Greene County is slowly becoming a divided country. The forces for and against bingo gaming in the county could be in the process of creating two county governments.
Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 4, 2004
You have the Greene County Commission, which has three commissioners, Chris Beeker, Edna Chambers and Willie Webster, often against two other commissioners Bill Johnson and Donald Means (bingo supporters). The tension in the county commission office is evident, and the concern on the faces of county staffers very visible at times.
The county government is in bankruptcy with few ways to secure new revenue. Sheriff Johnny Isaac has been critical of the county not fully funding his department, but he must know how broke the county is.
The new bingo law has given power to the sheriff and will allow money to flow freely from bingo proceeds to the sheriff’s office, firefighters, E-911 and county schools. The county general fund as practically been shut out. The county only receives a portion from the county Racing Commission.
If bingo gaming continues to be as successful as the first month seemed to be, the sheriff will be responsible for a considerable amount of money.
County administrators must be forgiven if they might consider cutting back on money to the sheriff’s department if he receives large sums directly from bingo.
There is also a suit against Greenetrack involving how much money the county has been entitled to since Paul Bryant Jr. gave the track to the employees. If Greentrack is forced to give half of its take to the county the balance of revenues could shift.
Greene County has tied its future once again to proceeds from gambling. Any discussion whether bingo is played on cards or on a pseudo-slot machine is moot; GreeneTrack is a casino for all intents and purposes.
As much as anti-gambling forces would like to put the genie back in the bottle, gambling seems to be fact of life in Eutaw.
As long as Greentrack is fortunate to have so many customers and money flows in, county officials need to work together the use the money wisely.
Sheriff Johnny Isaac has taken on a lot. Along with his regular extensive duties as the chief law enforcement officer of the county, being responsible for bingo gaming may become more than he bargained for.
His office and the management of Greenetrack need to be very forthcoming on what money they are making. When it comes to bingo gaming, the books should be open for the public to see.
Bingo gaming was created by the public support of a law; bingo gaming should be viewed as a public entity.
Whether the folks in Eutaw know it or not, and whether justified are not, they have a reputation for wasting gambling revenues. The lack of disclosure from track officials or the sheriff will add to an appearance of corruption. Information should not be obtainable just to satisfy reporters but to give the public an accurate idea of where the money is going and what is being done with it.
With the success Greenetrack is having, I would tell the world what money is coming in. To hide it gives the impression someone is getting something under the table.
Sheriff Isaac is an honorable man. His critics may think he has too much power because of bingo, but I think he has the best interests of the county in mind.
The commissioners, no matter the old conflicts, must understand that the county needs leadership not squabbling.
The recent concern on the Pink Palace adult entertainment store showed the commission can be of one mind on an issue. The best thing for Greene County is the sheriff and the county commission working together to make the best use of bingo fortunes. Those opposed and for bingo, those who argued over the site for the new county jail, need to bury the hatchet and have a meaningful conversation.
The county commission has called a special meeting for today at 10 a.m. to presumably discuss office matters. It would be a great meeting to shake hands and begin working toward a positive future for the people of the county.