Council proposes restrictions on POR $

RIDGEWAY – At its March meeting, Town Council continued chipping away at the Pig on the Ridge (POR) festival steering committee’s longstanding level of involvement with the festival by introducing an ordinance that Interim administrator David Hudspeth said would establish financial procedures for the administration of POR funds.

While the steering committee – Tom Connor, Councilman Don Prioleau, Rufus Jones and Henry Dixon – has provided general oversight and management of the festival since its inception in 1999, Connor said the Town government has always collected, accounted for, deposited and written the checks for all POR moneys, and that POR expenditures always required Council approval, which was rarely if ever withheld. Council, not POR, had authority to sign POR checks and purchase and cash POR CDs, Connor said.

In turn, Connor said the steering committee enjoyed autonomy in making decisions regarding how the festival’s money was spent, how charitable donations were distributed, etc.

“It operated on a gentleman’s agreement between the committee and Town Hall,” Jones said. “There were no problems. Everything ran smoothly. There were no complaints that we mishandled money and no problems from yearly audits. Everything was reported properly and it added up,” Jones said. “We never touched POR cash. It went directly to town hall.”

Hudspeth’s proposed ordinance would impose strict procedures for all POR expenses and revenues, some of which, Prioleau said, will not work for POR.

Among those are the requirement that the committee seek Council approval before purchasing a big ticket item such as a town clock which the committee has contemplated purchasing. The committee must also procure goods and services for the operation of the festival in accordance with the Town’s purchasing policies. Prioleau said that won’t work.

“U.S. Foods works with us. The meat market is up and down, and we don’t lock in on a price ‘till two weeks out,” Prioleau said. “They deliver meat and donate $1,000 to POR. They provide us with quality meat. We can’t just take the lowest bid.”

“POR has been a community effort and brought the community together. We’ve brought love and commitment and we’ve been doing it for 19 years, so we must have been doing something right,” Prioleau said. “I beg you to review this. We need a better ordinance.”

After Prioleau’s emotional plea, Councilman Heath Cookendorfer made a motion to table the ordinance until the administrator and POR committee could agree.

Unlike recent rancorous meetings, there were no interruptions, and Council voted unanimously, 5-0 in favor of Cookendorf’s motion.

“We’re glad you all are coming to the table,” Mayor Charlene Herring said to Prioleau. “We just want to make sure that we’re all clear and clean. I wouldn’t want anything to stop any of our festivals.”

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