Mayor Miller’s letter to the White Springs Residents

Helen Miller

Dear White Springs Residents:

We hope this letter finds you and your family members safe, secure and healthy.  We continue to follow Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Health Department every day.  This virus has the potential to have a far-reaching impact on all our lives and we sympathize with everyone who has been affected.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a set of Coronavirus Guidelines to “Slow the Spread” of the virus (CORONAVIRUS.GOV).  These include:

  • If you feel sick, stay home.  Do not go to work.

  • If your children are sick, keep them at home.  Contact your medical provider.

  • If you are an older person, or have a serious underlying health condition, stay home and away from other people.

  • If someone in your household has tested positive, keep the entire household at home.

  • Work or study from home whenever possible.

  • Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.

  • Avoid eating or drinking at bars and restaurants – use pickup or delivery options.

  • Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.

  • Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.

  • ALWAYS PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE

  • Wash your hands, especially after touching any frequently used item or surface.

  • Avoid touching your face.

  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow.

  • Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.

Remember, even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others.  It is critical that you do your part to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  The Governor has requested that residents 65+, and those with underlying conditions stay home for 14 days.  We request that all who can stay home, do indeed stay home and only go out for food/drink and medical supplies when needed.

 

Executive Order 20-60 issued by the Governor now allows for the presence of a quorum at a meeting of a municipality via telephone, Skype, etc., waiving the prior requirements set by AG opinions that require the physical presence of a quorum.  All remaining provisions of Chapter 286 will be strictly adhered to, with no modification or adjustment, including public comment.

 

Mr. Jones is working with our telecommunications provider along with GoToMeeting tele-video conferencing software to provide remote access for council meetings via conference calls.  Council Members, Town Staff, Citizens and Visitors may participate in Council Meetings in compliance with Chapter 286.  Once Chapter 286-compliant teleconferencing is available, we will notify you through the Town’s website, Facebook page, public notices at town hall and the old fire station, the Jasper news, emails and future utility billing messages.

 

At the next meeting of the Town Council – either the regular April 14 Meeting or Special Meeting before April 14th – the Council will vote on waiving late fees for utility payments for 60 days.  We understand that some residents may have been furloughed/lost work due to the closure of retail stores, restaurants, bars and other businesses/work opportunities.  We want to work together to ensure we have access to food and basic utilities.  At this time, we are still unsure when federal funds will be disbursed to workers throughout the country.

The Town Council will also address the following issues:

  • STAY AT HOME – go for food, drink, medical supplies.

  • Town Hall hours of operation and use of TOWN HALL DROP BOX, WE ASK YOU USE THE DROP BOX WHENEVER POSSIBLE.  Yvonne will send you a receipt.

  • Utility payment options – CHECK, CREDIT CARD, CASH, MONEY ORDERS; late payment waivers.  You may make a credit card payment on the phone; no need to pay by credit card in person.  Many government offices are closed to the public.  With your cooperation-reducing in person payments – our goal is to keep town hall open for all matters that do require an in-person visit.

  • Willie Guy Turner Park – closure or partial closure.

  • All community events cancelled/postponed due to COVID-19 emergency.

  • Community Clean-up with Waste Pro – set for April 4th – has been postponed until later this year.

  • Reducing liter – will reduce staff time collecting liter, and permit staff to focus on roads and streets, and the water/sewer/distribution systems which require attention every day.

  • Other issues as needed-please call town hall at 397-2310 if you have an issue that you would like the Council to address.  You do not have to attend the meeting in person.

 

Local Government Election – Town Council:

Three (3) White Springs duly registered voters submitted completed Candidate Petitions and the required paperwork to our local qualifying officer/Interim Town Clerk Beverly Brazil, by the required deadline of 12 Noon on March 17th, per the language provided in the Town Charter.  Signatures of duly registered voters who completed the Candidate Petitions for the three were reviewed and approved b the Hamilton County Supervisor of Elections on March 20th.  These three candidates are Helen B. Miller, Anita T. Rivers, and Nicole B. Williams.

 

Since there are 3 Council positions available this year, and 3 candidates who qualify, there is no need to hold the election scheduled for April 28th.  As a result, Miller, Rivers and Williams will be sworn in as Council Members at the Charter-required Organizational Meeting on April 30th, beginning at 7:00 PM by Tow Attorney Meagan Logan.  After the three are sworn in, the new Town Council will vote to elect a new mayor and vice mayor.

 

Vice Mayor Walter McKenzie chose not to run for re-election.  We wish to express our appreciation to Vice Mayor McKenzie for his many years of public service, and invite him to future meetings, when he feels nostalgic!  Council Members Tonja Brown and Tom Moore remain on the Council for another year.

 

Sanitary Sewer Update:

It’s still early on, but the contractor is making good progress and appears to be on track with the schedule.  The pre-construction video documenting all pre-construction conditions was completed by the end of February.  The contractor has re-cleaned/televised about 90% of the gravity sewer included in the project, and has submitted the video to Mittauer (Town’s Engineer) for review.  The Cure-in Place pipe lining has begun.

During the week of March 16th, materials were delivered for Full Replacement of the gravity sewer on Kendrick Street.  Full Replacement on Kendrick (between Cheshire and Suwannee) is expected to begin on March 30th.  You can expect temporary traffic disruption in the area for about 2 to 3 weeks.  The contractor will provide Temporary Traffic Control as needed.

We ask for your continued patience with water discolored with rust.  In order to clean the gravity sewer prior to videoing, its pre-construction condition and installing the Cure-in-Place pipe lining, the contractor must use lots of potable water to flush the aged and deteriorating sewer lines.  The clean water is used to fill the containers used in the flushing procedures.  Pulling more water from the distribution system causes agitation in the system resulting in more rust than we normally experience.  The additional pressurized flushing has also led to more cracked pipe and holes in pipes which in turn may have contributed to the creation of the hole on Suwannee Street.

As the work continues, we may see more roadway depressions, potholes and cave-ins.  Please be mindful of impacted streets, and report any new problems to Town Hall at (386) 397-2310.  Remember, our sewer and water systems are comprised of very old pipes that are subject to ground substance infiltration.  That is why this sewer project is so important, and why we are working on identifying a funding mechanism to upgrade our water system as soon as possible.

 

 

Forensic Accounting:

In November of last year, Town Council retained an experienced municipal accountant to conduct an examination into the Town’s finances.  Due to our budget limitations and his own limited time availability (he has other municipal clients), he can only devote 2 or 3 days a month to White Springs.  At the onset of the assignment, the accountant said it would take 18 months to two years to complete the examination of our financial records.

The accountant’s first directive was the need to set up internal controls on ALL financial transactions by Town Staff – this has consistently been noted by auditors and the state, and disregarded by Town Staff over the years.  This conflict is rooted in the Town Charter, which is one important reason the Charter needs to be reviewed and revised.

Progress is being made on all fronts.  The accountant is changing practices dealing with the General Ledger, Payroll, Accounts Receivable, and Accounts Payable.  He is a key member of our staff, serving as our lead accounting and financial resources, as well as continuing his examination into past financial transactions.  He works closely with Mr. Jones and Ms. Brazil and has gone beyond his contract scope to provide training to both Mr. Jones and Ms. Brazil.

When you see Bev Brazil at Town Hall, or at the Fire Station, please express your appreciation to her for volunteering since November 2019.  Bev continues to volunteer, assisting Mr. Jones and the accountant with payroll and accounts payable, she serves as secretary at our Council Meetings, and prepares the Minutes for each meetings.  Bev also serves as the Town’s Qualifying Officer for this year’s council election.  Recently, Mr. Jones appointed Ms. Brazil as our Interim Town Clerk – an appointment approved by the Town Council.  Keep in mind – Bev is still a volunteer!  Thank you, Bev!

 

The importance of Ms. Brazil’s volunteering, and Interim Town Manager Jones’ half-time status cannot be overstated as a cost saving to White Springs as we work toward an annual budget that is based on justifiable allocations of our various revenue sources.  This is important for this fiscal year, since we are experiencing a number of unexpected expenditures, but also for future years, since state revenue sharing / local option fuel taxe may decreae due to the impact of COVID-19 on tourism in Florida.

 

Mr. Jones will be posting the Town Manager and Town Clerk positions with the Florida League of Cities and on the Town’s websites this week.  The postings will list for 30 days.

 

Keep White Springs Safe and Healthy!  Pleas join your neighbors in Staying Home when at all possible.  Practice Safe Social Distancing by staying 6 feet from Others.  Only go out for food/drink and medical essentials.  Avoid any gathering of 10 or more.

 

If you have need for social contact, CALL your family members and friends, use your social media, write some overdue letters and cards, and remember this too shall pass.

 

Wishing you safety and good health

 

Mayor Helen Miller

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