Hot Sulphur finds itself in financial hot water
November 10, 2008
After voters denied all three Hot Sulphur Springs ballot questions, a town resident asked the Board of Trustees to declare a state of emergency.
“I think its time to throw in the towel,” said Marti Shuster, at the Nov. 6 meeting. “There comes a time when the boxing match has gone to round 10. It’s time to bow our head, humble our self, and as mayor you could declare a state of emergency because of our finances.
“If you declare an emergency, they (Federal Emergency Management Agency) would be in here, and it would be fixed probably within three, four months, and we wouldn’t have all these loans, we wouldn’t have all this interest. We are broke, we are bankrupt, we need to declare Chapter 11/13, say, ‘Oops we tried,’ and give it to somebody who can fix it.”
Town officials chose not to answer Shuster’s questions at the time and commented that they would prefer to solve the problem on their own. To that end, they said they will focus the budget on fixing the water system.
The ballot proposals asked if the town’s taxes should double; if the town could eliminate a 5.5 percent limit on the amount property tax revenues can grow from year to year; and if the town debt should be increased by $2.15 million. An engineer has estimated Hot Sulphur Springs needs to spend $3.5 million to $4 million to repair the water system.
Hot Sulphur resident Jeff Green did not favor the bankruptcy approach.
“I don’t go that route,” he said. “You’re not bankrupt if you don’t try. We just voted that we’re not going to try in my opinion.”
Yvonne Knox concurred.
“I don’t think it’s time to give up,” she said. “I think we just need to work harder. I think there are some things that need to be corrected and finished. And I for one am not willing to criticize the board for what happened one or two boards ago … This is something that has been happening to this town for a long time. And I personally think this board is doing an exceptional job at taking care of the problem. And if you need help, I’ll be there to help because I’m not willing to give up ” not ready to give up the town.”
Hot Sulphur Trustee Maura Ransom didn’t favor giving up either.
“You say, ‘Just get FEMA to come in here,’ she said. “Good luck at getting anybody to come in here, Marti, because nobody cares about little old Hot Sulphur Springs, a town of 350 (people.) Nobody’s going to bail us out or pay for anything ” we have to do it ourselves.”
Shuster also questioned why town employees have not fixed the town’s water taps.
“Why still are there not any ending numbers on the meter billing?” she asked. “We have beginning numbers, but have no ending numbers. This is supposed to be an automated system, and I want to know if we’re going to correct it? When are we going to correct it? And why to date has it not been corrected?”
Green also would like to see the problem fixed.
“It’s important that we fill the gaps, find out who’s not paying,” he said.
He was unhappy that the ballot questions were all rejected.
“I’m disappointed about the way the vote turned out,” he said. “I’m disappointed in that the folks do not want to invest in the community. …
“In my opinion, the problem hasn’t gone away and now I guess we have a year before the next opportunity to do this again. And this happened so quickly that maybe we weren’t prepared.”
Mayor Hershal Deputy said it was a close vote and that he’s going to keep trying.
“I’m going to work harder,” he said. “I guess we have been looking at this wrong. We thought we had a town with a water and sewer plan. We don’t. We have a water and sanitation district that happens to have a town attached.”
The board will discuss it budget at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall. It has to be adopted by Dec. 4, and submitted Dec. 15.
” Katie Looby covers government and education for the Sky-Hi Daily News. You may reach her at 887-3334 ext. 19601 or firstname.lastname@example.org.