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No fluff in fair
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Dear Editor: At the Dec. 15 meeting of the Newton County Board of Commissioners I voted no to an immediate allotment of $120,000 to the Chamber of Commerce. This prompted some people to question my absence from the presentation the chamber gave to the city and the county on Nov. 19. I would like to provide the people of the county with my perspective about this issue.

First, the Nov. 19 meeting at The Center for Preservation & Planning was not an announced or advertised "work session." Any official meeting involving government leaders that is sanctioned by the county has to be advertised inside the courthouse and through our local legal organ. This meeting was held at a private organization's location under the heading of "Economic Presentation." As an unadvertised meeting it has no legal standing whatsoever, and anything discussed or presented is for information purposes only.

Secondly, the Dec. 1 work session was placed on the 7 p.m. regular meeting agenda so that each commissioner could add comments and concerns. At that time, Commissioner Henderson and I asked extensive questions about funding sources and appropriations. We also referenced the two-page handout that was provided which called for $120,500 for chamber funding broken down as follows: $54,000 - already approved and awarded July 1, 2009, for the FY2010 budget. Increase by $66,500 to bring a total allotment of $120,500, but all we needed to do was to give approval for the $30,000 in immediate funding to make the Chamber of Commerce whole. We were told this would come out of our professional services budget. Two other commissioners wanted a written contract spelling out the chain of command and organizational structure. They also requested that "strong" language be added to prevent any subgroup from interfering with the power structure of the chamber's board of directors who were the sole supervisors of the chamber president. This agreement and other concerns were to be worked out and brought back to the board of commissioners at our Dec. 15 meeting.

As we convened the Dec. 15 meeting, the representative from the chamber asked us for an immediate $120,000 grant outright. This was not on the table for us to consider. The two-page written contract did not call for 18-month duration nor have it a clause for an outright grant of $120,000.

Finally, we looked our county employees in the face six months ago to tell them we had no choice but to lay them off and that we had "no fluff" in the budget. Now, we can find $120,000. I believe this is a fairness issue and there is no "fluff" in fair.