Bay County has notified the City of Springfield that it will stop providing animal control services unless the city pays its past due bills.
In a May 17 letter to City Clerk Anne Andrews, county commission chairman George Gainer notified the city it had a past due balance of $49,448 that included $15,022 remaining from 2012. The county demanded full payment by June 1. "Failure to do so will result in the County discontinuing services to your City," Gainer wrote.
Mayor Ralph Hammond asked for more time. He had already ordered a full audit of the city's finances after a pile of signed, unmailed checks was found in a former employee's office. That included two checks totaling more than $30,000 that were written to the county for animal control services, Hammond said.
"The checks have not cleared [and] we don't know where the checks are," Hammond said. "The money is not in City Hall and evidently they don't have it."
Andrews and newly-hired finance director Lauren Laramore are heading up the audit to identify what the mayor called "record keeping issues."
"We're reviewing everything from when a payment comes in to how it's posted [and] we've changed procedures getting money to the bank," Hammond said. "We're doing a complete shakeup even on the outside looking at everything we do."
The county has agreed to wait for payment. "They've kept the lines of communication open," said Valerie Sale, Public Information Officer. "They've exhibited absolutely an interest in paying that debt back and so we are happy to work with them on it."
Mayor Hammond said new accounting procedures will prevent future problems. "I just believe the city is going forward and we're all looking positive," he said. "We do not have a financial issue right now."
Late Monday, Hammond said one of the payments had been located – and credited – and the city will have its bank issue a stop payment order on the other. That reduces its past due animal control bill to $19,401 and the mayor said it will be paid by the end of the month.