Is The City Of Springfield Broke?

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SPRINGFIELD - The city of Springfield is in a bit of a financial mess. Mayor Ralph Hammond wrote to the Governor's Office and the Legislative Audit Committee Wednesday to declare a financial emergency.

The city pays about $400,000 a month in bills, but they consistently can't pay around $30,000-$50,000 each month and it's starting to worry city officials.

The city of Springfield is on the edge of financial disaster if they don't take action soon.

The city owes hundreds of thousands of dollars, including a big portion to Bay County for the Advanced Wastewater Treatment facility and water usage.

"If they can't work that out, then we'll be happy to help them in any way we can. We don't want to see Springfield go away, but we don't want to see anyone get hurt either," said George Gainer, a Bay County Commissioner.

On Wednesday, Mayor Ralph Hammond told the Governor's Office and the Legislative Audit Committee that Springfield has a financial emergency. Hammond claims the city meets two condition provisions found in F.S. 218.503(1) that defines an emergency.

(a) Failure within the same fiscal year in which due to pay short-term loans of failure to make bond debt service or other long-term debt payments when due, as a result of a lack of funds.

(b) Failure to pay uncontested claims within 90 days after claim is presented, as a result of funds.

The first relates to the city deferring a state loan payment for a water sewage project that dates back to 1997. The city also failed to pay two cable bills within 90 days.

"We're not closing our doors. We're still making our day to day operations. Some of the bills we are extending out 60 days," said Ralph Hammond, Mayor of Springfield.

Hammond believes part of the problem comes from a former financial director using city credit cards for personal purchases. He also says the city's low water and sewage rates contributed to the financial bind.

Last year, city commissioners approved a rate increase, but are also considering an ad valorem tax to catch up on the bills.

"Already having a hard time struggling to pay my bills that anymore is too much," said Tara Warren, a Springfield resident.

"Well if they want to close the city down, that's their option if they want to. When they go to the county, they'll get a county ad valorem," said Hammond.

State officials are asking the mayor and his staff to answer several questions about the city's finances by march 28th.

"We've been here for 79 years, I cannot see the city of Springfield leaving. I don't want that to happen. They won't get my vote. I'll put it that way," said Hammond.

Once the city answers the questions, the state will determine if Springfield will need financial assistance.

City officials are holding a workshop Monday at 4:00 p.m. o'clock the Springfield Community Center to talk about the issue.