Bristol talks town credit cards

BRISTOL — For years, the Bristol selectboard has resisted the idea of allowing town officials to carry town credit cards, but those days might be over.
Town Clerk and Treasurer Therese Kirby explained to the Independent that officials have long fronted their own money to pay for town expenses while they wait to be reimbursed, but that can’t continue, she said.
When Kirby applied for one town credit card to fix this problem, she found out that was not possible.
“The banks don’t like issuing credit cards to organizations,” Kirby told Bristol selectboard members at their meeting on Oct. 3. “So that means we can’t just have one (credit card). We’re going to have several cards with several names.”
The prospective cardholders would be the heads of departments: Town Administrator Bill Bryant, Police Chief Kevin Gibbs, Road Foreman Peter Bouvier, Recreation Coordinator Darla Senecal and Teen Center Director Jim Lockridge.
“I don’t want one in my name and there won’t be one in (assistant treasurer) Peter Ryan’s name … that would just be too big of a conflict,” Kirby told the board.
On Thursday, she explained the precautions that would accompany these cards. Each credit card would remain in her office until it is checked out.
“They will have to have a purchase order for an amount of $200 or more, which is approved by Bill (Bryant), and then they come and get their credit card,” said Kirby. “They will have a time limit that they discuss with Bill, but they really won’t have (the card) out for more than a day or two at a time.”
She then explained that for each purchase, receipts will be submitted and numerous eyes will review the orders. But at last Monday’s meeting, selectboard Chair Joel Bouvier wasn’t sold on the idea.
“Every town … has said the same thing in the state of Vermont, and then two years later they have a huge embezzlement,” he said, speaking figuratively about “every town.”
“I understand the need for it, but it scares the hell out of me,” replied Kirby at the meeting. “If you can think of more controls to put on it, then let me know … I’ll be looking at the bill, Bill will be looking at the bill and you guys should be looking at the bill.”
Bryant added his final thoughts.
“The organizations that have had problems with any kind of embezzlement — whether its check writing, credit cards, cash — it’s usually involved lack of controls, a lack of checks and balances and one person in charge of too much stuff and there was too much temptation.”
The credit cards have yet to be issued and the selectboard is still exploring additional regulations.
Also at the meeting:
•  Kirby told the board that the $286,981.66 in delinquent property taxes from April have been reduced to $17,0752.21.
•  The next round of property taxes are due on Nov. 7, before midnight.
•  Repair totals from Tropical Storm Irene are continuing to trickle in. Bryant told the board that the town is looking at $150,000 of road damage — $120,000 to Lincoln Road and Lincoln Road alone — and $10,000 in potential damage at Eagle Park.
•  Former administrative assistant Lisa Dupoise had her last day of work on Friday, Sept. 30. Jen Stetson has now officially taken over the position.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]

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