(Nov. 20, 2020) Confusion over who is responsible for paying for bills associated with the Black Eyed Susan riverboat was clarified at the Worcester County Commissioners meeting Tuesday.
Tom Perlozzo, director of recreation and parks, economic development and tourism, and Snow Hill Town Manager Gary Weber pitched the idea to purchase the Black Eyed Susan back in August as a means to revitalize the economies of Snow Hill and Pocomoke.
Last month, the commissioners approved a $400,000 no-interest loan to the Town of Snow Hill to buy the 111-foot paddle wheel boat, which was done two weeks later at a final cost of $324,900.
“This is the opportunity to revitalize not one, but two downtown areas that have been struggling, honestly,” County Commissioner Joshua Nordstrom said in October. “Everyone seems to want to try to figure out how to make our downtowns vibrant again.”
On Tuesday, County Commissioner Chip Bertino wondered why the county had paid for the paddleboat’s insurance.
“Did we not give $400,000 to the Town of Snow Hill to handle the expenses for the paddleboat?” Bertino asked. “Why is the county paying the bills for all of this?”
Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins said administrative staff believed the county would have better control over those bills if the county processed it, which would ensure it did not exceed the allotted $400,000.
“The Town of Snow Hill is also a fairly small operation,” Higgins said. “They do not have the ability to direct wires to any of the payees, so we often get involved as a middleman for that.”
Furthermore, the original loan document required certain insurance coverage to protect the county’s interest, he said, so having a personal hand in the payment process added another layer security.
“We made it clear even within the loan documentation that the loan amount would not exceed $400,000,” Higgins said.
Bertino said he did not remember discussing how these payments would be handled.
“It was my understanding that the lump sum of $400,000 would be turned over to the Town of Snow Hill for them to handle it,” Bertino said. “So that was a change in the administration of that loan.”
Higgins said he would not have made such a recommendation.
“Typically … you control your disbursements to verify either that you’ve made the payments or that you’ve reviewed all of the expenditures prior to that approval,” Higgins said.
Otherwise, the county would handle loans through reimbursements, which was less desirable because of the aforementioned lack of control.
Bertino asked about expense overage, and Higgins reassured hime that any expense beyond the $400,000 would be the responsibility of Snow Hill.