Take a stand in your community

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 14, 2015

I want to thank everyone who attended the second meeting on the use of hydroelectric funds. I still am not satisfied with the answers I received, but I plan to continue my quest to get information, which will be in common language for the average citizen to understand.

I wrote a letter to The Natchez Democrat, which was published on June 5, and I sent a copy to our Vidalia leaders regarding two questions I had concerning hydroelectric royalties. The first was how much hydro royalty money was received, per year, in the last four years. At the last meeting, when I was recognized to speak, I was handed the answer to my first question very rudely. “Here it is.”

I asked Mr. Stevens to read it, and the Mayor and Mr. Stevens both said you read it. (I am scheduled for cataract surgery on June 16 and 30, so I have been having trouble reading small print and numbers). Proper manners would have been for one of you to walk over and hand me the hydro figures or read them for me. Later, I had an apology from Mr. Stevens, on my answering machine, telling me he did not have time to get the figures to me before the meeting. He had delivered the information to others, and he named the persons to whom he delivered them.

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My second question was more specific and not answered. It concerned projects which are presently completed or in progress. I asked how much hydro royalty money has been put into these projects in the last four years. I asked for salaries to be published, even if not paid by hydro funds.

On June 9, I came home and found a letter from Mrs. Ashley Anderson, City of Vidalia accountant, taped to the front door of my home. She informed me that I could use the town’s website to review Vidalia’s audits from 1996 to the present. She explained that these audits contained every piece of financial information, including the information I requested, concerning the town, down to the dollar. She informed me all the audit information has been public record.

Her last statement in the letter was really the ‘kicker.’ She wrote, “If once, you or any other citizen of Vidalia have reviewed the audits and have specific questions, I will be happy to arrange a meeting with you, myself and our auditors.”

I expected an answer to my questions. Mrs. Anderson said she had been employed for only two years and her knowledge was limited to audits of these two years. She still has access to the other audits and I am sure she is capable of retrieving the information which I requested.

I believe I, along with any other residents of the town, have the right to ask for any information concerning the operation of our town without any “flack” from any employee of the town. We have not had any transparency in the financial records of the town. There have been instances when residents have requested information and they had to make two or three trips to the town office before they were able to get what they requested.

It has been brought to my attention that town employees harassed a number of residents before, during and after both hydro meetings. This is not acceptable. I again compliment Mr. John Betts for his statements concerning his displeasure with answers about how the town’s hydroelectric royalties have been spent in the past.

I was disappointed with Mr. Ricky Knapp for making the motion to proceed with the Square on Carter Street. Most of the residents who attended the meetings were against the city getting into the real estate business. Pam Clayton expressed her concerns about being in competition with the town, which has vast public funds for their future development. Her family developed, at their expense, 22 residential lots. They own beautiful land on Concordia Extension, which is land of high elevation. Why not consider this land for development?

I would also like to answer Mrs. Saunders remark that a few people are dividing the city. My comment is that the mayor and board have divided the city. If you all had followed the ordinance, this concern/division would not have occurred. There are two major grievances, which you have created. The first is you, our leaders, have not followed the guidelines of the hydro ordinance. The other is the town is planning to purchase land and will be responsible for infrastructure, etc. We are not in the real estate business. Also, this is not the only land available.

I ask every resident of Vidalia to contact state representatives concerning your displeasure of the expenditures of hydro royalties, the mayor and board not following the hydro ordinance, and the purchase of land for the Square on Carter St. Every voice must be heard!

Corinne Randazzo