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MIDDLESEX — Following a public hearing regarding its current federal grant application Monday evening, the Middlesex town board received positive news and an explanation about the tardiness of its audit for last year’s town finances.
John Anthony, a certified public accountant with Anthony & Tabb, P.A., told Mayor Lu Harvey Lewis and town commissioners that Middlesex was in good shape financially, having increased its balances in each of the town’s accounts. Anthony also said each department operated within its allotted budget in accordance with state law.
The general fund experienced a $94,000 increase in unrestricted cash from $609,000 in 2017 to $704,000 in 2018. The water and sewer fund experienced a more modest increase, from $583,000 in 2017 to $592,000 in 2018. Because of the grants the town received last year, its accumulated funds had a $65,000 surplus instead of using an allotted $106,000.
Anthony also said the town owed about $126,000 on a Southern Bank loan for a lift station. An additional payment of $65,329.89 was made on that loan within the last 30 days, cutting the balance in half, Lewis said.
The audit has been completed but needs to be typed and formatted, Anthony said. He explained that the annual audit, which usually is available much earlier in the year, had been delayed due to what Anthony described as a life-threatening illness of one of the firm’s senior associates.
“He’s been working part-time, and he was not able to work at all on any town audits this past year,” Anthony said. “Town audit reports are extremely difficult to write. They’re very tedious.”
The finalized audit would be available for distribution at the May board meeting, Anthony said.
During the public hearing immediately preceding Monday’s meeting, Lewis gave an overview of the town’s U.S. Department of Agriculture grant application for $314,176.25 for town needs, including a new chipper, three-phase generator, compact tractor and two zero-turn mowers, and a few wish list items, such as generators for each of the town’s three lift stations, that were added per the grant administrator’s advice.
One Middlesex resident, Becky Strickland, said she thought the amount of the grant was unnecessary.
“If the board were to ask us what we would like to see in a USDA facility grant, as for me, I would like to see the library and services expanded,” Strickland said.
During the meeting, Lewis presented commissioners with minutes from four 2018 special meetings — those held in January, March, July and December — for the board’s approval. Commissioners unanimously approved all four sets of minutes along with minutes from last month’s meeting. Elected bodies typically review minutes for accuracy and vote to formally approve them as presented or with revisions. Under state law, drafts of meeting minutes are public records and are available upon request just like minutes that have received board approval.
Police Chief Mike Collins submitted a completed operations manual for the police department — the first of its kind in the department’s history — for board approval. Collins said he consulted with several police departments in neighboring towns to create the manual, which took about two years. The board approved it unanimously.
The board also decided to conduct a budget workshop after the May meeting and will go into closed session to discuss employee salaries and evaluations at that time.