Grand Jury: Century in ‘state of financial emergency’

State Attorney Bill Eddins yesterday released a Escambia County Grand Jury reported that blistered the Town of Century’s elected officials.

The Grand Jury was impaneled at the request of the State Attorney as a result of numerous complaints and concerns regarding the financial conditions of the little town on the northern-most edge of Escambia County.

The report cites several issues with the town’s natural gas utility:

  • The customer base has shrunk by nearly 50 percent–going from 1000 to 600-500 customers.
  • The system lost $303,427 in FY 2017, $224,311 in FY 2016 and is expected to report an even bigger loss for FY 2018.
  • The system failed to bill for 41.9 percent of the natural gas that came into the system in 2018.
  • New meters have purchased for its largest customer, the state prison, but have yet to be installed.

The water and sewer fund also suffered losses – FY 2016 $248,652, FY 2017 $217,248.

Those aren’t the only financial difficulties reported:

  • Funds were not available to cover payroll checks. Federal withholding deposits were not paid.
  • Routine town payables aren’t made on time.
  • In 2003, the town made economic development loans to local businesses, including two owned by council members and one owned by the previous mayor. The loans weren’t listed on any of the town’s audits.
  • The mayor and council have fought over hiring a clerk to do the utility billing. No utility bills have been sent out.
  • The budget revenue projects appear to be unrealistic.
  • Local Option Sales Tax dollars have been used improperly to fund day-to-day operations.
  • The town has borrowed $2.7 million from its Special Revenue Fund and has been paying it back $300 per month. “At this rate it would take 750 years to pay back these funds.”

The Grand Jury made 15 recommendations. They want the State Auditor General’s Office to do a forensic financial audit for the past five years. Also the jury recommended the State of Florida and Escambia County investigate the misappropriation of gas tax and LOST funds