2017-08-17 / Front Page

City mourns ‘tough day’ but gets favorable report on annual audit

By SPARKY NEWSOME
editor and publisher

At the end of a day which began with a tragic murder, the Washington City Council remembered the victim, Frederick Cade, with a moment of silence and with special words offered as part of the prayer of invocation. Likewise, Kip Burke, long-time reporter for this newspaper who covered city council meeting for many years, was remembered in the same way.

“It’s a tough day,” Washington Mayor Ames Barnett said. He knew both men well, Burke because of his reporting, and Cade because the two had been in high school together.

“We take a loss like that seriously in our community and I take it seriously,” Barnett said. “I heard some comments like ‘if we had a police department it wouldn’t have happened.’ But you know, there may be things we could do differently to make it not as bad, but politicizing it is not the answer.”

The mayor pointed out that even in the four years prior to the disbanding of the city’s police department, there were three murders and one attempted murder. “Since then there have been three murders in town,” he said. “The one today seems like a domestic dispute and something that’s been going on for two weeks.” Offering preventative advice, he added, “If you hear something that’s going on and it’s two weeks old, call somebody and let us know so we can address it.

“We will make sure we are doing what we can to keep these kids safe,” Barnett continued. “There have been some drug busts and some arrests, and when something like this happens, I pick up the phone and call the sheriff. I have good rapport with the sheriff and I have confidence in what he is doing. He’s doing a good job.”

Open to any possibility, the mayor promised that he is “committed to making this a safe place to live and I will continue to look at it.”

On a similar note, Terry Lane asked to address the council and its visitors. She asked nothing of the city in particular but her words were powerful and drew spontaneous applause from those in attendance. Most of what she said is included in the following quotation.

“We have a storm coming and it’s going to be a big one. I can see it coming. I have been home for 15 years and in those 15 years I have seen a decline in morale and spirit. “One thing that’s getting ready to hit is these gangs. They’re coming. And they’re going to be coming faster because there is nothing here for these kids to do. I’ve had to deal with a gang before. [in Atlanta, FOLKS – Followers Of Lord King Satan] I had to deal with a gang task force because my daughter joined a gang and I almost lost my life trying to get her out of the gang.

“There are kids around here who are not being guided properly and I put the responsibility on the parents. It’s the parents’ job first before the police have to get involved. Parents should police their own children, know what their children are doing, know who their friends are. Put your foot down and stop letting your kids run over you.

“We are all family and if we do not step up now and put a stop to it, it’s going to get ugly. Washington is too nice a place, it’s too wonderful to let this type of element come in and take over. We need to come together.

“We need to stop with this ‘no snitching,’ because that’s what gets people killed.

“If you know that your child is doing something wrong and you can’t stop them as a parent, then you are obligated to tell the police. I had to put my daughter in juvenile just to save her life.

“I’m not trying to scare you, I’m just telling the truth. Start policing your children or they’re going to kill us.”

Turning more toward a tone of business, the City of Washington got a good report from its auditor, Sam Latimer of Rushton and Company, who presented and summarized a 121-page report at Monday’s regular meeting of the City Council. “You’re doing well, very much like most cities right now,” he reported. “Your revenues are up and your electric bills are up quite a bit.”

The annual financial report covered the year which ended December 31, 2016, and came after months of analysis and accounting.

“Your cash is up about $480,000 which is very positive,” Latimer continued. “Another very positive thing is your net position – that’s when you take assets minus all your liabilities – it went up $775,000 this year. So your total net position for the City of Washington is $17,600,551. That is your net equity, which is very good.”

There were two deficiencies included in the report which dealt with problems concerning water and sewer inventory, and a lack of documentation for traffic tickets in the city.

“While performing audit procedures on water and sewer inventory,” the report said, “we noted incorrect pricing data on the inventory listing … Management should review and update inventory item costs to reflect accurate values.” The report further noted that City of Washington staff members took immediate action to review and update inventory item costs.

Since the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office handles law enforcement in the city, documentation for traffic tickets issued inside the city limits is not always received by the city and auditors were unable to perform audit procedures on those citations. The report pointed out that “failure to maintain adequate supporting documentation for traffic citations issued by county officers exposes the city to a greater risk of loss due to fraud.”

City management intends to work with the county toward a solution to the problem, according to the report.

“Who knows, the county could be getting money on tickets that are for the city. If that happens, that’s not very good,” Latimer said.

In other business, Barnett appointed Cheri Turney to the Senior Citizens Center Advisory Board and Gail Boyd to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The mayor also reported that the city is working on developing incentives to help attract new businesses and support existing businesses. He further reported that plans for the new fire station have been finalized and that plans for a new city shop are included in that arrangement.

“We’re moving ahead with that project and it’s going to happen fast,” Barnett said.

The council approved an updated version of its alcohol ordinance which will take effect as of September 15. A copy of the ordinance is available for review at City Hall.

Councilman Maceo Mahoney expressed some concern over signage on Tutt Street for the cemetery there. He had similar concerns over cemetery signage on Hospital Drive and School Street. He asked, if there is not money already in the budget to update the signage, that it be added at the next possible time.

Mahoney also commented that the makeup of the Planning and Zoning Board should reflect the demographics of the city, pointing out that no residents of District One are members of that board. He asked that that be kept in mind when appointments are made.

Councilman Marion Tutt reminded those in attendance of the upcoming job fair for the new Regional Youth Detention Center. He strongly emphasized the need for Washington and Wilkes County residents to seek those jobs. “They want to hire our people first, but if we don’t show up, they will get their people from somewhere else,” he said. Tutt urged potential applicants to show up in business attire and with proper résumés.

At the request of City Administrator Sherri Bailey, the council approved the installation of speed bumps on Favor Avenue and Center Street. Bailey had produced petitions signed by residents living on those streets. Installation is pending advertisement of the proposal.

Use of The Square was approved for the Washington-Wilkes Primary School Color Run on September 9, and for the WORD Bible Study on October 7 from 6-9 p.m.

Road closing was approved for the W-WCHS homecoming parade set for September 21.

A resolution for Home Program Income Policies and Procedures was approved.

At the end of the meeting council members went into Executive Session to discuss a real estate matter and a personnel matter.

The next regular meeting of the Washington City Council will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, September 11, at The Pope Center.

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