move money around without the fiscal court and treasurer, and I have never, ever called [County Treasurer] Dudley [Shyrock] and said to move money around.”
Cornish said that FEMA and other funds that come in are logged and turned over to Shyrock for deposit.
“Any money that comes out of the road department goes back in,” he said. “We may not do that immediately, but checks don’t come in immediately.”
Cornish said he takes Stevens’ comments “to heart,” and contends they are harmful for Anderson County.
“I don’t play games like that and I don’t play games with the fiscal court,” he said. “Comments like those do a lot of harm to the community. That’s not moving forward.
“He’s focused on one little thing, but I’m looking at the big picture. I hate it that Forrest Dale can’t come to me and sit down and try to clear this up instead of trying to hash it out once or twice a month during fiscal court meetings or in The Anderson News.”
E-mail Ben Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org.