No contracts for tenants of Leila Ellis Building @ LCC 2013-10-07

Two, four, six, many: that’s how Lowndes County counts tenants. It’s great the county is providing space for organizations that help the needy, but it’s kind of curious that the county didn’t seem to know who or how many organizations were using the Leila Ellis building, and had no lease agreement with them. Not to mention it took twenty questions from Commissioners to get staff to admit that lack of contracts, at Monday morning’s Lowndes County Commission Work Session.

6.b. Leila Ellis Building-Available Space

Kind of like they have no contract with the alleged county attorney.

Chad McCleod at one point said two organizations are currently in the building, LAMP and Cash Prosperity. He said the County let LAMP use it, and LAMP let Cash Prosperity use it.

In response to a question from Commissioner DeMarcus Marshall, County Manager Joe Pritchard said under normal circumstances any organization would need to come to the Commission to ask for space. They currently have more applicants than space.

Commissioner Crawford Powell wanted to know if the county was going to set up guidelines for who could lease. Pritchard said they could, and they couldn’t lease to a private business.

Commissioner Richard Raines wanted to know if annual leases were the practice of this board. Pritchard, not actually answering the question asked, said “That would be my suggestion.”

JoTaryla Thomas came up to speak for Cash Prosperity Campaign, saying she’d been in the building for six years, and her organization provides (“we partner with the Internal Revenue Service”) free income tax preparation, free housing counseling, and other financial services, including classes.

Commissioner Joyce Evans asked Chad McCleod to explain how the entire building was used. His explanation included

  • “using 5,438 square feet is the Southeast Health Clinic”,
  • “1,295 feet is being used by the Homeless Coalition”,

and some common area. Doesn’t that add up to four tenants, not two?

Commissioner Marshall wanted to know when leases might start.

Commissioner Powell pointed out a soup kitchen was using part of the building. McCleod said that was in a separate building, “also the resource training center, which was part of what LAMP and NCNW was looking at” is in the old library. So we’re up to six tenants, not two.

Commissioner Evans made some explanation that I can’t make out with the sound The county’s sound feed was out again, so we were making do with the camera’s microphone from bill of attainer corner in the back corner of the building.

Commissioner Marshall wanted to know,

In the past did we just write it off for tax purposes or what have you versus charging.

Someone (Chairman Slaughter?) said basically yes, for those who hadn’t paid the rent that was owed.

Commissioner Page wanted to know if they could collect back rent. Answer: not really; none of the organizations have any spare money.

Page then wanted to know if 30 or 60 day eviction notices would be implemented in the future. County Manager Joe Pritchard said that would be established in the lease agreement.

Page wanted to know if that was in the former lease agreement.

Pritchard’s answer:

We did not have an agreement.

Chairman Slaughter leapt in to say they were just trying to clean up the situation and make enough in the future to pay for maintenance on the building.

Which is all fine and good, and it’s great that the county is providing space for what sounds like worthy services. But this is all curious lack of accounting from a county that repeatedly said it was so concerned about how much solid waste collection was costing it, yet never produced a public accounting, won’t produce a contract with the landfill, nor an accounting for what the host or tipping fees from the landfill were used for.

So that’s no contracts with Leila Ellis building tenants, no contract (that the county would produce) with the landfill, no contract with the alleged county attorney, but remember now they do have an exclusive franchise for solid waste collection with a company owned by investors in New York City, and they’re spending our tax dollars on the alleged county attorney to sue a local company for continuing to do business under a license they gave the owner.

Somebody remind me: who does the Lowndes County Commission represent? And how would we know with such sloppy accounting?

Here’s the video:

No contracts for tenants of Leila Ellis Building
Work Session, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 7 October 2013.