County gets 'clean' audit
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
Jul 03, 2014 | 1098 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mirror Photo / Phillip Williams<br>
CHRIS PRUITT, standing at right, reports to Upshur County Commissioners that his auditing firm, Patillo, Brown and Hill, LLP, gave the county a “clean” opinion, the highest rating possible, on its outside audit.
Mirror Photo / Phillip Williams
CHRIS PRUITT, standing at right, reports to Upshur County Commissioners that his auditing firm, Patillo, Brown and Hill, LLP, gave the county a “clean” opinion, the highest rating possible, on its outside audit.
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A Waco certified public accounting firm which performed the 2013 audit report for Upshur County issued a “clean” opinion on both the county’s financial statements and its compliance — and the county is heading in the “right direction” financially, a representative of the firm told the County Commissioners Court on Monday.

The financial statements were found “free of material misstatement,” and the clean opinion is “the highest opinion we can give you,” said Chris Pruitt of Pattillo, Brown and Hill, LLP. In addition, he said, “I’m happy to say nothing (wrong) came to our attention” in the audit on compliance, which partly involves controls to protect the county’s assets.

Asked by Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner if the county’s financial situation had improved, Pruitt said yes. He also said the county took in more revenue than expected and spent less than anticipated.

The county’s retirement plan is 86 percent funded, and in better shape than most counties, Pruitt added.

He also said County Auditor Brandy Lee “has done an excellent job,” and that his firm will miss County Treasurer Myra Harris, who retires at year’s end.

Since the court had already accepted the audit at a prior meeting, it took no action on Pruitt’s report.

In other action Monday, the court approved documents related to receiving a grant from the Texas Historical Commission Courthouse Preservation Program.

County Judge Dean Fowler said the construction cost for improvements to the 77-year-old courthouse is $227,000, half of which must be provided by the county in matching funds for the grant. He said the project will involve digging up the foundation around the building, resealing so water can’t permeate, installing a French drain system, and repairing part of the roof.

The court approved a Funding Agreement, Grant of Easement, Source of Funds Statement and Verification, Acknowledgement of Project Manual and Resolution pertaining to the grant program.

In other business Monday, the court voted 3-0, with two commissioners abstaining, not to accept a road in the Woodland Estates Subdivision into the county road inventory until the thoroughfare is restored to the same condition as in 2008.

“I can’t in good faith take the road in. The finished grade is pretty bad,” County Road Administrator Andy Jordan told the court before its vote.

He said the approximately half-mile thoroughfare didn’t meet county specifications now nor in the past, and that asphalt is less than a half- inch thick in places. Putting traffic on the road could tear it to “pieces,” and it needs a repaving of asphalt, Jordan asserted.

In addition, a cul-de-sac on the road must be revamped to enable a school bus to turn around, the road administrator said.

Roads which are proposed for county maintenance are placed on a waiting list for at least two years before the court votes on accepting them. The road in question was put on the list in 2008, said Jordan, and “My personal opinion is it should not have gone on the waiting list.”

Neither Jordan nor any of the four current commissioners was in office in 2008. Fowler, who was, said, “We had a road administrator stand in front of us and say that the road met specs.” (The judge did not identify the administrator.)

Fowler said people who bought lots in the road area are having trouble selling them because legal documents don’t say who will maintain the road. He asked Jordan what it would take to restore the road to its condition in 2008, and the administrator replied, “Fix several blowouts and cracks.”

Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka then moved to reject accepting the road until it is restored to its 2008 condition. Since two commissioners abstained, Fowler, who rarely votes other than to break ties, joined Hefner and Berka in approving the motion.

After the meeting, Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer told The Mirror he declined to vote because one of his relatives owns the subdivision. Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry said she abstained because her family was once involved in litigation that might have posed a conflict of interest for her in voting.

On another matter Monday, the court took no action on the possibility of contracting with a cleaning crew on a part-time basis after discussing the issue with county Maintenance Supervisor Chuck Mears.

Mears said his department is “desperately understaffed right now” because one employee is ill, and another who has just been hired part-time to supervise janitorial services must receive schooling before handling county jail inmates who aid in cleaning public areas of buildings.

The supervisor raised the possibility of employing a certain firm to clean for 12 days in July for $997.68, which he said would be only $10 or $11 more than the county now spends..

He said that would be a temporary measure until the employee undergoing schooling passes the state examination to receive a jailer’s license. Mears said the public restrooms and hallways in certain county buildings need sweeping, mopping and cleaning.

Spencer said another option would be having a female jailer supervise female inmates doing the cleaning. Mears said having a retired female jailer do that would be a “perfect fit.”

When Fowler asked if he had talked to any other cleaning services besides the one mentioned, Mears said no, but that he could seek other bids. He said he had understood law didn’t require bids for the amount of funds which would be involved in his proposal, and that the county budget has funds for it.

He said tabling the matter would be fine since “it’s not an emergency,” and the court simply took no vote.

Also Monday, the court approved several routine items ranging from paying the bills to approving budget amendments. As he has at recent meetings, Berka abstained on commissioners’ 3-0 vote to approve the payroll. He has complained about voting on the matter, saying employees are paid before the court votes on it.
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