Although a local TV Station covered the Jasper Meeting last night, I must admit it was one of the best meetings we had attended. The agenda was handled like clockwork and as to Attorney Rhett Bullard, he did not take over for the council but rather acted as an attorney, assisting only when asked. This was a strange phenomena but one which is welcome.
Buzz Eddy Senior Adviser for the Florida League of Cities will be assisting the council to find an interim manager. He will assist in the advertising and worked with the council to make a determination of the number of hours the interim manager would work and the payment for that time whether it be three months or six months and that would be negotiable until such time as a permanent Town Manager is found. It was decided that since the prior manager was making $75,000 per year that $40,000 would be offered. Buzz Eddy indicated there are senior prior Town Managers that assist Towns for a short period. In fact Buzz Eddy had been a town manager for several years and now that he has retired, he is giving back to the people at no cost to the Town. The Florida League of Cities only pays for his mileage.
Currently the Town has incurred $5,000 in fees for the attorney who is fact finding the incident between Ms. Jennifer Hightower and the former manager. The attorneys were upset that they had received Chapter 119 requests and hadn’t expected them. Joe Griffin admitted he had sent the attorneys public record requests and had provided a law in the Sunshine which stipulated that the investigation should be conducted in a regular meeting/hearing attended b the public. The Attorney felt that since the former manager quit, there would be no reason for them to continued. The Town Attorney Bullard was asked why the Attorneys Allen, Norton and Blue, chose citizens and employees rather than just interviewing the two people involved, Williams and Hightower. Attorney Bullard stated he is allowing them to investigate in the manner in which they wish. As a result of a long discussion, it was decided that the Attorneys will continue their fact finding because Jennifer Hightower had a problem with a current councilor and the work environment is still hostile. It was stated that the investigation will take approximately 20 hours more at $200 per hour or $4000/ The Total cost to Jasper then would be approximately $9,000. This is a far cry from what White Springs paid this attorney firm of $25,900 which we are uncertain if that amount reached $31,000 from the billings received.
Spencer Nabors, ITC discussed the upcoming CDBG Grant. He is from the area and last year assisted Jasper to secure a new well which is needed, but time ran out. There is a need also for generators as the 1980 generators hare died and there is only one that is operable, especially in a hurricane, this is a concern. Mr. Nabors is doing this at no cost until the grant is secured; then an administrator has to be chosen and his company is on the list. The fees are already set and can’t be changed but since there is a short window, he will do this for Jasper to assist. The council agreed to accept his assistance.
Since the Town owns the scout hut, it was under consideration to move the police department to that location. However in discussing the matter, it was found that the building was built for scouts and as a result there are some which again started a troop and it would not work. The Police Officer McGuire, who once was the interim manager, mentioned that the only reason the Police Department considered the scout hut is that currently they are paying $600 a month in rent which would save the Town $7,200 a year. The problem with the old police department building was that it was not up to code to utilize computers and it became too small.
Because of FRDAP two park signs are required and it was decided after one citizen offered her assistance to pain the sign for free, if the Town purchased the materials, that they would utilize the local Sign company for the work.
LaBelle Botanics requires another line for Gas service and the only line available is one which is on the other side of the railroad tracts. Otherwise it would be too expensive. LaBelle is currently purchasing propane from a local dealer because they have to double the amount of gas they are using for double the production. One of the Councilors will be checking with a friend who is familiar with the Railroad. They will possibly be required to carry a $1,000,000/3,000,000 limit of Railroad Liability protection and have a shoo-fly placed on the tracks so that it does not interrupt train movement.
The public Works Director Harry Davis advised at the meeting that he had been asked to place in new utilities for the SVNC Extension for the Nursing Home and it resulted in a multiple changes to manholes, etc. He had the cost of approximately $30,000 which would be reimbursed by the nursing home. The Young councilman suggested that a contract be drawn to assure the City would be reimbursed and it was voted that a contract would be secured. It is amazing how talented Harry Davis is. He apparently is a jack of all trades and Jasper is so lucky to have someone like him. He not only handles water waste water but Public Works and definitely knows what Jasper needs and can stipulate more than one way in which to handle what ever problem comes up.
There was approval for the SRWMD Fire Hydrant Grant so that certain areas could be paved. Each section to be paved will cost $2,500, and one section will be done before another starts.
Since City Clerk Jennifer Hightower missed the City Clerk retreat, she asked whether she could be paid for overnight and Travel by the council. She further stated she will pay for the registration. That was approved by the council and one of the councilors will advise her on Monday if he may attend.
Two budget workshops will be held, one on June 30th, which the young councilor may not attend because he is moving his mother from Colorado to Florida. And there will also be a July meeting. Finance Director Margaret Harper gave the council members a report on the existing funds of the town and discussed the need for the workshops. The other workshop will be held in July and I am certain the media will have the correct dates for you.
Fire Department Chief Josh Waters gave a report of the number of calls he had made. Something White Springs does not provide is reimbursement for volunteers to work out. Josh Waters was asked if the increase from $10.00 to $25.00 per volunteer call assisted in increasing the firefighters at calls. It has assisted somewhat.
It was stated that they will seek Hamilton County’s approach to a more professional handling of meetings so that motions are made correctly and the meetings held more efficiently.
I apologize that I am not yet familiar with the names. I know Mr. Lumpkin is Mayor but that is all that I am familiar with. Yet I must say I am really impressed in the way things are handled since the last meeting I attended. The youngest councilor was extremely impressive, logical and assisted the other councilors in making sound decisions. He is a young man going places in my opinion.