I would like to thank the Randolph County Commission and Brenda Wiseman for their timely response to the issues and concerns expressed by their constituents. Time in the Dec. 19 meeting did not allow for rebuttal to their response, so I will take this opportunity to do so. I would like to thank those concerned citizens who attended this meeting with me. I will say that we left the meeting with more questions than answers.
The first and main issue that was brought to their attention was the financial standing of the county. The term I used to point out the amount of funds in the general account as well as the cash on hand in the office and checkbook is irrelevant to the fact that the monies exist at the commissioners' discretion. The commission and sheriff spoke of these funds being budgeted. This is true; however, a budget is only as good as those distributing the funds from that budget. The $4.6 million in the "cash management" account as well as the $39,000 in the checkbook and the $10,000 in the sheriff's office are all available for the discretionary spending of the commission and the sheriff.
I have seen this discretionary spending in a number of commission meetings I have attended. It is this discretionary spending that I pointed out in regard to the hotel/motel tax, the Humane Society and the VFD. I have seen budgeted funds taken from the coal severance tax, the hotel/motel tax, and other funds to be spent at the commission's discretion. It is with this discretionary spending that I, as well as other citizens, take issue.
Mr. Taylor stated that the commission has not spoken to the issue of raising taxes. I question this statement. The possibility was presented by Mr. Taylor when the 2012 budget was presented to the public. Also, several times in the course of answering the issues I raised, the commission stated that taxes would have to be raised to meet these concerns. Maybe for the sake of the VFD, tourism and the sheriff's office, the budget and the commission's discretionary spending should be revisited.
As for the issues raised regarding the Humane Society and the Harman/Whitmer EMS, these concerns were redirected from the commission. I will be contacting the Humane Society Board of Directors regarding why animals are turned away, why dogs are being sold and the other concerns expressed. I will also be contacting the Ambulance Authority regarding the accessibility of emergency services in the Harman/Whitmer area. I still have questions as to why the county commission does not take a more active role in these issues.
I appreciate the letter of explanation Brenda Wiseman provided regarding the purging of the voter registration. I will be contacting Secretary of State, Natalie Tennant, to find out what more can be done in regard to this matter.
As for the question of separation of church and state, this is not a constitutional issue. The matter of public meetings being opened in prayer has been a settled issue for quite some time. Several of our county agencies, such as the school board and the VFD, open in public prayer. I will provide Michael Parker, the county's attorney, with documentation regarding this issue. There are local pastors from various denominations that are quite willing to open the meetings in prayer. I trust the commission will reconsider this issue.
The commission made a very important point which I would like to challenge the public to consider. No matter what time or date the commission sets their meetings, very few citizens attend. What takes place in these meetings affects our communities and our families. I would like to challenge the citizens of Randolph County to be more educated and involved in what is taking place in our courthouse, statehouse and White House.