By MIKE WEST/Courier Editor
Cannon County Commission voted down a motion to cover a budget shortfall in the county's REACH program during Saturday's meeting.
The motion failed despite the pleadings of Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon and Commissioner Jim Bush. The $6,600 shortfall was connected to the extension of the program during the summer months of this school year.
Voting “no” were Commissioners Russell Reed, Kevin Mooneyham and Commission Chairman Bob Stoetzel.
"I strongly recommend that you pass it," Gannon said. "It's a wonderful program with a bad reputation."
REACH is an after school program that offers students in K-12 enrich-ment activities, peer tutoring, mentoring and academic assistance plus a nutritional snack. It functions five days a week during the school year from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. and two days a week during the summer.
The "bad reputation" is due to mismanagement discovered by a special state audit, which discovered a $37,259.22 cash shortage in March 31, 2011 accompanied by an additional $26,474 worth of questionable and/or unsupported expenditures.
"I'm not subsidizing REACH again with taxpayers' dollars," Mooneyham said.
"It's supposed to be self-sufficient with no taxpayers' money," agreed Stoetzel.
"The line was drawn last year and we're fixing to step over it," said Reed.
Linda Bedwell, the new REACH supervisor, is doing a great job serving 250 kids, said Bush. REACH hopes to expand its services next school year to Woodland School.
Funding the budgetary shortfall is the way to keep from Cannon County getting an audit finding, Gannon said.
Voting for the subsidy were Commissioners Mark Barker, Jimmy Mingle, Jim Bush and Clint Higgins. Absent from the meeting were Commissioners Tony Neal, Todd Hollandsworth and Kevin George.
Also failing to pass the County Commission was final approval of a Farmer's Market building to be built on land at the Arts Center of Cannon County. Low bids have already been accepted for both parts of the project which would build a concrete floored shed to house the Farmer's Market.
Voting no on the project were Commissioners Reed, Bush and Higgins. The commissioners objected to the site for the building because it is located in a flood plain of Stones River.
The measure could be reconsidered at the Cannon Commission's July 13 meeting.
The Commission also withheld action on a replacement for Industrial Development Board member Doug Bodary, who recently resigned after moving out of Cannon County.
"The IDB recently interviewed and recommended Burton Mason for Bodary's replacement," Stoetzel said. "We need to advertise it.
"I'm just trying to be on the safe side," Stoetzel said, recommending that the vote be postponed until July 13, the Commission's regular quarterly meeting.
When it came to dealing with budget amendments from the Cannon County Board of Education, Commissioner Bush raised a question on the timing.
"What I am saying…when we get it today…I don't like it," Bush said. "I'm just saying it's got to stop."
Barbara Parker, schools superintendent, explained why the quick action was necessary.
"You don't really know until you all your June bills. It's a Catch 22," Parker said. "You cannot end the year with a line item overspent."
"It's better to keep this as close to the end of the budget year as possible," County Executive Gannon agreed.
At the end of the Saturday session, Commission Chairman Stoetzel disclosed that he has sent information to District Attorney Bill Whitesell and the Tennessee State Comptroller about a controversy over electric bills paid by Cannon County for industrial customer THC Select.
"You paid it out of taxpayers' dollars," Stoetzel told Gannon.
"This is something I handled the way the county attorney told me to," Gannon answered. "I hope the comptroller comes up here."
"It's illegal what he did," Stoetzel said. "Nothing he does is legal until the County Commission approves it."