The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

County disqualified for grant requests

 

September 18, 2019



CLOVIS — Predicted issues stemming from the unresolved deficiencies found in Curry County’s 2018 audit have begun to manifest, with the county being disqualified for two requested grants for projects at La Casa Senior Center.

The grants in question are for $157,028 for HVAC and roof renovations and $55,650 for the purchase of vehicles for La Casa.

The Department of Aging and Long Term Services sent a letter to the county on Aug. 27 informing it the projects were ready to commence, but after review it found the county did not qualify because issues from its 2018 audit had not been resolved.

Officials said most of the issues are related to procedures employed by the county treasurer’s office that have yet to be corrected.

The department advised the county to seek out a third-party fiscal agent, but instead County Manager Lance Pyle worked with the department for the past two weeks to see if it would allow him to act as fiscal agent for these two projects instead.

During the regular county meeting Tuesday morning, a response letter was approved to be sent to the department outlining Pyle’s qualifications and assuring the department that Treasurer Debbie Spriggs and the treasury office would not be involved in the projects or the handling of the grant funds in any way.

The letter was pre-approved by the department so that upon approval by the county commissioners the funds would be released.

Pyle said the state has stressed the importance of getting the audit issues addressed as soon as possible and that future grant issues will become increasingly difficult to manage, with the county likely being forced to obtain fiscal agents for each project.

Pyle also said the county employs roughly 10 employees who rely 100 percent on grant money and that those positions may be in jeopardy if issues continue.

“We’ve got to do something or it’s going to get even more difficult in the future,” Pyle said.

The county has future projects for La Casa pending, such as a request for $6,985.66 approved during the meeting for refrigerator and freezer at the Senior Center. Pyle said the department has made it clear there can be no additional audit findings of this level or they will not be able to make similar arrangements in the future.

Commission Chairman Chet Spear addressed Spriggs at the meeting, bringing up the commission’s Aug. 9 meeting when he informed her that if left unresolved, the treasury office’s 2018 audit findings could hinder the entire county’s efforts to apply and receive loans and grants.

The Aug. 9 meeting also examined an agreed-upon procedure review that revealed minimum action had been taken to have those issues resolved. The board promised its full support and that of the county manager’s office in getting the issues resolved.

Spear went on to reiterate that if there are repeat audit findings in 2019, repercussions could be felt for months if not years.

“We didn’t even know about the grant employees and how they would be affected as well. We could lose several employees,” Spear said. “Then there’s the renovation of the district court, the construction of the magistrate court, the completion of the Main Street project, just to name a few.”

Spear said he submitted several questions to the treasury office during the Aug. 9 meeting for review during the commission’s Aug. 20 meeting, but never received a response.

Spriggs responded by stating that she only recently obtained a chief deputy and that they have been working to correct the issues and respond to the commission’s questions. She said she expects to send a report with several of the questions answered by next week.

Spriggs later said she began employing a chief deputy on Aug. 15 and that several of the audit deficiencies have since been corrected, but the office is still in the planning stages of how to tackle some of the larger issues.

 
 

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