Financial reporting and communication
Written by Jerry E. Halmon   

Better financial reporting and better communications were cited as keys to improving the relationship between Bamberg County Council and the County’s Fire Service at Monday night’s November County Council meeting.

In a Fire Advisory Board update Bamberg County Council Chairman Chris Wilson noted that Council had heard how the County’s ISO Rating had been “coming down” which he noted “saved most citizens in the county money on their fire insurance” and council was under the impression that things were getting “much better.”

But after reading articles over a two week period in The Advertizer-Herald where some “issues and concerns” were raised and “questions directed at council,” Wilson noted that things are getting better but there are some things the fire chiefs feel can be done better.

“I feel there was a lack of communication between the fire board and previous administration,” Wilson said, adding “there should be open communication between the fire board and council if there are big issues like money and finances.”

One of the concerns expressed by firefighters was that money was being spent on things other than fire service, Wilson noted. Accounts were provided to the fire service dating back to 2008 to show how the money has been spent over the years on the fire service.

Wilson noted that the problem with money being spent in the fire service is two-fold.

“We have additional expenditures going on now. We’ve added a fire coordinator position and millage was not raised to take into account the additional expenditures. So the amount of money being received on the fire service remained the same and the amounts of expenditures have gone up.”

Wilson noted money in the fire service “reserve” will not continue to support the fire service and that resulted in some concern that it may result in the elimination of the fire coordinator’s position.

“That was not the plans of council at this time to eliminate the coordinator’s job,” Wilson said, adding that he thought the fire coordinator did “a good job” in obtaining grants and bring down the county’s ISO Rating and “causing service to be better.”

Wilson highlighted a number of goals to improve the line of communications between the fire service and county council including making sure every month the fire advisory board meets that they receive a monthly financial report. Scott Brown, Clear pond fire chief and chairman of the fire advisory board, who was in attendance at Monday night’s meeting, said “I appreciate that, we appreciate your support.”

Also during Monday night’s meeting:

Bamberg County’s new Administrator Joey Preston was introduced to County Council. Chairman Wilson described Preston a person who brings “a ton of skills and a ton of experience” to his new job. Preston he noted has a reputation “for getting things accomplished.” “Bamberg County is very lucky to have Joey Preston to come to work with us,” Wilson said. Wilson also thanked interim administrator Booker Patrick for his willingness to come out of retirement and help county in a time of need.

Preston said he was “looking forward to working with the people of Bamberg County.” In the financial report, finance director Thomas M. Thomas reported collections for October 2012 amounted to $1,939,029. Thomas noted that revenues compared to expenditures this fiscal year is at a current deficit of $9,000 which is a smaller deficit than in previous months. Part of the reason for the smaller deficit is the influx of approximately $220,000 in local government fund supplement money.