Archived Story

$250K check still in limbo

Published 10:06am Monday, October 28, 2013

The county still doesn’t know how, or even if, it can use the $250,000 check it received this summer after the transfer of the Sherman Thompson Towers to a private owner.

Last month Chief Deputy Auditor Chris Kline, at the request of the budget commission, sent a letter to the auditor of state asking for an opinion as to what the county can do with the money.

Kline reported to the budget commission on Tuesday last week that the initial letter got lost. That same day he sent a second letter, certified, with the same request.

Until the budget commission receives its answer, the check remains in an escrow account, uncertified and unavailable for county use.

Eight months ago, LeRoy Eslinger of LM Associates came to the Lawrence County Commission to ask for its help in negotiations with the Ironton Metropolitan Housing Authority. Eslinger wanted a reversion clause removed from a lease between LM and the housing authority on the Sherman Thompson Towers, a senior citizen apartment complex built in Ironton in the 1970s. LM had control of the building, but would lose the opportunity to own the land if the clause were enforced.

That clause would have made the towers the property of the housing authority in 2032.

According to Commission President Bill Pratt, the commissioners asked Eslinger if he would agree to pay the housing authority $500,000. He agreed.

In August, checks for $250,000 were given to the City of Ironton and the county commissioners.

Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said the money is earmarked for capital improvements and paving projects to come out of the 2014 budget.

“The upkeep of this building (City Center) and other buildings within the city, not just the city building,” Blankenship said. “If another department needs capital improvements we will have this reserve fund — $250,000 sounds like a lot of money, but that won’t go too far. Once you get using money as a municipality, it doesn’t go very far.”

The county has taken a different approach seeking the state auditor’s opinion on the use of the money.

“When the county received the check, no one could explain to the budget commission where the check was derived from,” County Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson said. “That is important when you go to deposit the check. The county has numerous accounts. If it needs to be in an account that is not the general fund, we need to know. If we deposit it in the general fund and a year down the road we were supposed to put it into the capital improvement fund, we don’t want that to happen. The county couldn’t come up with that kind of money. Once it’s spent, it’s gone.”

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