Editorial: New territory, contradictory decisions

Jun. 22, 2013 @ 07:32 PM

Commissioners for Vance County have stepped into new territory. The chance it could have lasting negative repercussions is every bit as great as the chance for positive immediate impact.

When the budget vote comes Tuesday evening, they will likely approve an appropriation to the Warren County Free Clinic. The minimum is $10,000, but it could go as high as $15,000.

Recalling the last time the county government felt it had enough money to send our tax dollars into another county will be futile.

What the commissioners wish to do is noble and well intentioned. They understand Vance County citizens go to the clinic and therefore want to help a struggling but valid seven-year-old enterprise.

It provides free lab tests and free medications, utilizing volunteer and paid medical professionals.

The request was for $50,000. But it’s a timely request, one that begs for scrutiny both on the part of the clinic and the commissioners whose reputation was bruised by fumbling their actions on voter identification.

Clinic leaders told commissioners 4,900 are enrolled. In a February story in The Dispatch describing a dire financial plight, the number of “active” patients was set at 3,000 by one of the clinic’s co-founders. That same co-founder wrote to The Dispatch in March, “We enroll 450 patients annually.”

Warren County commissioners, at an April 17 work session, considered a request from the clinic for $50,000. They indicated approval at an early May meeting and vote Thursday for formal adoption.

Vance commissioners were not asked for help until June 11, less than 20 days from the budget needing finalization and 42 days after its first presentation.

The timing reminds us of the voter ID resolution by Vance commissioners. The issue was known for months, wasn’t put on the agenda and gained an approval without anything in writing.

Now comes another late-game move, this time with the caveat of our county tax dollars leaving our county.

Ironically, in the voter ID argument, opponents cite the ability of voters to go and get IDs. Yet our commissioners who supported it are, by sending our money to another county, endorsing the ability of the impoverished to get across the county line. And more than once every eight years.

This is new territory indeed.