Despite a city takeover last year, the Booker T. Washington Community Center is still having problems paying its light bill.
About $10,000 in old bills — mostly for Georgia Power electricity — remain outstanding, said Barbara Yancey, Macon’s director of Workforce Development. Bibb County commissioners are now struggling to figure out if they can help pay bills from the center’s independent past — or even future payments while the center’s run by the city.
“The issue is they just haven’t been able to manage their finances, and Bibb County should not be funding organizations that can’t manage their money,” said Commissioner Elmo Richardson, who leads the commission’s Finance Committee.
Yancey told commissioners she would check with the center’s former accountants about possibly generating an audit or another kind of report called a compilation. Richardson said Wednesday the county would need that by June 15 before commissioners could vote to pay the bills in this fiscal year.
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Commissioners say they could grant $4,999 for each of the past two years, but that money is contingent upon an acceptable audit.
The center landed in rough waters in 2006 when its three main sponsors — the United Way of Central Georgia, Macon and Bibb County — began pulling funding because of financial reporting problems.
Bibb County Finance Director Deborah Martin told commissioners this week that the last audit she’d ever received from the center was in fiscal 2006. Yancey gave commissioners a copy of the city’s audit for fiscal 2008, which ended before the city took over the center in June 2009. The city’s fiscal 2009 audit, which would only cover a month of the center’s operations, hasn’t been completed, though the 2010 audit process will begin in two months.
Richardson said he didn’t know if a city audit would have enough information about the center’s operations to know if the county could wisely invest money.
Martin told commissioners the city audit “still will not give us any idea of what the money we contribute is being used for.”
In a work session Tuesday, commissioners indicated their support for the Booker T. Washington Center, which has offered social services to black residents of the Pleasant Hill neighborhood since 1939.
But county leaders said they need to know enough about the finances before paying out any money. Several years ago commissioners and the county attorney “passed the hat” to pay a smaller bill out of their own pockets, each chipping in about $20, Richardson said.
Yancey said the center’s only funding in the past year was from federal sources channeled through state government. The city did not contribute to the center.
Commissioners budgeted about $14,818 for the past two years but haven’t transferred the money because of the missing audits. The county budgeted $16,650 three years ago, but withheld $2,775 because of the financial concerns, Martin said.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.
To contact staff writer Mike Stucka call 744-4251.