Wesson works to receive funds from unpaid fines

Published 6:55 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2020

During the Wesson Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday, Wesson Mayor Alton Shaw informed the public that the first round of letters have gone out to those who owe the town money for old police fines.

The town can receive money for the unpaid fines through a person’s tax returns, but the town must first send out letters informing them that this will happen. Shaw said Wesson has sent out 62 letters so far, and only six letters have been returned for wrong addresses. In the short term, revenue for old, unpaid fines has the potential to be significant for the town.

“The way we did this is they went from the top fines down,” Shaw said. “Out of the 62 (letters), thats $104,000. If we could collect a portion of that, that would be a great thing.”

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Shaw also took the time to address concerns from the public that money raised for the Wesson Old School is not being put into its own account.

Shaw — citing a 1998 Attorney General Opinion — said the board is trying to be careful about how it uses public funds. Then-Attorney General Mike Moore was responding to a question from the City of Gulfport about whether money raised for the city’s fire or police department with a request to use the funds for a particular purpose could go into a special account.

Moore opined that while municipalities can accept the donation, the funds must be placed into the municipal treasury. When that happens, the funds become public money. Cities can accept donations with conditions, but only if those conditions comply with the lawful use of public money.

Shaw said incorrectly-used public funds are a serious concern, especially since the board, the city clerk and Shaw himself can be held personally liable.

“With that said, last year, the old school — between the rental and any other fundraisers done — we took in $16,532. Expenses amounted to $24,506. When you sit there and look at it and you say, ‘Where did the money go?’ It went to the old school. Long story short, the money goes into the general fund and gets accounted for in line items.”

The budget shortfall at the Wesson Old School has been a concern for the town for some time. In December’s board meeting, Shaw suggested reducing the number of smaller, cheaper rented events at the building as a way to reduce expenses. Shaw said Tuesday that for some of the needed repairs for the building, the town simply didn’t have the money.

“The posts, we can’t afford it. It’s about $20,000 per post, and actually there’s (three) of them to replace.”

In other business

The board approved a public hearing for an abandoned property on Seventh Street, to be held during the March board meeting.

The board approved expenses for CMC certification training and a municipal clerk spring conference.

Jonathan Hall was hired for a full-time position in public works.