Fine Print: Commissioners learn money lesson

Wood County Commissioners are learning an important lesson in reading the fine print, as they discover they “don’t have any choice” but to accept a $674,992.93 grant from the West Virginia State Election Commission that is to be matched with $768,500 in local funds to purchase replacements for old voting machines.

As commissioners examined the budget and began to wonder whether next year might be a better time to plan for repaying a loan that could be necessary to cover the local match, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office reminded them that in applying for the grant the county had committed to receiving the funds if they were approved.

“It sounds like our plan has already been made,” said Commissioner Blair Couch. “We will have to figure out a budgeting system for it.”

There are options, of course, and County Clerk Mark Rhodes pointed out he would not have suggested the grant application if he had believed the county would not be able to afford it. But it may mean a change in the way commissioners had planned to spend over the next five years or so.

Commissioners should remember this incident. There are always strings when asking for money, particularly when asking from the government. Every consumer who has been bitten by ignoring the fine print in such scenarios has been forced to face the consequences — and to do a better job of preparing and paying attention to detail the next time.