The Mayor of Letona, Mr. Sherrel Bennett, called me a little upset after reading Judge Parish’s letter last week outlining how Judge Mike Lincoln has been paving roads inside incorporated cities–a claim that everyone seems to agree on. The disagreement seems to come when we start discussing who is paying for these improvements: Mr. Parish says the county is paying for the improvements, at the expense of all county taxpayers. Mr. Bennett says the city reimbursed the county.
I made a follow-up call to Mr. Parish after talking to Mr. Bennett. He said whether or not the city pays for the improvements is irrelevant, contending that it is illegal for the county to essentially act as a contractor and do jobs-for-hire for cities–something I suspect local contractors might be a little upset about, whether it is legal or not.
Now, I do not pretend to have the answer to these legal questions. It is something I have intended to research but have not had time. Perhaps one of our legal-minded readers can weigh in. But I did tell Mr. Bennett that I would allow him to give his side of the story if he would submit something in writing. Below is the text of his letter.
Mr. Bennett told me he could provide receipts for the work that the county did for his city, showing that they had reimbursed the county. I am yet to receive those receipts and was going to wait to post this letter until I received them, but at least one reader has already accused me of ‘sitting’ on this story until after the election, so I am happy to go ahead and post it (I don’t think he realizes that it’s much worse for Judge Lincoln for me to post this without having any receipts to prove that the work was paid for by the city and not simply done with county money as a favor).
You may remember that Judge Lincoln’s challenger, businessman Bill Haynie, raised this issue in their debate last month and told attendees that he had requested receipts for the work some of this work under the Freedom of Information Act, but he was told the records had been destroyed. Judge Lincoln admitted in the debate to “assisting all cities with their roads.”
Mr. Bennett also told me that his city couldn’t afford to pay for road improvements–their turn-back money from the state only totals around $1,600 per year and “you can’t fix many potholes for $1,600.” So, I’m not exactly sure where the city came up with the money for the improvements to allegedly pay the county for the work. I guess we will wait and see if the receipts surface.
May 18, 2012
I have read Mr Parish’s letter and I cannot attest for Judsonia but, Letona has NEVER had the County to open
or build any streets in Letona. We pay the County to chip seal our streets because no one else in White County
does chip seal. The streets that Mr. Parish is talking about was chip sealed when he was County Judge. For some
reason people think that the tax money that people pay in the small towns are not as good as what is paid in the
County but, our money is as good as anyone elses. We pay to have chip sealing done the same as the state or
anone else and is paid by City funds and not by County.
Mayor Sherrel Bennett, Letona
UPDATE: Mr. Bennett has provided a billing statement that shows he was billed for the work done in his county by the city. The total amount of work done is just over $15,100. So we can say for sure that Judge Lincoln did pave some roads inside the city of Letona. We still cannot say for sure if this was legal. Other questions that remain:
- Why didn’t the city of Letona pay for labor costs associated with this project?
- Where did the city of Letona get $15,100 to pay for these improvements?
- Did the city of Letona put this work out for bid?
Perhaps Mr. Bennett has these answers for us.