The Greenwood City Council continues to grapple with how to collect the more than $2.8 million in back fines owed to the city.
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Karan McGee, president of Adela Agency, a collection firm from Hattiesburg, told council members how she could help the city recoup back fines that are owed.
“We’re not the collection agency you hear in the news. Never have been; never will be,” McGee said, referring to collection agencies that use robo-callers. She said Adela’s collection callers are extensively trained and listen to people’s explanations of why they haven’t paid their fines.
Mayor Carolyn McAdams said the city has a contract with another agency, which during the meeting could not be identified, but it had collected little money.
A new state law that allows counties and municipalities to collect from debtors’ state income tax refunds was discussed. The law should help the city in collecting outstanding fines, McAdams said.
Also speaking to the council was Felicia Penilton-Hadley, a partnership specialist working in the Delta for the U.S. Census Bureau. She asked for the city’s help to “make sure we have an accurate count” for the 2020 census.
As she told the Leflore County Board of Supervisors last month, Penilton-Hadley said the county is considered a low-response area since only 58% of county residents completed the 2010 census. Penilton-Hadley attributed the low response rate to a lack of knowledge about the census, among other factors.
She suggested that the city help form a committee composed of influential members of the community to work with different organizations to get an accurate census count. She also said the committee could help promote the impending census date, which is April 1.
The findings from the census, which is taken every 10 years, are used to help determine federal funding to states and local communities. People will have three ways to fill out the census: by phone, by mail or online.
The council also:
•Received the city’s fiscal 2017-2018 audit report. Lance Mohamed of Fred T. Neely & Co. gave an audit review.
The city ended that year with a general-fund balance of $2.8 million.
The city had $10 million in general fund revenue through taxes, and fees, etc., and $12 million was spent, leading to a $2.2 million deficit, Mohamed said.
However, he said, “We had $977,000 of borrowings, which was for police cars, radios” as well as transfers of services and money from other governmental entities, including Greenwood Utilities.
With those transfers factored in, Mohamed said the general fund had a net positive change of $120,000, leading to an increase in fund balance of $2.8 million “that we have in our retained earnings, in our equity, that we can spend and fund on various projects.”
The council will hold a public hearing for the city’s proposed fiscal 2019-2020 budget Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. The proposed budget includes a 4% tax increase.
•Approved the fiscal 2019-2020 budget of $533,846 for the Greenwood Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.
•Voted to put repealing Greenwood’s anti-panhandling ordinance on the study agenda. The Mississippi Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has asked Greenwood and other Mississippi municipalities to repeal ordinances that prohibit panhandling.
Using the findings of a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case, the ACLU argues that cities cannot prohibit people from soliciting money in public areas as it’s considered free speech.
Don Brock, the city’s attorney, told council members to study the issue before voting on whether to repeal the ordinance.
•Heard from Eddie Curry, the city’s wastewater director, who said a caved-in sewage line at Golden Age Nursing Home should be fixed by Wednesday.
The city declared a state of emergency early last month to fix the caved-in sewage line. Curry said the expected cost is about $30,000, which will be evenly split between the city and the nursing home.
Curry also said repairs of the caved-in sewage line on Ione Street are continuing and he does not know yet of the costs for the repairs. The city declared a state of emergency for the Ione Street sewage line earlier this month.
Ward 2’s Lisa Cookston was absent from the meeting.
•Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.