Potter’s House debt is retired|Woolard assumed obligation to pay utilities accounts

Published 8:52 pm Friday, October 2, 2009

Contributing Editor

Washington Councilman Darwin Woolard said he assumed the responsibility for retiring the Potter House of Beaufort County’s utilities debt after the nonprofit entity shut down earlier this year.
Documentation provided to the Washington Daily News by Woolard shows that debt, a combined $8,096.77, has been retired. The debt was for utilities service to the Potter’s House facilities on Avon Road. The Potter’s House operated programs that provided mental-health services, child care services, group homes and the Phoenix Center, an alternative school for at-risk youth.
“Everything’s paid,” Woolard said.
“I want to clear up some things,” said Woolard, who lost his job with the Potter’s House in February, in an interview this week.
Woolard said because of his ties with the Potter’s House and his position as a member of the City Council he felt an obligation to settle the Potter’s House debts with the city.
“I said it was something I had to do because I am a councilman,” he said.
Woolard, who was unemployed for several months, now runs Kids Possibilities, which operates a child care program, Kingdom Kids Academy, and the Phoenix Center at the former Potter’s House site on Avon Road. The Potter’s House folded because it lost its funding sources, Woolard said.
“I inherited all the bills that came along with the building,” Woolard said of the former Potter’s House facility, which has two buildings, on Avon Road. “I assumed the loans and the bills.”
Woolard said that when he assumed responsibility for those bills, he acted.
“I went down and set up a payment plan for both of those buildings,” Woolard said.
Woolard provided copies of each payment plan and copies of billing information to the Daily News.
On Aug. 24, the debt associated with the Phoenix Center’s electric service had been reduced to $25.75. After paying $1,087.21 in new charges in September and the $25.75 carried over from August, the Phoenix Center’s balance was at zero on Sept. 24, according to documents provided by Woolard.
As for the child care center’s delinquent utilities bills inherited by Woolard, they were paid off on July 23, leaving a zero balance on that account, according to documents provided by Woolard.
Woolard acknowledged that he experienced difficult financial times personally after losing his job with the Potter’s House in February. Twice, he said, his church, Washington’s First United Methodist Church, helped him pay his personal utilities bill for his house in the Iron Creek subdivision.
“I know I don’t owe no $10,000 to the city,” Woolard said. “I am current with the city now.”
Woolard said his pickup truck was repossessed and his house is up for sale.
Woolard said he believes the accusations made against him concerning the debt to the city were made for one reason.
“It’s politics. It’s politics in the form of first-class politics,” Woolard said.
Woolard said what bothers him most about the attacks on him were that they included his family. Woolard said that as a councilman, he’s fair game when it comes to public scrutiny. That scrutiny should not apply to his family, he said.
“Leave my family alone,” Woolard said.
The councilman said his wife, Tonya, is recovering from a stroke. It has not be easy for her and the rest of his family to deal with what he’s been going through in recent months, Woolard said.
“I am glad I have it behind me,” Woolard said about paying down the debt.