Residents deserve answers

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 14, 2015

Vidalia city leaders — or most of them at least — appear to be operating from the position that the public doesn’t really know the details of the town’s finances.

Despite having two public hearings — thankfully forced by Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy — most city residents seem as in the dark as ever about the town’s use of its royalty funds derived from the Sidney A. Murray Jr. Hydroelectric Station.

What started as questions about the proposed Square on Carter development, that would have some $7 million in public funds invested in what would principally be a private development, has wound up becoming a much deeper debate about transparency in Vidalia government.

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Several residents have been told outright that all the answers are in the state-mandated annual audits. That’s simply not true, and city leaders know it.

The audit simply shows the balance in the hydro funds, how much was added and how much was removed. It lacks the detail necessary for residents to understand exactly how funds have been spent.

The hard-headedness surrounding this issue has reached absurd levels with doubletalk and what appears to us as outright deception — telling residents one thing at a public hearing while telling bond commission representatives the exact opposite.

Alderwoman Mo Saunders last week said her heart aches over the issue that she said was “splitting the town,” yet minutes later she voted to approve the Square on Carter, despite questions still lingering in the minds of many, many residents.

The best way for Saunders and others in Vidalia government to avoid further splitting of the town is to stop, listen to those who have serious questions and seek to answer them openly, honestly and publicly.

To not do so is disrespectful to the city, its residents and the integrity of the offices those elected officials hold.