Jason SchaeferThe Valdosta Daily Times
LAKE PARK — After the Lake Park City Council agreed Tuesday to ask former city clerk Ann Peterson to return as a consultant, Mayor Pro-Tem Sandy Sherrill promised to contact her and apologize.
The apology was telephoned at 7:20 a.m. Wednesday and “overwhelmed” Peterson, though she had already heard the news from members of the Lake Park community and she read about the council’s action in The Valdosta Daily Times prior to the city’s call. “(Sherrill) apologized and asked me to come back,” Peterson told The Times Wednesday. “I told them that I would talk with them, and they wanted to know my terms. I was really shocked to see the story in the paper, but I received four calls about (the decision) before I went to bed.”
While Peterson appreciates the gesture and the council’s decision, she is hesitant to acquiesce to the request for services until she has had time to review the gravity of the billing issue, she said. The city recently distributed water bills with incorrect payment amounts due to about 100 residents.
Peterson is currently drawing retirement pay from the city, and said she will not give that up.
Peterson was told no information has been entered into the city’s software system since she was dismissed in January, she said, and though she does have a large amount of expertise submitting the data, it will take time to catch up.
“The city is on a calendar-year basis,” Peterson said. “Normally, this time of year I’m already knee-deep in (next year’s) budget, but we have no idea what has been spent until eight months of financial data can be put into the software.”
Peterson seemed amused that the city was having such difficulty navigating the software, which she claims only takes a little bit of training.
“They acted like it was the worst thing in the world,” Peterson said. “I’m 61, and I didn’t have computer classes, and I could use it.”
When the program was originally implemented, the city trained Peterson to use it, sending an instructor to City Hall, she said. She was surprised the city didn’t train her successor the same way.
“I don’t know why the city didn’t do that to start with,” she said. “They just hand-wrote the checks. All they did was pull checks out, write them and put them into folders.”
Peterson plans to gauge the city’s expectations over the next few days for a firm deadline, she said. She declined to speculate on when the job of entering all of the city’s financials into the system might be complete. At this point, she is still trying to decide whether to take the city up on its offer.
“It’s a little premature to say,” Peterson said. “It’s not as simple as saying, ‘Yes, I’ll come back to work.’ It’s knowing what’s got to be done, and the short period of time it’s got to be done in. I want to look at records, look at the software, and get some kind of grasp on what it’s going to take to get everything back in order.”
Peterson added she enjoyed her 30 years working for the city. She doesn’t have any hard feelings “for 99 percent of the citizens because they’ve been as upset about this as” she has.