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Tensions rise at budget meeting
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Tempers flared at Thursday’s Warren County Commission Budget & Finance Committee meeting. The emotions ran high after Mark Brown asked the county commissioners for $250,000 to help fund the Industrial Development Board.
“When you put 3.5 million dollars in something and nothing happens in 4 years, I think the taxpayers want to know what we’re doing,” said Commissioner Terry Bell. According to the financial breakdown given to the board by IDB treasurer Mark Brown, the IDB still has over $3.1 million in checking and savings accounts. Board members want to know why Spec Building 3 has not been built.
When Bell questioned why IDB hasn’t built a new building, Brown said, “We’ve built the pad. Before I was on the board, IDB built a spec building, didn’t put power in it, didn’t put a floor in it, didn’t put utilities in it. For all intents and purposes, it was a big barn. We brought prospects in and nothing happened.”
“You can build a building, put some fans in it and some electric. All you need is a building to show,”  said Commissioner Hershel Wells. “Put you some lights in there. That’s $60,000; put some fans in there. You’ve got the money to build the building. Build it. You do have the money. You know that,” Wells commented.
“You’ve got the money to build a building. And if it takes as long as it did last time to get anybody in it, we’ll all be gone before we get it filled,” Wells stated.
“Well, we’ve spent it,” said Brown, “I’m counting the money for the next spec building. We built the last spec building according to recommendations by experts in the field and were able to occupy it almost as soon as we had it built.”
Wells and Commissioner Michael Martin also voiced their opinions of efforts by IDB recruiter Jeff McCormick. “Recruiters don’t even see the local factories. We are not getting out our money’s worth right here. We haven’t gotten it,” said Wells.
Wells continued, “Our recruiter doesn’t even visit the local factories. We asked John (County Executive Pelham) to go and visit the local factories and he came back with things we need to know.”
“I haven’t seen any jobs yet. You can’t count what Yorozu’s bringing in. You can’t count what Oster has. People want to know where are the jobs?” asked Martin.
Terry Bell wondered why the county executive doesn’t do the county’s recruiting.
“If he would be willing, I’d be tickled to death to give him money,” said Wells.
Both Martin and Wells stated they will not pay anything as long as Jeff McCormick is the recruiter. “He doesn’t have to go. We just won’t fund him. You all (pointing to Brown) can,” said Wells.
“The only way I can vote for this budget is if you bring me a new recruiter out there,” said Wells while Martin said almost at the same time, “The only way I can vote for this budget is if you bring me a new IDB recruiter in to do the job.”
“The taxpayers are wanting to know what this money is going for,” said Wells, “I’m getting tired of this. Darn tired of it. We are not getting our money’s worth right here. We haven’t gotten it.”
“Gentlemen, because for every dollar you’ve given us in the last six years, we’ve been able to implement $1.67 in improvements by bringing in federal money to match and state money to match what you’ve given us,” said Brown.
“We are requesting to go from 12 cents out of debt service down to two cents on capital monies. Roughly three cents funding the operating expenses are coming from the tax base,” said Brown.
Wells replied, “By resolution that 12 cents goes back into debt service. Should have known you’d be back wanting more. I will not fund that. Not with my vote,” expressed Wells.
“I want to do away with the whole budget today, at least until they come up with a new recruiter and show they are trying to recruit something. I make a motion we don’t give ‘em anything,” proposed Martin.
The commissioners voted 3-1 with Carl Bouldin passing to do away with the entire budget. Committee member Ken Martin was absent. The committee’s proposal to not fund the Industrial Development Board in the coming budget will be presented to the full commission.
Also present at the meeting were Pelham, Commissioner Les Trotman, Finance Director Linda Hillis, IDB board members Greg Brock, Joe Hamby, Levoy Knowles and IDB recruiter McCormick.