Changes at Agri-Business Center
December 6, 2018
Southern Torch (3427 articles)
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Changes at Agri-Business Center

By Marla JonesReporter • marla@southerntorch.com (Photo by Marla Jones)

RAINSVILLE, Ala. — (Full Video Below) At this week’s meeting of the Rainsville City Council, changes were made regarding the Rainsville Agri-Business Center.

Public Building Authority President Eric Samples addressed the Council on the need to open a credit line for $15,000. Samples stated that it would make it easier in the lean times. Some months have several events and others do not; therefore, it is harder to pay the monthly bills. The Public Building Authority (PBA) operates the Northeast Alabama Agri-Business Center.

Samples also reported to the Council that changes had been made regarding management of the Agri-Business Center and handling of the finances. He stated that the PBA would follow the recommendations set out by the Agri-Business liaisons (Councilmembers Ricky Byrum and Brandon Freeman), private auditors, and Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt. The recommendations call for the members of the PBA to handle all finances of the center’s operations. This change effectively strips the authority of managing the Agri-Business Center’s finances from the Center’s director, Mike Sweat. Sweat will continue in his role as the director of the facility, however, he no longer has any authority with regards to the management of the Center’s finances. The current members of the PBA are: Eric Samples, Arlan “Monk” Blevins, and Angie Baker Stewart.

Southern Torch reached out to all members of the Rainsville City Council as well as the Mayor for comments on these changes.

“Changes that we have done will help the situation with what’s going on,” said Councilmember Derek Rosson. “Something has to be done. We need a change.”

“I am not involved in those changes, but I trust my fellow councilmembers and the mayor on their decisions regarding that,” Rosson concluded.

Councilmember Brandon Freeman said he was happy with the changes coming to the Center.

“I think the changes will be good. If you want to get technical with it, the auditors are the ones who changed it and we just did what the auditors wanted.”

When asked if he believed the changes would be good and his opinion on granting a line of credit, Councilmember Bejan Taheri replied, “Yes, they needed the help. Of course, the Agri-Business Center is not there to make money, it’s set to bring people in.” Taheri stated that Mike Sweat is still the director of the center, although, he is set to retire in eighteen months.

Councilmember Ricky Byrum stated that there were just some odds-and-ends on how things were to be done and who had the authorization to spend.

Councilmember Marshall Stiefel stated that he left the meeting with more questions than answers.

“Why would Mr. Sweat continue to be paid $57,000+ per year, according to the City Accountant, Betty Holcomb, and have part of his duties removed? This amount is equivalent to what the City of Fort Payne pays their Mayor to run the entire city. I have tried to get answers to questions about the Agri-Business Center, but have been stonewalled at every turn.”

“I have contacted the Mayor, the City Accountant, the outside audit firm of Gant & Croft in Scottsboro, and a member of the PBA to get financial records from the center. According to the mayor, the City subsidizes the Agri-Business Center with $360,000 of taxpayer money every year; therefore, I feel that the citizens need answers. I left wondering if this has anything to do with the delay in the outside audit from 2016-17.”

Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt said, “The changes at the Agri-Business Center that we talked to them (PBA) about [pertained] to the way that the auditors wanted stuff done.”

When asked if this was the reason that the outside audit was delayed, “No, the delay of the audit was due to a couple of things. We were not hardly ready with some of the paperwork that they needed.” According to Lingerfelt, the firm started another audit and lost three employees, which put things behind.

It is still unclear what prompted the changes to the way the PBA allows finances to be managed at the Agri-Business Center. Stay tuned to Southern Torch for updates as they become available regarding this story.

In other business, the Council approved:

  • Authorization for PBA to establish a $15,000 line of credit
  • Purchase of a printer for the annex in amount of $1,011.79
  • Purchase of lights and sirens packages for Fire Department Tahoe in amount of $5,545

The next meeting of the Rainsville City Council will be held on Monday, December 17 at 5pm with a work session beginning at 4:15pm.

MEETING

WORKSHOP

Southern Torch

Southern Torch

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