Vidalia’s Betts worthy of respect

Published 12:05 am Thursday, June 11, 2015

Standing up to one’s peers takes guts. Doing so while simultaneously admitting past mistakes is a notch above gutsy.

For his courage at Tuesday’s Vidalia Board of Aldermen meeting, Alderman Jon Betts earned our gratitude and much respect.

Betts, who along with others on the Vidalia board, for years has simply trusted that the city’s mayor and accounting staff were completely transparent in working financial matters.

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Betts changed course Tuesday, being the lone dissenting aldermen to vote against what high-level state leaders have dubbed a “speculating” land development.

Betts along with several other residents have questioned exactly how the city has spent excess royalties from the city’s stake in the Sidney A. Murray Hydroelectric Station.

Questions over hydro royalties surfaced again recently when the city sought to pledge, in part, hydro royalties as a way of repaying $7 million in bonds the city sought in order to purchase and improve the Square on Carter project.

Mayor Hyram Copeland and City Accountant Ashley Anderson have said publicly that all the questions about hydro royalties are answered in the city’s annual audits.

Betts disagreed. We do, too.

Betts is no stranger to numbers. His day job is serving as field collector for the Concordia Parish Department of Revenue.

He told the audience Tuesday that he had looked at the audits and spoken to the auditors and believed the town had more than $2.7 million last year that was available to refund.

We urge the City of Vidalia to quickly produce a detailed list of exactly how those excess funds were spent so city residents can begin to rebuild their faith in their town’s government.