By CHRIS MENEES
There are currently more questions than answers regarding an excess of over $98,000 in a City of South Fulton account designated as ambulance fund.
Until some questions are answered, members of the South Fulton City Commission want the funds to stay put.
The excess funds were discussed at a recent meeting of the Twin City Ambulance Board, where departing Fulton city manager Steven Freedman, presiding board chairman at the time, was authorized to send a letter to the City of South Fulton requesting receipt of the money from the fund.
He told the ambulance board he had spoken with South Fulton city manager Debra Craig about a month ago about the money in the account and Mrs. Craig indicated the city is researching the matter to determine the exact source of the money.
In South Fulton, $10 per month ambulance subscriptions are collected on customers’ utility bills; on those bills, customers are able to view the amounts owed for water, gas, sewer, refuse and ambulance. City officials have explained all money collected by the city goes into one account and the city’s computer software divides the funds into various designations.
Thursday evening, South Fulton Mayor David Crocker said he did not appreciate the “demanding” tone of Freedman’s letter to the city. He said the city is continuing to research the source of the excess funds and, so far, hasn’t been able to get a concrete answer.
City commissioner Jeff Vowell claimed the letter makes “a foolish assumption” that the funds were collected and not passed on to the ambulance board, but he said there is no evidence of that in an audit which was conducted. He said if something was amiss and the city had been trying to benefit, the funds would not have been placed in an account specifically designated as ambulance fund or openly disclosed from the audit.
Vowell said the city doesn’t yet know the source of the funds and he said it would be “ridiculous” to hand over the money without more extensive research. He said it all comes down to how payments are dispersed among the items billed on a utility bill, and he said things to be considered include what happens when customers make partial payments for utilities owed or pay late fees, the budget billing option and how the city’s accounting software makes divisions in funds.
He said the city’s software issues “are our issue” and he said there is not any conspiracy against the ambulance service. He said if it can be proven for certain the funds belong to the ambulance, a check will be cut; but he said the funds can’t be taken based on “a belief.”
“We’ve gone above and beyond to support the ambulance service,” Vowell said.
Crocker said the money will not be turned over until the city finds out for certain “how it got there.” He said the city has not tried to hide the fund and said it has been mentioned several times in the past.
Ambulance board member John “Pete” Algee of South Fulton said he voted against sending the letter to South Fulton because he wanted to give city officials the opportunity to check into the matter. He urged them to check into it further and not to “kick it under the table.”
The financially-distressed Twin City Ambulance Service was acquired earlier this year by Parkway Regional Hospital in Fulton after much discussion last year among Fulton, South Fulton, Fulton County, Ky., and Hickman, Ky., governments and citizens about how to keep the service operational.
In other action during Thursday evening’s 45-minute meeting, which was opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer led by city attorney Karl Ivey, the South Fulton City Commission:
• Approved the second and final reading of an ordinance to call an election for Nov. 6 to elect two city commissioners and the mayor at-large for four-year terms. The commission seats are those from Districts 1 and 4, currently held by Charles Moody and Vowell, respectively.
• Approved a resolution authorizing application for Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant funds for a proposed park in South Fulton’s downtown area. Jeff Campbell, who has been active in many revitalization projects in the Twin Cities, recently presented the commission with an exciting proposal for a much-needed community park and offered to personally provide the matching funds for the grant.
• Approved a resolution adopting a tentative budget for the fiscal year 2012-13. The commission has not yet adopted a budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year and, according to the resolution, it appears circumstances will prevent the adoption of a budget by the beginning of the new fiscal year.
In the meantime, the resolution adopted by the commission specifies the appropriations of the 2011-12 fiscal year budget will become the appropriations of the tentative 2012-13 fiscal year budget. No more than one-twelfth of any line item may be expended per calendar month by each department without approval from the commission until the final 2012-13 fiscal year budget is adopted.
The commission had met in called session at noon Thursday to consider a 2012-13 preliminary budget review and an insurance proposal. Mrs. Craig said Thursday evening another budget meeting will be scheduled soon.
She also noted the city’s audit for the year ending 2011 has not yet been completed by the certified public accounting firm of Joe M. Enoch & Associates and she said proceeding with the budget process is difficult without it.
• Approved a resolution making budget amendments for the fiscal year ending 2012 to amend various funds to reflect actual expenditures.
• Took no action on a request from the city’s Industrial Development Board for a resolution regarding in-lieu-of tax payments.
• Was informed some street resurfacing is being done with infrared technology. Mrs. Craig said it is hoped more streets can be resurfaced in the next fiscal year.
• Learned the city’s rural fire subscription program letters have been mailed out. Payments from subscribers will be accepted July 1-15.
• Heard concerns from Willow Drive resident Delores Hartsfield regarding unkempt property in her neighborhood and areas where weeds have been allowed to grow. Crocker said the city will look at the right-of-way to see what can be cut and will look at any private properties to determine what action can be taken against the owners.
Commissioners Moody and Tony Perry were absent from Thursday evening’s meeting.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 6.29.12