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home : local news : local news August 20, 2017

1/10/2017 4:52:00 PM
Wellston may be on the way out of Fiscal Emergency
Sharon Hanrahan, the chairwoman of the Wellston Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, is pictured as she reads a resolution Tuesday morning, formally requesting State Auditor Dave Yost to remove the city from its current status of Fiscal Emergency. (Telegram Photo By Pete Wilson)

Sharon Hanrahan, the chairwoman of the Wellston Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, is pictured as she reads a resolution Tuesday morning, formally requesting State Auditor Dave Yost to remove the city from its current status of Fiscal Emergency. (Telegram Photo By Pete Wilson)

The City of Wellston has seemingly cleared a major hurdle in the long, long process of being released from the official state of Fiscal Emergency.

During a meeting Tuesday morning of the Wellston Financial Planning and Supervision Commission at the Wellston City Building, the members present voted unanimously to approve a resolution to officially request to State Auditor Dave Yost that he release the city from its current status of Fiscal Emergency.

This means the local and state officials and representatives who are on this important supervisory commission feel the city has met the requirements and conditions necessary to be removed from Fiscal Emergency after being in that unfavorable status since October 1, 2009.

However, the actual decision to release the city from Fiscal Emergency must be made by the state auditor and there is no set timetable for action. Bob Burlenski of the State Auditor's office said it could happen as soon as 30 to 60 days, but that it sometimes takes longer to occur.

"It's not over yet," Commission Chairwoman Hanrahan noted, "not until the [auditor's] report is issued."

The commission members casting votes to request the release from Fiscal Emergency were: Wellston Mayor Connie Pelletier, Chairwoman Hanrahan, Wellston community representatives Dan Waugh, Peggy Shumate and Phil Fain, and Jamie Barker of the State Treasurer's Office. Wellston Council President Chris Brenner was not present, but sent a statement for the record.

Holzer Medical Center

Chairwoman Hanrahan presented the resolution after Financial Supervisor Chris McKee of the State Auditor's Office delivered a very positive report about the city's current fiscal condition and the financial forecast for the next five years. There were no deficit funds to close 2016 and the General Fund was showing a healthy balance of $909,505.

In addition to the financial figures, Wellston City Council has approved a financial recovery plan and related policies and procedures have been approved and implemented which are designed to keep the city on a responsible fiscal path.

"Everything is looking really good, numbers wise," McKee concluded.

In his statement, Council President Brenner stated that council had passed a balanced budget for 2017, was taking steps to address the city's aging infrastructure, and was attempting to sell off unneeded city property.

Waugh, who has been a member of the commission from the very beginning, credited Wellston Mayor Connie Pelletier with being the driving force in making the positive fiscal and operational changes in city government in recent years. However, he asked if there were safeguards in place to prevent bad things from happening again in the future.

Burlenski suggested that policies and procedures are now in place to prevent a recurrence of financial mismanagement and that annual audits should also uncover and identify problems.

However, Mayor Pelletier quickly pointed out that the policies and procedures will only work if future city leaders follow them. "It will all be up to the people in this office, and on the council," she declared.

But on this day, the focus was on the present and the collective feeling of relief that the long and difficult process of moving out of Fiscal Emergency appeared to be nearing its conclusion.

"I'm trying not to cry," Mayor Pelletier concluded. "A lot of people worked for this and I'm happy about it. This doesn't mean we're out [of Fiscal Emergency], but we've taken this step."

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