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Fundamental differences mark city, county approaches to lines of credit

By Staff
Jan. 13, 2002
There are fundamental differences between the approaches taken by the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County to setting up lines of credit.
Lauderdale County supervisors took an up front approach and identified specific potential uses of the money, should they tap into a $5 million line of credit through the Mississippi Development Bank. Their list was discussed in open meetings and published in the newspaper. Potential spending included:
Road equipment: $1.9 million.
Elevator Repairs: $240,000.
Radio tower: $140,000.
Funds to pay for Four Year Road Plan in lieu of loans: $3.5 million.
Juvenile Detention Center expansion: $2.25 million.
Possible voting machine replacement: $350,000.
The supervisors have given residents  and voters enough information to decide for themselves whether a line of credit is a good idea. Supervisors thought the possibility of borrowing money at 2.95 percent was a good enough idea that they approved it on a 4-to-1 vote.
Given the light that Lauderdale County supervisors have shined on the proposal, we agree that, should they decide these funds are necessary to improve the quality of life for county residents, a line of credit is the way to go.
They will still have to vote on specific individual draw-downs and those votes will have to come at public meetings so that, again, citizens have the opportunity to know what is going on in their county government and the opportunity to voice their opinions.
The city of Meridian, on the other hand, has declined to reveal specifics about why it is seeking a $10 million line of credit. A list of potential uses  published as a legal ad in the newspaper was so broad and all-encompassing that it was essentially useless in helping city residents determine exactly what city officials propose to do with the money. In theory, it could be used for almost anything.
Is this because the county has a plan and the city doesn't? We don't know. But you have to assume there are reasons behind the city's failure to come forward with specifics.
Government, especially in the 21st century when it is so easy to communicate, should operate in the open, with citizens given specific information on how their elected officials propose to spend money. It is their fundamental obligation.
We applaud members of the Lauderdale County board of supervisors for their willingness to offer details on their line of credit proposal and their initiative to include county residents in the process.