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Ft. Deposit budget sparks debate

By EASON FRANKLIN
The Lowndes Signal

A Ft. Deposit city council meeting erupted into an argument between elected officials during the police chief’s report Aug. 9.

What started as a request for a $0.75-per-hour pay raise for one Ft. Deposit officer by Police Chief Chris West, escalated into a verbal altercation between Ft. Deposit Mayor Fletcher Fountain and Mayor pro-tem Elbert Means.

“The main concern is about giving a raise when we are in the process of a budget hearing for 2010,” said Fountain. “It kind of escalated when the question was asked if we had the funds.”

Fountain says the town’s budget is still under what was projected for the 2010 fiscal year, however Means said that the town has had trouble paying off interest accrued from the First Lowndes Bank from about five years ago.

“You have to find ways in order to get things done,” said Fountain.

Ft. Deposit is in debt $1.7 million from a loan taken out with First Lowndes Bank to assist with construction of the Sejong factory; a sum which the town has been unable to pay any amount toward interest at this point and an amount that was not added to the 2010 budget, according to Means.

Another concern, added Means, was that the town has had to cut back on the amount of hours some of its workers receive, because they are not able to pay them for full time.

The town council decided to table the issue until the Police Department’s budget has been approved for the 2011 fiscal year.

Fountain noted he would not have any other discussions with Means unless the Ft. Deposit town council was present.

After the meeting, Means commented that he “could do a better job than the current mayor is doing.”

“I will be getting with the Attorney General to bring the mayor up on ethics charges,” said Means. “I still have to get all my information together, but plan to do so in the next week.”

Fountain responded by saying, “If anyone needs to be brought up on ethics charges, it is him.”

“I have already had consultation with my attorney and the Attorney General concerning his actions,” said Fountain. “I bend over backwards to work with him.”