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Quincy audit misses another deadline

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CURT WILKERSON

Times Correspondent

Quincy City Commissioner Derrick Elias motioned to renegotiate the terms of City Manager Jack McLean’s contract at the Dec. 10 meeting of the Quincy City Commission. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Andy Gay and will be placed on the agenda for the Jan. 14 commission meeting.

The motion came after members of the commission expressed concern over the continued delay of the city’s internal audit.

“This is almost to the point of ridiculous,” said Gay. “The audit gives us the nuts and bolts to provide oversight of the city’s finances. It’s highly unusual for a municipality to drag this on for this long; it’s very disturbing and I’m running out of patience.”

McLean maintained that the audit is nearly completed and would be sent to the Watson and Rice auditing firm as soon the Thomas Howell Ferguson accounting firm completes their review.

McLean also reported the city was not able to make payment on the $400,000 line of credit with Capital City Bank and has subsequently been granted an extension through Jan. 28. McLean said the payment, originally scheduled to be made on Dec. 2, was not made because of budget shortfalls.

“The actual amount of money that came in against our estimated budget was $150,000 less than what we expected,” McLean said. “We could have paid something against the line of credit, but I wanted to ensure that we had enough money to make payroll and we were able to do that.”

Later in the evening, Quincy resident Frieda Bass-Prieto addressed the commission, expressing her concern over fees associated with the continued refinancing of a loan from the Florida Department of Revenue and the city’s failure to grant a public records request she had made.

“This is the third time we have renegotiated this loan,” she said. “After last year’s stipulation, we suffered over $50,000 in penalties, interest and fees.” 

Mayor Keith Dowdell responded to her comments.

“A lot of theses issues you can take up with the city manager during regular hours,” Dowdell said. “We are not going to give you the personal satisfaction of trying to embarrass the city of Quincy.”

During a phone interview with the Times, Bass-Prieto reacted to Dowdell’s remarks.

 “I was dumbfounded,” she said. “I’m a concerned citizen, and it’s my right to express my opinion,” said Bass-Prieto, a bookkeeper for 10 years. “We are carrying over day-to-day debt, and my fear is if nothing changes this will snowball. There needs to be a change, and only the commission is capable of doing so.”

Commissioners also:

n Voted to approve full medical retirement benefits to Quincy resident Neil Eitson. Because of a medical condition, Eitson was forced to retire from the utilities department at the age of 58, four years shy of normal retirement age.

n Considered amending the city’s policy to award full retirement and health benefits to employees who retire within four years of normal retirement age because of disability. After deliberation they decided instead to judge all future claims on a case-by-case basis. 

n Approved an amendment that would increase the boundary of the Gadsden County Enterprise Zone, adding three square miles of undeveloped property that has been zoned for commercial use. Businesses that operate within the enterprise zone are eligible for tax incentives from the state of Florida as part of an effort to spur economic growth.