The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

October 31, 2013

Concerns over Blakesburg debt obligations aired at meeting

BLAKESBURG — Even though the purpose of the special City Council meeting on Tuesday was moving forward with Phase II of the sewer improvement project, much of the meeting concerned a recent petition.

On Oct. 14, former mayor Randy Burton presented a petition requesting a city and fire department audit, accompanied by a letter he had signed listing a series of concerns including debt obligations that may have exceeded city maximum debt service allowable by law, current administration accounting practices, continuous and constant errors in water and sewer billing, failure to impose and collect late and shut-off fees resulting in loss of revenue, cemetery fund and much more.

Mayor Jason Myers told the audience on Tuesday that the petition had been forwarded to the state as required by law. He explained that a few days after the petition was submitted to state, it was declared invalid because several of the people who signed the petition withdrew their names by written request when they learned of the erroneous content of the petition. Those who withdrew their names had not read the petition but signed based on false representation by the person circulating the petition. Burton secured enough additional names to validate the petition a second time, after which it was forwarded to state as required, Myers said.

The city is allowed by law to have the audit done by an accounting firm of the council’s choice. The city is not required to have a state audit as Burton requested, but is allowed to choose either the state or an accounting firm.

Meyers reminded the council and the audience that the last city audit was performed on the Burton administration for fiscal year 2010-11. City Council received the audit report on May 23. He said the council is in the process of correcting many of the accounting mistakes noted in the audit, including a lack of checks and balances of city finances. As recommended by the Anderson-Larkin audit, a new program is now in place that automatically separates expenses and income, keeping a running account of each department by recording check number and amount paid to each department.

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