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August 8, 2002 Issue

Pantry helpers...
Members of the Jefferson County High School Key Club help with stocking shelves and freezers and carrying out groceries for customers at the Louisville Food Pantry on Nelms Street.

Wadley late with paychecks

City had to transfer funds to meet payroll four days late for its 22 employees

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Financial problems spanning more than a year finally caught up with the City of Wadley Aug. 1 when the city failed to meet payroll for its 18 full-time and four part-time employees. Though employees were paid Monday from other city funds, the city faces impending turnoff notices and another payday on Aug. 15.

Indignation was less evident when city employees received paychecks compared to the atmosphere outside city hall late last Thursday and again Friday morning, with employees saying they were upset about not being notified that they would not be paid and questioning how city finances could have gotten so bad.

"The decent thing to do would have been to meet with us and let us know," said one city employee, who asked not to be identified. "Why didn't the people who sit around the council table do something before now?"

Current status
Requests by some council members in past months, and as recently as a July 24 called meeting, to take what were called painful steps to alleviate the financial hemorrhage have not been fully supported by everyone at the council table.

The $20,000 Aug. 1 payroll was made by combining money in the general fund with $11,000 from the city's Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) account and $151.80 from the Building Fund for Special Projects account, according to Mayor Herman Baker and City Clerk Sallie Adams. Wadley also faces financial obligations that reside beyond the area of payroll. Accounts receivable records show the city with $126,000 in past due bills, including cutoff notices for electricity and phone service. Georgia Power is currently owed $18,681. Bell South is owed $5,988.

Baker, always displaying an air of optimism, said Monday that he hopes to have a definite plan of action within a few days. He did not reference the possibility of job cutbacks, as was indicated during a Friday interview.

Since January, the need to fashion a plan to address Wadley's financial problems and forestall a possible collapse of city government has been introduced on different occasions by three council members.

The city has implemented a number of cost-cutting measures in previous months but the call to adopt a comprehensive fiscal plan has not been allowed by Baker to be put in the form of a motion. The city charter gives the mayor the prerogative to allow or disallow a motion from the council.

"We're still in this shape because we didn't do the things we should have done at the beginning of the year," said Finance Committee Chairwoman and Bank of Wadley President Edith Pundt. "I'm sorry to say it, but the mayor didn't take action on the recommendations. And it is also unfortunate that we inherited so many bills from last year."

During the July 24 called meeting to adopt the $1,039,850 budget for FY 2002, and at earlier meetings, Pundt presented a proposal to help secure an operating loan to finish out the year.

She said the city must develop and implement a plan that would demonstrate to a lending institution that the city would be capable of repaying the loan by the time of the Dec. 31 due date.

The severity of the city's financial crisis would require probable cutbacks in jobs or restructuring job responsibilities so that some full-time positions would go to part-time or to have employees work alternating weeks so that they could collect unemployment, Pundt said.

Baker did not ask for a motion to pursue the plan but did ask the council to be prepared at the Aug. 12 meeting to bring suggestions on how to respond to the financial dilemma. He also asked for a motion to apply for a bank loan totaling $125,000. The motion passed with a 3-2 vote but as late as Friday afternoon no plan had been developed or implemented.

Baker took an opinion letter from the city attorney to the bank at 3 p.m. Friday, but the letter states only that the city has legal authority to borrow money provided it meets all applicable legal criteria. The opinion letter alone does not constitute a loan request, said Pundt.

Questions remain whether the maximum amount that can be borrowed, approximately $180,000, would be enough to carry the city through until Jan. 1 even when combined with revenues expected to be generated through Dec. 31.

Historic problems
Wadley's finances today are linked to its past and the fiscal crisis is a carryover of the reality the city has faced for more than a year.

On July 5, 2001 the council was informed that Wadley had approximately $120,000 in past due bills.

Pundt, City Clerk Sallie Adams and bookkeeper Sharon Kitchens reported that anticipated revenues for the remaining half of 2001 would total $348,000 while expenditures would likely total $467,000. Combined with delinquencies, the city would need approximately $239,000 to break even on Dec. 31.

Addressing the status of city finances, then-Mayor pro tem Albert Samples reminded the council that the situation had not gotten that way overnight, an apparent reference to the administration of the late Mayor B.A. Johnson who died in office weeks earlier.

Attempts by the city in late summer 2001 to obtain an operating loan were unsuccessful.

The council laid off three city employees but took no other action to cut expenses. Turnoff notices from utility companies and other creditors were common throughout 2001.

Throughout the remainder of his term that expired Dec. 31, requests made by some council members to address the issues were always acknowledged as vital by Samples but were not allowed to be put in the form of a motion.

The city ended the year with more than $206,000 in delinquent bills.

Former preacher charged with sex abuse

Grady O. Kemp Sr., of Wadley, held in Lyons, NY on 14 charges

By Parish Howard

A former New York preacher and current Wadley resident was charged last week with 14 counts of sex-related crimes against his former step daughter.

Grady O. Kemp Sr., 65, entered a plea of not guilty Thursday, Aug.1 in a Wayne County, New York, courtroom. He is charged with one count of sexual mischief in the first degree, four counts of rape in the second degree, two counts of rape in the third degree, four counts of sex abuse in the second degree, two counts of sex abuse in the third degree and one count of sodomy in the second degree.

According to his ex-wife, Kemp retired as pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Lyons, NY last year and moved to what they had planned as their retirement home near Wadley.

Kemp still owned the 122 Ford Street house in Newark where the crimes allegedly took place.

Following his indictments, Wadley police arrested Kemp Tuesday, July 23. He waived extradition rights and was transported back to New York where he is being held in a Wayne County jail on $50,000 cash bond.

Prosecutors are claiming that Kemp allegedly molested his step daughter hundreds of times while she was between the ages of 9 and 14.

In April, the now 16-year-old girl reportedly began crying and screaming during a family gathering in Florida, where she and her mother now live, before disclosing the abuse.

In June, Kemp returned to New York for a state labor board hearing on an injured knee compensation claim. While there he was picked up by Geneva police and questioned regarding the stepdaughter's claims.

In a voluntary statement given to Investigator John Clingerman, Kemp said that he began "fooling around" with the girl when she was 9-years-old but claimed that she initiated the sexual contact.

Kemp closed his statement by saying "...me being the father I should of stopped her. I am sorry this happened."

Kemp faces 10 to 20 years in state prison if convicted. He is expected to return to court for a pretrial hearing on Aug. 13. (Ron Holdraker, editor of The Times of Wayne County in Macedon, NY assisted with the reporting for this article.)

New costs develop at county landfill

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A July 24 meeting of the Jefferson County Commission with representatives of consulting engineering firm Chasman & Associates on the status at the new landfill on Mennonite Church Road brought bleak news about the remaining lifetime of the cells now in use and the cost to open the next phase.

Robin Chasman and Walt Sanders estimated the remaining lifetime of cells 1, 2 and 3 in Area 1 to be approximately six months and projected a cost of $497,000 to open the next phase.

News of Chasman's findings were at odds with what Commissioners Tommy New and Wynder Smith said they recalled during the time the landfill was being planned in the mid-1990s.

The county was told at the time by the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and former engineering consultant Moreland Altobelli that the lifetime of the current cells would be 14 years, commissioners said.

The rate at which the cells are filling shrinks the lifetime of the current area to only four years. Several commissioners expressed concern over the announcement, saying that it was a difficult thing to accept even with the awareness in past months that the cells were filling more rapidly than expected.

"What's shocking to me is finding out the way we're running out of space," said Commissioner Isaiah Thomas.

Sanders and Chasman told commissioners months ago that the projected 77 year lifetime of the entire 40 permitted acres had shrunk to 43 years due to inadequate compaction methods and the dumping of more trash than was originally planned.

Another factor that diminished the lifetime of the current cells is the EPD requirement to shave off some of the outer surface of the mound, or lift, because the angle of slope did not conform to standards.

The portion removed is required to be put back into the cell. They said needed adjustments in the fill method could alleviate much of the problem.

Adding another twist in the landfill episode was the statement by Sanders that the next phase to be opened, 3.44 acres that will contain 16,667 cubic yards, will have a lifetime of four years. An exasperated New said the bottom line was that the county would have to set aside $125,000 per year to open up new cells, a prospect that would be an undue burden on taxpayers.

Chasman & Associates engineer Walt Sanders told commissioners the cost to open cells 4 and 5 could be reduced depending on the amount of work the county could provide on the project. Responding to commissioners, Roads Superintendent Thomas Beckworth said his department could do the work but not without bringing numerous other activities to a halt.

Chasman and Sanders told commissioners that several options for dealing with the rapidly filling cells could be considered. The county could explore having the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) building permitted as a transfer station. Given that the current cells would be full in early 2003 the commission could also consider having trash hauled out of the county temporarily. If they decided to completely fill the current cells and close the landfill permanently rather than undergo the cost of opening a new series of cells they could expect a probable cost of nearly $329,000. Another option would be to build the next phase over a period of eight to ten months to spread out the expense.

"Either way we're going to have to send some waste out of the county," said Chasman, acknowledging the current fill rate and the unlikely prospect of being able to open the next phase on time even if commissioners wanted to do so.

Chairman Gardener Hobbs asked the engineers to obtain quotes from haulers in case the commission wanted to go that route. He also stated that the commission is interested to see what recommendations will come from the landfill committee.

Commissioners appointed a citizen-based landfill committee earlier in the year and charged them with developing recommendations for the commission to consider in determining the course of action for the facility.

Candidates respond in local forum

Nearly 50 voters attended forum to pose questions and hear responses

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A variety of questions were posed Saturday night at Greater St. Paul's Missionary Baptist Church in Louisville as Jefferson County voters heard from 17 candidates running for local, state and federal offices in the Aug. 20 primary.

Candidates were given two minutes for opening remarks and later responded to questions from the audience of nearly 50 county residents.

Questions posed to county commission candidates covered numerous aspects of economic development and job growth within the county as well as issues surrounding a centralized county recreation department, the intra-county rivalry between cities and the need for attitudinal changes within the commission.

Various school board candidates responded to questions asking if Louisville Academy was overcrowded and if students' academic needs were being met, if Jefferson County High School should be converted to a centralized high school and have a new high school built, the status of the high school's athletic director and domicile-related questions involving board members, perspective board members and the superintendent.

Other audience questions addressed to state representative, federal representative and superior court candidates took a broader scope.

Some of these included questions on predatory lending, ethnic and racial profiling in crime prevention and national security, the criminal justice system's follow through on probation and restitution, a possible war with Iraq, the disparity of sentencing between powdered and crack cocaine, government honesty, the failure of the attorney general to intervene with a district attorney on behalf of grand jury members and several questions relating to school vouchers.

Candidates in local races participating in the forum included Mary W. Mahoney and David Hastings for the District 3 Jefferson County Commission seat, Gonice C. Davis for the District 1 commission seat, incumbent Jimmy Fleming and challenger Phillip Michael Broomfield in the race for Jefferson County School board Chairman and incumbent Moses J. Cheatham and challengers Donald Hatcher and Larry "Bubba" McGraw in the school board's District 1 race. School board candidate Steve Norton, running unopposed in District 3, was also present.

Other participants included incumbent Jimmy Lord and challenger Olin "Ronald" Jackson in the state representative from the 103rd District and incumbent Walter C. McMillan and challenger Max Bryant for Superior Court Judge in the Middle Judicial Circuit.

Candidates running on the Democratic ticket for the newly created 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives included Denise Freeman, Robert D. Finch, Ben Allen, a representative for Charles "Champ" Walker and a representative for Merwyn Scott.

The candidate forum was sponsored by the NAACP's Jefferson County Branch.

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