When the fox is no longer in charge of the hen house, fewer chickens die. We, our newspaper, met with the incoming commissioners and judge executive the other day and apparently, they found that the last administration killed a lot of chickens. 

Incoming Judge-Executive Ray Jones told us that there is no truth in the current administration’s claim that there will be a significant carryover. The coal severance money is down over $725,000 alone and he found out there was only $100,000 on-hand in December. He said they anticipate the next budget will be $1 million less than this year and they will have to make over $1 million in cuts. 

Jones said the landfill is a big issue. No one really knows the current life expectancy, so they will have to bring in experts to determine its longevity. Jones said they will need several million dollars over the next several years to keep the landfill operational. And he will inherit numerous citations that will be paid by the taxpayers. 

Jones said the solid waste department will need an overhaul and it needs to be self-sufficient. It’s not. The current bunch kept taking money from the general fund and using it for solid waste because no one had a clue what was happening. 

There is an administrative code that the county is supposed to use, but, according to Jones, it has been amended so many times no one can figure it out, leaving a lot of ambiguity. 

The road lots are a disaster, which we knew about. There is no purchasing system, no inventory program and worse there are no or inaccurate maintenance records on the vehicles. The county is embroiled now in lawsuits over accidents where improperly-maintained vehicles were involved and from what Jones told us about lack of records on the vehicles, I can’t see them winning many lawsuits. 

Jones said that he will have a new road foreman who will have an inventory system that will cut down on theft he believes may be happening and an aggressive maintenance schedule for safety and to cut down on repairs. 

Jones said that he is bringing in non-political people who have business experience and will be accountable to him. He discovered that the county spent more than $400,000 for paving that should have been paid in flex funds, but because no one had a clue, the taxpayers paid the bill. And the taxpayers purchased a piece of equipment at auction, which was junk, and then sold it for half what was paid. 

He said he will also work to make sure that every taxpayer pays their fair share of taxes. Jones said solid waste will collect all their bills, there will be occupational tax collection enforcement, as well as property tax collection. He said it’s not fair for some to pay and others to not pay for re-election favors.  

Jones said that the court lied to the people about shutting down the magistrate’s offices. He found that the taxpayers are still paying for rent in Dist. 3 and utilities in Dist. 1.

One final slap in the face was when the current Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins, called Jones and requested a meeting with the nice folks over at RCC Big Shoal. These are the folks who were once being represented by Deskins and have $400,000 of tax money to fulfill the dream of a natural gas to liquid fuel facility in Pike County, which will not happen. Deskins urged the court to not sue the company because he was afraid the deal would go south, which it did. And, as usual, the court agreed. 

Jones asked or a copy of the agreement, a pro forma or even a business plan, and nothing was produced. Jones said that he gave them an ultimatum and if the criteria is not met, he will file lawsuits. I don’t think Deskins liked what he heard. 

Jones mentioned about 15 items that he will address immediately. The most important part is to stop the bleeding and get rid of the political hires. He has to shore up the budget, have some direction, be a manager of the county and hire experts who can help. He said he has reached out to other cities and counties to work with them as he understands the regional concept. He wants to stop the corruption and ineptness and restore faith in the county with the people and build moral with the county employees. 

Jones said it took a long time to screw up the county, but he hopes to fix it in his first term. If that’s the case, he has a long career as the county’s top dog.

Thanks for reading the News Express.

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