Pastor Says New Life Has Never Paid Utility Bill Since Moving Into Old High School

August 8, 2008

New Life Baptist Church has never paid a utility bill since it moved into the old Century High School in August of 2004. That’s what Pastor Irvin Stallworth acknowledged during an exclusive interview with NorthEscambia.com early Thursday evening, shortly after he returned from a trip to Washington, D.C.

NorthEscambia.com was first to report early Thursday morning that utility bills on the building were being paid by the school board. New Life leases the old school from the Escambia County School Board for $1 a year.

stallworth.jpg“It was an oversight,” Stallworth said in his first interview on the issue.  “We’ve never had a bill, so the trustees have never had anything to pay.”

The Town of Century said that the school board had paid the water, sewer and gas charges at the building. School district spokesman Ronnie Arnold said Thursday afternoon that the school district was still trying to determine if they had paid electric bills at the location.

But Stallworth acknowledged in his conversation with NorthEscambia.com that his church had never paid a power, water, sewer or gas bill since moving into the old high school at 700 East Hecker Road.

“The taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going,” he said. “We are willing to do what we need to do to make restitution for what we owe.”

He blamed the confusion on the fact that his church was moving into the building at the same time the school district was moving out of the building…the same time Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast. He said his church immediately went into a reaction mode after Ivan, working to provide aid and relief for the community. As that relief effort was beginning to wind down, Hurricane Dennis then hit the area, sending the church back into a reactionary mode.

“With all the things that were going on post-Dennis,” Stallworth said, “we did not realize that we were not receiving any bills.”

He said he realized that the church was to be paying the utility bills per the lease, which had signed, but the trustee responsible for paying the bills did not know that fact.

After Dennis, several other agencies used the building and facilities, he said, further complicating the situation. He said the Head Start program, GED programs and even the Relay For Life had used the facilities.

Stallworth said New Life has a good relationship with the school district, and he indicated that New Life intends to pay what they owe for utility bills after the school district determines what that number fairly is, taking into account the other uses of the building

“I trust in the Lord and will follow the Lord,” Stallworth said. “God sent me there to Century. God is my guide.”

File photo.

Comments

24 Responses to “Pastor Says New Life Has Never Paid Utility Bill Since Moving Into Old High School”

  1. Tax payer on August 13th, 2008 12:18 pm

    “Since August of 2004………………………
    It was an oversight,” Stallworth said in his first interview on the issue. “We’ve never had a bill, so the trustees have never had anything to pay.”

    Come on people, leave religion out of this problem..It will only confuse this already cloudy picture! And I’m sure the District and Mr. Stallworth could come up with a better response than this..give the tax payer and voters a little more credit than the cheap response given from both sides!!!!! The problem seems larger than they want people to know….keep digging concern citizens, the Truth will come out!

  2. Trish on August 10th, 2008 8:52 am

    Max,

    This may shock you, but I agree with you. Like I said, I like to look at all sides of the picture. When people communicate we see not only what we don’t have in common but more importantly what we do have in common. That is what makes a great country.

  3. Max on August 9th, 2008 11:33 pm

    Now to respond to your pole comment. Yes they were afraid of being arrested. BUT what happened, there were those who attended and absolutely nothing happened. We still have organized “See you at the Pole” events here in our own local school district. AND we still have bible clubs in our own local school district schools. The only thing is that they must be student led. The students may lead and the teachers may join. I may not be old enough to remember the first events that you speak of, but I am not so old as to not remember these events that occured as recently as this last school year.
    I see no reason why we can allow our students to continue organizing gay and lesbian clubs which destroy healthy family units and not allow other students to organize those “threatening” bible clubs. If you don’t agree, don’t sign up and don’t attend. Government property if for the use of ALL citizens without respect of religious orientation! Remember, your tax dollars support these government properties, BUT mine do too.

  4. Max on August 9th, 2008 11:26 pm

    Trish, thanks for the reply. However NOwhere in the Constitution or the Amendments does it state “Separation of Church and State” as you made reference. Now you are on track to the correct analysis when you say that Thomas Jefferson made reference to a wall of separation. However when you read the 1st Amendment as written it speaks of the government making laws “respecting the establishment of religion.” This is the wall of separation. That government may not establish its own religion as England did in our founding fathers days. Don’t mean to beat a deadhorse, but nothing prohibits any government body from leasing space to nonprofit organizations or churchs and is commonly done both here and elsewhere. The old Barrineau Park Elementary School was used for the Northend Communtiy Church until they were able to obtain their own facilities.
    It is interesting how when a disaster occurs, the government is rarely able to function easily and almost always turns to religious organizations to help the citizens as most religious organizations mobilize themselves better than the government can mobilize the public servants. But in the normal course of everyday life, citizens such as yourself then want the government to turn its back on religious organizations. Kinda like the pot calling the kettle black.

    Sorry for the rambling, but to address your concerns, there is no fundamental problem with a government body leasing a public building that is not inhabited or being utilized to a religious organization. That is not the establishment of a “government religion.” They do not mandate that citizens must attend this organizations services or else.

  5. Trish on August 9th, 2008 10:09 pm

    Max,

    If I remeber correctly, the first time there was prayer at the pole, people were afraid that they would be arrested because it was on school property. And very few people showed up. I aso vagly remember controversy over letting after school clubs be religious oriented. And I do believe it was all about church and state, First Amendment. Maybe you are not old enough to remember these things.

  6. Trish on August 9th, 2008 9:03 pm

    Max,

    Thank you very much, I have read the First Amendment. Have you read Thomas Jefferson’s speech from Jan. 1, 1802. He is responding to a Baptist Association and makes the statement of the “wall of separation” between church and state estalished by the First Amendment.

    We could pick this to pieces. Lawyers argue over this all of the time, and I really do love to debate. It is the best way to see all of the sides of the picture.

    The point is that this was a huge mistake by both parties, the church and the school board. Correct it then we can get on to the next problem.

  7. concerned citizen on August 9th, 2008 11:06 am

    When the church leased the building and area around the building they were keenly aware of the situation. I wish the school board could pay everyone’s utility bills but they can’t. We can’t even keep schools open. I wonder what else the school board is paying for that is irresponsible on their part or they are unaware of? I wonder who has time to investigate that?

  8. concerned citizen on August 9th, 2008 11:03 am

    It is that simple if you have a lease and the church does. I am sure that it is defined in the lease what areas they are responsible for and what they are not. They have had several years to make the necessary arrangements with the groups they lease to and allow to use their facilities. I am sure that this is all clearly outlined in the paperwork.

    If the church lets groups such as Relay for Life use their facilities I would assume they would either allow them to use it for free and consider it a donation/ community service or arrange payment for usage. As far as Headstart, they pay rent and utilities at all sites they use unless the church did not enter into a lease with them. In that case, the church is paying the bills of an organization that has plenty of funding from the feds to pay their way. That is not the school board’s responsibility that is the choice of the church.

    They have had plenty of time and experience to understand the nature of what they are doing. If they are using it as a multi-use facility I am sure they are collecting appropriate funds to keep it operational. It appears to be operational now so apparently they know what they are doing.

    However, if they have not been paying the substantial utility bills I wonder if they are able to pay them now. That is their business and it is a business. It is not the business of the school board and taxpayers to pay their way.

  9. Delane Garrett on August 9th, 2008 10:50 am

    One more thing.I am so sick of people using God to do things like not pay utilitiey bills for four years. If that were aprivate citizen all hell would break loose in less than the time it would take for Escambia River to print a bill! My God!!!!!!!!! I’ve everything now!!!!!!!!!

  10. Delane Garrett on August 9th, 2008 10:43 am

    Please, don’t tell me someone is stupid enough to think they are getting free electricity!!!!!! This man (pastor?) should have to pay for the past electricity he has used. Everyone in this area has been through the same storms he has and believe me, we would have known if we were not getting power bills. Again I say PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. another concerned citizen on August 9th, 2008 10:18 am

    It is not as simple as one might think when dealing with multi-use facilities housing gymnasium (used by and for many different events and groups), football fields, headstart, and community events such as relay for life.

  12. concerned citizen on August 9th, 2008 9:18 am

    Has the church paid their deposits and put all utitlities in their name yet?
    This was appparently outlined in their lease according to what has been published. This should have been the first order of business for Mr. Stallworth and his group once the lease was signed. I am sure the telephone service was done as soon as the okay on the lease was received therefore all other utilities should have received the same. I am assuming the school board isn’t also paying their phone bills.

    Headstart is renting space from the church. Their way is not paid by the school board they receive their monies through the CAP program as well as other various grants and their program pays rent and utilities at all sites. Their lease with the church is a matter of public record as they receive public funds. Their office in Pensacola should be able to quickly state the amount of their rent including utilities and whether they are uptodate in their payments to the church.
    There is a lot of talk of splitting the bill and that the church is waiting for a bill from the school board. The bill should be fairly straightforward as gulf power has meters specifically located on the property, Mr. Stallworth could ask for the the bill for the meters on the property going back to the beginning of his lease. Gulf Power has that information at their fingertips. The town of Century could provide him the same for the water, gas, sewage and trash. Mr. Stallworth knows this as do the members of the board of the church.

    Pay your deposits now so this does not accrue any further. Also make payment arrangements with the school board for the previous bills. If you let other organizations use your space that you have leased charge them a fee. It is not up to the taxpayers to pay your way no matter what good you have done and will do. Taxpayers will choose for themselves what donations they wish to make to churches and community groups.

    The hurricane recovery in this area is long over please do not use that excuse any further. Just because this is a church people are being very kind. We should all be outraged that our elected leaders are so cavalier with our monies. There is government waste on all levels this is nothing new unfortunately. What is extremely difficult about this situation is that we will lose our school in Century due to “money” and yet one of the most vocal people about saving our school knew full well that the school board was funding his project and didn’t have the decency to do the right thing instead chose to stay quiet and keep receiving funds that he knew full well his project was receiving in error.

    The school boards misuse of funding is embarassing and infuriating. Combine that with a local “leader” participating then it is sickening. This isn’t the worst thing we are facing but it is contributory to the reason Century is as it is.

    Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

  13. Julie Moran on August 8th, 2008 10:52 pm

    “Let he without sin, cast the first stone…”. I am sure that all of us have made a mistake in our lives- at least one. This entire situation has really been blown out of proportion! One cannot pay something that they didn’t receive but I have full faith in our church and in our Pastor that once the appropriate pro-rata share is determined then it will be paid.

    God has brought this man to Century and God is working in our community to make it a better place- a place where people WANT to come and live, work and raise their children. Our community is coming together, let us not let the “personal attacks” by one man destroy what Century is doing. Let us not let one man try to destroy what is God’s will.

    We must keep up the faith, set the wrongs right and go forward doing God’s work one of God’s chosen places- Century.

    In full support for our community, my church, and my Pastor,

    Julie Booth-Moran

  14. Chuck on August 8th, 2008 8:09 pm

    Thanks Max, I did’nt feel like debating the point.

  15. Max on August 8th, 2008 7:14 pm

    Trish,
    also organized prayer is not prohibited on government property as you allege. There are many “organized” prayers that take place on government property. There are Bible clubs, “See you at the Pole” events, and many others.

  16. Max on August 8th, 2008 7:13 pm

    Trish, gee NO there is nothing in our constitution about separation of church and state anywhere in that document. You really should read it sometime.

  17. Chuck on August 8th, 2008 6:52 pm

    Trish, I agree completely to your below statements.

  18. Trish on August 8th, 2008 3:15 pm

    Chuck,
    We could debate the subject from now until eternity. Amendment 1 does start with freedom of speech but it also talks about government and religion.

    My point is the association between the school board (a government entity) and a lease to a church. Church activities on government property where organized prayer is not allowed. But we deviate.

    The real question is how did this happen to begin with, tax dollars are precious. We are always hopeful that the people we give athority to will be mindful of what they do. Unfortunately sometimes it does not happen and we the public get discouraged about others honesty, integrity, and the desire to always do what is right. When something is wrong fix it immediately. And if you know something is amiss don’t wait around for someone else to point it out, it only makes the situation worse. Be responsible and accountable with public money whether it be a church or a school board. AND Don’t make excuses, excuses are a dime a dozen.

  19. Chuck on August 8th, 2008 11:11 am

    Trish…. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free excercise thereof. Amendment 1 has nothing to do with this, so I fail to see your point.

  20. Ashley on August 8th, 2008 11:02 am

    O.k. Now that this has come to light how does the church plan to rectify the situation? That is what I would like to hear, since nothing can be done about what has already happened. Does the church intend to reimburse the school board, or just act as if it was our kids responsibility to pay for their lights? And seriously, I wish the excuse would work for the average person, as far as “I never received my bill so I didn’t know I should pay”. COME ON!

  21. Trish on August 8th, 2008 10:57 am

    Yes, we should look at history. We are not allowed to pray in school anymore.

  22. Kevin on August 8th, 2008 10:48 am

    I think we would do well to research History, even Thomas Jefferson allowed churches to meet in the Capital of the United States. The first ammendment is to keep Government out of the church… I think that is one of the reasons the Pilgrims left England wasn’t it? The issue of this Church not paying bills is very interesting to me. The church was under contract to pay the utility bills, that is what is stated in the article. I do not disagree with that, and believe they should uphold their end of the contract. What equally disturbs me is why our County would never notice that the county was paying the bills. Who blew the whistle? That seems like there might be a snake in the wood pile somewhere.

  23. Trish on August 8th, 2008 9:03 am

    What upright organization does not realize that they are not paying Gulf Power. Give me a break, I wasn’t born yesterday and I didn’t just fall off the back of a turnip truck.

    Enought of blaming the hurricanes. I had to take care of damage, survive and pay bills. A lot of people voluntered to help others and they paid their bills. Whoever was paying the bills for the church at some point should have realized that Gulf Power, sewer, and garbage was not being paid. Surely they had a copy of the “contract” with the School Board. Surely common sence comes in to play at some point.

    AND why is the school board leasing to a church? I am also wondering why a Head Start is in a church. Government and Religion??? Gee, isn’t there something in the constitution about seperation? My, my, it is all coming back to my little pea backwoods brain…. First Amendment…..

  24. Jack on August 8th, 2008 6:21 am

    I do not believe for a second that not paying utilities for four years was a simple over sight? I would really doubt my church leaders abiliies if I belong to New LIfe-not having a “BILL” is not a justifiable excuse! If there power was off, I’m sure so one would have received a call!!!!!!! Glad they are going to do the right thing now though?





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