Cash Conundrum

Weeds and grass line the area where the Loblolly project had intended to be and where Eutaw Construction had a nearly $5 million contract for the dirt work at the site.

    Though the county has the money to pay Eutaw Construction the $124,687 they owe them for dirt work at the Loblolly site, legally, they can't do it, officials said.

    The county has owed the money for months, but the money that would have been used to pay the bill was moved into an account that can only be used to repay bonds, County Administrator Mike Sumrall said, because Loblolly was expected to make a payment into the other account.

    The money is part of the $10 million bond the county used to pay for construction on what was to be the site of a Loblolly timber product manufacturing plant. Loblolly has yet to build a plant.

    According to Sumrall, Eutaw Construction had a nearly $5 million contract for the work, most of which has been paid. The amount now unpaid was held back as a retainage. When the retainage was due, the board of supervisors voted not to pay it.

     At the time, the payment was in a fund, called a bond proceeds fund, set up specifically to pay for work to the Loblolly site. In an interfund loan, the county moved the money into the bond repayment fund because they expected Loblolly to make a payment of about $300,000 into the bond proceeds fund, Sumrall said.

    When the payment from Loblolly was never made, the county was unable to pay the bill because the money had been moved.

    "There's money there to pay it," said Sumrall, "It's just in the wrong account."

    Now, Sumrall is trying to find a way to legally move the money from the bond repayment fund back into the bond proceeds fund. He said he's writing to the attorney general's office, asking for an attorney general's opinion that says the money can be returned to its original account.

    "Really, right now what we're doing is waiting for an AG's opinion saying that I can pay it," said Sumrall. "I don't know how long it will take."

    He said Eutaw Construction has been patient, but at least one supervisor doesn't think they should have to wait. Craig Hitt, District 3, made a motion at Monday's board meeting to pay the bill from the county's general fund, but the motion did not pass.

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