State asks Tipton County town to end charter, join county

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 9:56 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There’s a lot of pride in the town of Mason, the town has had a presence in Tipton county since the mid 1800′s.

However, a history of financial problems led the state to make a big ultimatum: Shut down the town or be taken over by the state.

Mason, Tennessee, is about 1.5 square miles with a population of just about 1,300, but for Mason Vice-Mayor Virginia Rivers it’s so much more.

“Because this is our home. We grew up here. We was raised here,” said Rivers.

She says she was shocked Tuesday when the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Jason Mumpower held a public meeting to announce the state is asking the town to rescind their charter and be instead governed by the county.

“This is incredibly rare, incredibly unique, very uncommon that really goes to show how critical this situation actually is,” said Comptroller Mumpower’s communication director John Dunn.

Dunn says the town has a well-documented history of mishandling finances including an indictment for theft of town funds and not submitting an audit on time to the state since 2001.

“When auditors have looked at the books for many years in a row, they were unable to express an opinion about the financial statements because in essence, the books of the town were in-auditable,” said Dunn.

Dunn says the town is also struggling to pay its bills and the town’s largest tax base was just forced to close by the Biden Administration.

Core Civic, a private prison, was paying the small town over $100,000 a year in taxes according to the Covington leader.

Dunn says if the town doesn’t rescind the charter, the state will take over operating the town.

“First of all the state has not worked with us and I’m not saying that they did not come here lately, yes they came trying now all of a sudden they’re showing up. Where were they 15 and 20 years ago when this trouble started?” said Rivers.

Rivers says Mason’s proximity to the new multi-billion dollar Ford Blue Oval City is the driving force for the ultimatum.

Dunn doesn’t deny it.

“When investors like Ford or other companies that are going to do business with Ford or are going to support that growth in that area look to do business in a town, they look at a town’s financial health. They wanna know that a town is well run to invest their money there,” said Dunn.

It’s a tough call that town leaders will have to make, but Rivers plans to fight for Mason.

Rivers says the new administration has been working to clear up the town’s financial woes and is now paying their bills on time.

Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman says the county is in good financial position and more than capable to welcome Mason if they decided to rescind the charter.

No timeline was given by the state for when a decision must be made.

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