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Work set to start on county’s next audit

POSTED: August 11, 2014 7:59 p.m.

The next audit of Effingham County’s government appears to be on track.

County finance director Joanna Wright said auditors from the Statesboro accounting firm of Thigpen, Westerfield, Lanier and Deal have scheduled meetings with elected officials and also want to meet with agencies that receive county support.

Thigpen, Westerfield, Lanier and Deal was awarded a bid last year for $41,777. The county got an extension for its 2012 and 2013 audits. Caines and Hodges performed the 2012 audit, which was delivered to county commissioners in June 2013, and the 2013 audit was presented to commissioners this past June.

Counties can get two extensions from the state Department of Revenue on audits.

“We have to hold them to that calendar because we cannot have another extension,” said Chairman Wendall Kessler. “And it’s to their benefit. They want to get these things before tax season starts in January, too.”

Auditors are expected to begin testing and field work with the county’s finance department Oct. 6 and will conduct that through Oct. 25. The audit is expected to be done by the end of the calendar year.

“I told (the auditor) we were going to make sure we were going to meet this calendar,” Wright said.

The most recent audit included 13 findings and material weaknesses, and auditors recommended the county tighten several of its policies and procedures to ensure better control.

County commissioners also have approved adding the job description of civil engineer, grade 3. The position would assist the county engineer in development of plans for water and sewer infrastructure, public works infrastructure and drainage study projects. Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and three years of previous experience.

“I’m not looking for someone to work autonomously,” said interim county administrator Toss Allen. “They have to have some degree of knowledge. It can’t be a finishing school. What I was trying to get was not a county engineer to come in but someone who can come in do things, someone you can give directives to and they can clear up some of the backlog.”

For instance, Allen said, the person in the position could look at the plans for Herbert Kessler Road and see if a proposed route fits within the right-of-way and also work on addressing a failing septic system in the Sand Hill area.

“Those are the kinds of things I would like to be able to hand to this person,” Allen said. “I don’t think we’re far off from what I envision.”

He added it would not be a position to replace him as county engineer. The position pays $21.43 per hour.

“At this rate, you’re only going to get somebody right out of school,” advised Commissioner Steve Mason. “For this person to do what we’re looking for them to do, you’re not going to get design work out of them.”

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