One of Joe’s Friends mentioned casually that White Springs is a dying Town. We never thought of it as dying and hoped that this town would someday realize that Economic Development is necessary in order to survive. Especially since so many have been dependent only upon PCS without looking as to what may also be really possible. Joe stated to me that he believes the Town will implode under the weight of its own corruption or by a State edict but he never thought it was actually dying.
Now it appears Jasper may be dying faster than White Springs. And there is one common denominator, Attorney Rhett Bullard.
Let’s look at the history of White Springs. Since I was not here at the time nor was my family, I looked to Wikipedia on the internet.
“In 1882, the Georgia merchants Wight and Powell purchased the property and plotted city lots. They sold parcels to other retailers to open businesses catering to plantations and resorts around the spring. Crowds of health seekers arrived, first by stagecoach and then railroad. White Springs was incorporated in 1885. Hotels and boarding houses popped up; a cotton ginattracted buyers & sellers; and fashionable clothing and hats were offered for sale. Leisure activities included ballroom dancing, lawn tennis and skating.
In 1903, the spring was enclosed by concrete and coquina walls that included multiple water gates and galleries to prevent water intrusion from river flooding. A four-story wooden bathhouse was constructed around the spring. The structure was designed by the Jacksonville architectural firm McClure & Holmes for owner Minnie Mosher Jackson, and included doctors’ offices for patient examination and treatment, dressing rooms, space for concessions, and an elevator. At the time, water flow was calculated at 32,400 gallons per minute, or nearly 47 million gallons per day.
During the 1930s, mineral springs fell out of favor and the town began to fade. In 1950, the Stephen Foster Memorial Museum opened to commemorate songwriter Stephen Foster, composer of the world-renowned song of the Suwannee River, “Old Folks at Home”. The museum is surrounded by formal gardens that extend to the banks of the Suwannee River. A carillon containing the world’s largest set of tubular bells,  opened in 1957 and plays Foster’s songs throughout the day (until it recently broke). The facility is a Florida State Park.”
I thought about it and asked myself is it really sick and fixing to die? Yet it is not yet terminal, but very close.
In the last decade, it appears no elected council person or their respective Town Managers have had a vision. Any idea ever presented was dismissed or denied. No one wished to have businesses in town and we are lucky to have a hardware store, three restaurants, two automotive repair shops, the Dollar General Store, a grocery, meat market and deli food store, four gas stations, a Yoga studio, a bicycle club, an outdoor camping supply store ,a Laundromat, a check cashing facility, a veterinarian, a canoe rental place, the former State Ecotourism Center and a lawn mower and small engine repair place.
Look a the grief the Town under Rhett Bullard has caused our Liquor Store and now the Black Bay Fresh Florida Seafood Market which our hometown man, Ivan Udell, should have been able to open a year ago. But Willie Jefferson condemned its location and Rhett Bullard was in the background doing his corruption with Stacy Tebo.
The problem is that WE DO NOT HAVE ANY TOURISTS in White Springs other than those who go to the State Park and come here for festivals, the biggest of which is the Folk Festival, which now Walter McKenzie has resigned from.. Although the economy is slowly becoming better in most areas of the state, it is still drastically declining in White Springs and Jasper does not even have a good restaurant like Fat Belly’s. We now have more than one antique store but no longer have a flea market and the closest to a flea market was the Swap Meet at the Hardware Store which was ruined by the charges made by the Town.
There are no stores to shop in other than the Dollar General (for which we are grateful) like a clothing store or a shoe store or anything of the like. Even if we had an outlet store, someone would shop. But we have nothing and for all tense and purpose, the town is not friendly to anyone who may be a stranger except for those families who have been here for generations.
The Town officials spend the Town revenues foolishly and use grants for purposes for which they were not intended like the “Business Incubator” which did not start up any businesses but rather is a concrete park too small for our citizens to enjoy.
Thanks to the Town officials we no longer have a school. No money was ever spent on its repairs and they knew something had to have been done but now it is too late.
We do not even have a Municipal outdoor pool and our residents have to go to Lake City. The Ballpark or the area by the Carver School would be an ideal location for all families to enjoy the May Day Festival. But no one comes up with a plan of whether the May Day Committee are volunteers under the Town’s supervision, or are Independent Contractors doing their own thing under the auspices of some corporation whereby the May Day people have to operate as an entity, get insurance and pay for it and protect themselves with hold harmless agreements. Yet there is the money situation and the May Day Committee, like the actual special events committee, would have to relinquish any money or profits to the Town if they were a Town’s committee so this is really perplexing.
We are grateful to have a beautiful library with the County’s and PCS’s assistance.
These elected officials walk among us as if they can do no wrong and they have hurt the citizens with high Sewer and Water Rates. Rhett initially returned $5.00 to the Citizens so they would vote for him and Willie agreed to something under $2.00, which ultimately would have been eaten up by Garbage collection increase. Many of our Citizens are older and there are some younger with small children who do not have jobs or make minimum wage. These citizens have already budgeted as best they can to not use air-conditioning or not expend a lot on electricity and the little money they had for possibly some fuel for their older vehicles, they no longer have as they are hit with huge water and sewer bills. Dr. Miller wished to reduce the Sewer Bill by 20% but right now the way the budget is handled, and with Stacy Tebo running our budgets with Rhett behind her, there is not a chance in Hell.
Yes our Town is terminally ill. We need to build our town and not put money into Lawyers because Stacy Tebo, former counselor Willie Jefferson, Tonja Brown and Rhett Bullard are so corrupt.
We need to work with the Economic Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce to bring in business that would suit the area and bring others into White Springs. Now Fat Belly’s is the place most tourists come to…thank heavens for that. But all our businesses are hurting and this Town no longer seems to care about those it is to serve. Some of the officials seem to also enjoy causing dissension between races and families against other families. This has to stop or soon this Town will have to be taken over by the State. But what do you care as you bleed the Town making it more terminally ill.
A dying Town? Perhaps, but death comes slowly. I want the State to act or the town to kill itself sooner rather than later. I’m in favor of un-incorporation as a merciful death. We don’t appear to be able to govern ourselves and any good person who tries to assist the Town, is dismissed or a counselors seat is taken away at a whim to protect our Town Manager’s actions at Rhett’s request.
Karin for the blog