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Putnam commissioner says he lacks confidence in parks budget numbers

By Ryan Quinn, Staff writer

WINFIELD — Putnam County Commission President Steve Andes said Tuesday he “absolutely” lacks confidence in the county Parks Commission’s accounting.

Andes questioned Scott Williamson, the Parks Commission’s director, about apparent budget discrepancies during departments’ quarterly presentations to the county commission. The county commission began requiring the updates from all departments after the recent financial quagmire at the health department.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Andes expressed particular concern about expenses at The Commons, a building at Valley Park in Hurricane that the county commission decided not to buy years ago — but the parks board, which receives funding from the county, decided to buy anyway in 2010.

Andes said The Commons has been losing money for too long and requested Williamson bring before the county commission in 30 days a plan to fix the building’s problems, including mold, which Andes said could lead to lawsuits.

While a budget document for almost the complete 2013-14 fiscal year at The Commons showed $4,300 in year-end profit, Andes said the numbers really came to a $52,400 loss. He pointed out overestimated revenue projections in the budget, including $36,000 for hosting business meetings when The Commons actually made nothing, and $22,000 for rentals when The Commons made less than $10,000.

Williamson, who said the Parks Commission had a $60,000 surplus overall — even though year-end expenditures show a $125,000 loss because of an error — said county commissioners didn’t approve his request to upgrade the building to better attract business meetings.

Andes also pointed out that a budget expense line item for roughly the same period was about $18,200 in the overall parks budget, but $13,400 on The Commons budget.

“What I’m asking is, how does this balance out?” Andes asked.

Williamson blamed discrepancies on accounting software moving amounts into incorrect line items. “We don’t know why,” he said.

Williamson said the county Convention and Visitors Bureau is The Commons’ sole occupant, but a few entities are interested in leasing the building. He said it’s already being rented out to weddings and other events despite its problems, but said the structure would make more money chiefly as corporate space.

Andes told Williamson he also wants the Parks Commission to discontinue plans for large projects until it has completed its master plan for the park system’s future — something Andes said he suggested creating shortly after Williamson became parks director in 2006.

“We’re hiring a group to tell us a master plan, but yet we’re going ahead with a project, and we don’t know whether it’s going to fit in the plan or not?” Andes asked. “ We’re gonna pay big bucks — I don’t know how much, because we haven’t seen it yet — we’re going to pay for a strategic plan but we’re going ahead and planning other things?”

Williamson said he first came up with the idea for a master plan, but the plan hasn’t been ready to move forward until recently because there was no funding. Andes has made providing more county ballparks part of his re-election campaign.

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved allowing the county Board of Zoning Appeals to approve kennels in areas zoned rural residential, which is mostly along the U.S. 35 corridor, County Planner John Butterworth said. He said those interested in building kennels — defined as containing five or more dogs or cats six months or older — on rural residential property can contact the county Office of Planning and Infrastructure. The Board of Zoning Appeals will then consider individual applications based on factors such as noise and proximity to other homes.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.


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