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Solid Waste Authority votes to let CPA firm manage funds

by Caitlan Butler | April 26, 2021 at 8:30 p.m.
The Union County Solid Waste Authority met Monday at the county Courthouse. Pictured from left to right are Union County Judge Mike Loftin; El Dorado City Council member Paul Choate; Union County Justice of the Peace Benny Vestal; El Dorado City Council member Judy Ward; El Dorado City Council member Dianne Hammond; El Dorado Public Works Director Robert Edmonds, who was present as an audience member; El Dorado City Council member Willie McGhee; El Dorado Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer; (obscured) Junction City Mayor Steve Williams; (obscured) Smackover Mayor Bobby Neal; (obscured) Norphlet Mayor Jim Crotty; (obscured) JP Mike Dumas; and (obscured) Executive Assistant Jody Cunningham. (Caitlan Butler/News-Times)

Members of the Union County Solid Waste Authority met Monday to consider a resolution that would allow a certified public accounting firm, rather than the Union County Treasurer’s office, to manage its funds.

The Solid Waste Authority is made up of the mayors of all the municipalities in Union County; four members of the El Dorado City Council (one from each ward); and two Union County Justices of the Peace.

Earlier this month, the Union County Quorum Court authorized the proposed resolution during its regular monthly meeting.

County Judge Mike Loftin emphasized then that the Authority’s funds aren’t mixed with the county’s and are in their own separate account; however, he said since Treasurer Debbie Ray was keeping the books for the Authority in addition to the county’s, the county was repeatedly cited by auditors about a lease-purchase agreement the Authority made with a local business.

Loftin explained Monday that the Authority previously approved the purchase of a tub grinder for a little more than $331,000 to dispose of yard debris throughout the Southwest Planning and Development District, which includes Calhoun, Columbia, Dallas, Hempstead, Howard, Lafayette, Little River, Miller, Nevada, Ouachita, Sevier and Union counties.

“Everybody else in our planning district was having the same problem … Our Solid Waste Authority had enough money to buy the thing so we bought it and they use it in this whole planning district,” he said.

The Authority subsequently made a lease-purchase agreement with Buddy McAdams, owner of Mac’s Tree Service, for the grinder, Loftin said.

“They pay back to the Authority the monies at $100 an hour on the meter on that machine,” he said.

Judy Ward, a representative for the El Dorado City Council, asked whether the Authority still owned the grinder, and Loftin said they do; however, once the purchase price has been paid back in use fees, the grinder will belong to Mac’s.

“The Authority owns it until he gets it paid for, then we’re just going to let him have it. He’s paying the insurance on it, he provides all the fuel, repairs, maintenance and the support equipment. You’ve got to have a track hoe and you’ve got to have a front-end loader out there and you’ve got to haul that stuff off and move it away from the machine as it grinds,” he said.

Loftin said so far, Mac’s has paid the Authority about $118,000 for use of the machine. Another Authority member said it will take approximately 1,500 more hours for the machine to be totally paid off.

“That’s what the auditors don’t like; they don’t like the fact that this thing is being paid back to this Authority in that manner,” Loftin said. “But it has nothing to do with county funds or city funds. It’s strictly this board right here, so I’m just wanting the auditors out of it because it’s such a pain in the butt to explain it every year, and if they write me up for it two years in a row, then I’ve got to go to Little Rock and explain it.”

Loftin said if a CPA manages the funds, it will keep state auditors from citing the county. He said during the Quorum Court meeting the Authority brings in about $16,000 each month in host fees from the county’s landfill, and on Monday said only one check is disbursed from the account each year, to the Southwest Planning and Development District for $9,000 to $10,000.

Dianne Hammond, another representative for the El Dorado City Council, said the Authority might want to consider whether there were any alternatives to Loftin’s plan to turn the funds’ management over to a CPA, and also wondered what the cost would be.

Paul Choate, who also represents the El Dorado City Council, estimated that a CPA would need to spend about half an hour a month on the Authority’s books, and that a CPA’s time would cost about $150 an hour. Ward then called Stacy Scroggins, of Emrich and Scroggins, LLP, a local accounting firm, to ask for an estimate.

“I have a lot of confidence in him. He said he does other organizations like this where there’s not a great deal of activity,” she said. “He guesstimated it would probably be no more than $1,000 a year. He actually said $700, I’m adding $300 just as cushion, if we wanted a financial statement each year.”

Emrich and Scroggins is currently working to reconcile 2020 bank statements for the City of El Dorado, and Ward said they also previously did work for the city’s water company.

“Do we want to make a motion to pass a resolution to send it to Scroggins?” Loftin asked.

Hammond moved to accept the resolution and use Emrich and Scroggins as the CPA firm and Willie McGhee, the fourth representative from the El Dorado City Council, seconded it. All present members of the Authority voted to pass the resolution in a voice vote.

The Authority selected Loftin and El Dorado Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer to be the two signers on any checks disbursed from the Authority’s account.


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