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County wants to change purchasing protocol

In an effort to determine how many bills they have to pay — and how much money they have to pay them — the Lawrence County Commission Thursday asked other officeholders to change the way they’re handling invoices and purchase orders.

The commission approved a resolution asking officeholders

to avoid using contract or blanket purchase orders when requesting money to pay bills and to send in any and all bills they have accumulated but have not yet forwarded to the auditor’s office.

“The problem we found is, we get a notification that a service is being cut off and then we find the purchase order (to pay the bill) was never put in,” Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens said. “Officeholders assume there is no money to pay them so they don’t put in a purchase order.”

Stephens said some officeholders send in what is called

“blanket purchase orders” or “contract orders,” requesting a larger sum of money they estimate they will need to, for instance, pay the entire year’s utility bill. They do this waiting until they get an actual monthly bill. When, for instance, $12,000

is needed to pay an electric bill and a blanket purchase order is made, that ties up $12,000 long before it is needed, making it difficult to determine what amount is actually owed and for what time frame and what is estimated to be needed for the entire year.

“This should give us an evaluation of how much money we really have and what we owe,” Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens said

Right now the county has approximately $400,000 in unpaid bills waiting for payment. It is not known how many more bills are collecting on the desks of officeholders who have not yet turned them over to the auditor’s office because they think the county doesn’t have the money to pay them.

Of the debts that have been turned in, approximately $150,000 are more than 90 days past due. While some of that amount is for county insurance, a large chunk of it is for crime: Lawrence County owes other counties for letting inmates here stay in other jails to alleviate overcrowding, there are bills piling up, too, from attorneys who have been appointed to represent indigent clients. People who have no money to pay a lawyer can get one anyway, compliments of the Lawrence County taxpayer.

There are other bills the county must contend with:

Commissioners are also seeking estimates right now on repairs to the courthouse air conditioning system. Much of the courthouse has no air conditioning. Estimates so far range from between $18,000 and $30,000.