Resident questions council about money jars

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

During the regular meeting of the Eminence City Council Monday night, resident Marcia Clark asked just what had become of pool donations made in jars at area businesses.

“What happened to the jars?” she asked. “How much money was collected?”

Eminence Police Chief Carey Duncan reported that — at Mayor Jim Pettit’s request — he questioned Doug Gingrich about the jars.

“Mr. Gingrich explained that the donations from the jars were combined with school-related donations in the case of the money order, and with the benefit concert donations in the case of the check,” Duncan read from a letter to the Mayor Monday night. “When I inquired as to what percentage of each donation from the money order and check — standing alone — was acquired from the jars, he was unable to provide the figures. He related, however, that all donations collected via the jars were included within the same. Mr. Gingrich was unable to provide me with a figure to represent the total amount of donations collected via the jars alone.”

After the meeting, Manda and Doug Gingrich, of the Making Waves committee, issued a statement saying that all money was turned over to City Clerk Sandra Doane either by money order, direct deposit or “donation jar deposited at Craig Meadows’ fundraiser.’

“This is just a ploy by a certain elected official to change the subject about what the city did with the $27,000 raised by Making Waves that the City of Eminence has accepted and hasn’t accounted for,” the statement said.

Doane said the city opened a special account at Farmers Deposit Bank called the City of Eminence - Making Waves, in January. The account is kept separate from all other funds, and documented with a receipt given to the Making Waves Treasurer Brenda Chism. Since the pool commission was disbanded, the city has returned some of the money to contributers, according to Doane. At the time the commission was disbanded, there was approximately $24,000. The current balance is $10,032.75. “We sent out personal letters to everyone who donated telling them that the committee had been disbanded,” and if contributors wanted their money back, it would be returned, Doane said. Doane said some donors requested a refund, some didn’t want their money back and there were a few the city never responded to the letter.

In other business:

• A limited land lease granted since the early 1990’s to Eminence Public Works employee Tim Fitzgerald was a divisive issue at Monday’s meeting. Fitzgerald mows the 14-acre parcel and gathers the hay there. Councilman Richard Thomas questioned the practice. “It seems like a conflict of interest for a city employee,” he said.

Doane commented that Fitzgerald is familiar with the land, uses his own equipment and available. “To my knowledge, it has never been bid out,” she said.

City Attorney Bill Brammell said the land lease has been approved since the early 1990’s. He said that a prior city council had formulated language acceptable under Environmental Protection Agency guidelines allowing authorization for a city employee to operate the city farm concern.

Thomas made a motion to bid out the mowing operations at the site. The motion died for lack of a second.

• Authorization was granted for the mayor to execute necessary documents granting Fitzgerald authorization to continue working the farm operation at the city’s property.

• Under new business, an Eminence City-Wide Yard Sale won the unanimous endorsement of council members. The event will be hosted on Saturday, August 9 to coincide with National Garage Sale Day.

Petitt told the council it will draw visitors to Eminence and give a boost to local merchants. “I think it’s a good thing myself,” he said.

Residents will receive participation information via their water bills. More information also will be upcoming in the Henry County Local.

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