LAURINBURG — The Gibson town commissioners met in the Scotland County Emergency Operations Center and received lessons on what the town needs to do to get its finances in order.
The town has been without a permanent town clerk since December, but hired a temporary clerk/bookkeeper in January — but Sharon Edmunson, deputy state treasurer and director of the State and Local Government Finance Division at North Carolina, who attended the meeting virtually. said the town needs a financial officer to make sure money is being used properly.
“The board is responsible for all of the actions out of the town, including the financial operations,” she said. “It is ultimately the board’s responsibility to make sure the statutes are enforced. I know you all have made some progress in these areas in that regard, you’ve hired a temporary clerk and you appointed a finance officer.”
Gibson Commissioner Margie Whitlock is the acting financial officer, but that role is temporary, Edmunson said the town has to have someone in the office who is responsible for accepting payments, making deposits there has to be a finance officer’s signature on the town’s checks.
While the town is searching for a town clerk, Edmundson said if the new clerk can double as the financial officer, that’s a plus, but suggests having a deputy finance director.
“You need to have backup because, if you don’t have a finance officer, you cannot write checks — as you well know because you ran into that situation,” she said.
In December, the town ran into issues of paying employees and town bills following the departure of the previous town clerk.
Commissioner Eric Stubbs said he’d want the new town clerk to also be the finance officer because the new hire should be experienced in doing the work and it would save the town money.
Mayor Gwen Arrigon asked if the town clerk has dual roles, should the pay reflect that. Edmunson said in towns like Gibson, it isn’t uncommon for the clerk to do both jobs.
“Whether or not you pay for both positions is your decision,” she said. “You might want to check with other towns around you and see what they do.”
The commissioners were also briefed on the state of the water-sewer fund. Edmunson said while there isn’t any debt on the Gibson water sewer system, it also shows that there hasn’t been a lot of investment in it either.
“The fund is losing money, as you know, and if there aren’t any changes, then you’re going to run out of money in the next year. And that’s if you don’t make a major repair. If you have to make a major repair, then it’s going to be a lot sooner than that.”
Gibson is designated as a distressed system by the state and Edmundson said there are free resources available that can help the town determine what needs to be done.
— In other business: Gibson has a new town attorney. The Brough Law Firm out of Concord will be representing the town and Albert Benschoff is the lead attorney for the town.
Cheris Hodges can be reached at [email protected]