What has changed since 2013? (A typical workshop)

It is said that Government moves slowly but White Springs Government really moves slowly. Each year the same things are discussed but are never accomplished. This gives you an idea of what transpired in 2013

2013

White Springs Town Council and staff met Thursday, January 30, 2013 for a planning workshop.

Present was Mayor Miller, Vice Mayor Mackenzie, Councilwoman Brown, Councilman Marshall and Price, Town Manager Robert Farley, Town Clerk Shirley Heath, Finance Director Pam Tomlinson, Chief Brookins, Public Works Supervisor Kenneth Hutcherson, and concerned citizens.

Mr. Farley presented the Council with a Power Point presentation entitled Planning for the Future. Mr. Farley stated the purpose of a workshop was an informal meeting of the Town Council for discussion and brainstorming ideas. Mr. Farley informed the Council that they had a hard-working staff and they are willing to do whatever it takes for the Town of White Springs.

• With the proper planning, the town will be in a position to be ready when the economy improves

• Also, we have to physically be responsible to our citizens. The Town has to be run like a business. 

• We need to work smarter and think outside of the box

• We have too many unfunded mandates that are costing the town money. These costs have to be passed on to the taxpayers. 

I also wrote an article stipulating the Town is run on the Crisis Management theory.  Don’t look to the future; don’t remember what was discussed in the past; and when an emergency strikes, one must find the money from wherever because there is none to be had that has been retained in sinking funds.

• We need to asked ourselves “if not, why not”.

• The town currently receives approximately $66,000 annually in ad valorem taxes.

• The Council and staff need to set goals and priorities for future planning.

Mr. Farley asked the Town Council opinions on the following questions:

What are some of the problems the town is currently facing?

Vice Mayor McKenzie pointed out the overall economy situation in White Springs adding that we had at one time three restaurants two bed and breakfast, antique store, shops, and the Telford Hotel. Vice Mayor McKenzie asked Mr. Farley what we can do to market our town and bring business back to White Springs.

Mr. Farley pointed out that everyone is a marketing agent for the town. Mr. Farley made contact with Cheek & Scott Pharmacy informing them that we will have a building coming available very soon that could house a pharmacy with a drive-through window and possibly enough room for a doctor. Cheek and Scott informed Mr. Farley there was not enough traffic in White Springs for a pharmacy.

running day-to-day business, but we have not made plans for the future and we depend too much on the Chamber of Commerce to bring business to White Springs.  

The Chamber of Commerce Nationally has always helped its businesses but the question in my opinion in White Springs is will the officials actually listen to anyone?  I have found that not only will the council not answer questions but if a citizen makes a suggestion, they apparently will ignore that suggestion, because it was not theirs. 

The Council has not and appears will never listen to outside citizens on what may be done.  I have been involved with businesses all of my life including loss control and working through financial bottlenecks; I have worked with festivals for over ten years and including starting up a festival for a small town.  Volunteers could not wait to get involved or to bring groups into town. I also was a member of the Chamber in MN as well as the Ocala Marion County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Authority.  We had no liability insofar as food items because outside restaurants had kiosks and provided either a percentage or fee to the town and they had their own products liability insurance; I have worked through art festivals and for charities and if I dare make a decision, I obviously am “Griffin II” and no one would even consider my suggestions as they have not considered Joe’s suggestions.

Mr. Farley reported to the Council and staff about a new industry coming into Live Oak that will offer 350 jobs and he emphasized the importance of impact fees. Impact fees levied on new businesses will cover the cost of the additional expense to the water and wastewater facilities. Without impact fees Planning Workshop everyone in the town will be affected by the new business and they will have to cover the cost not the developer.

Thankfully the impact fees were fought by the People of White Springs.  White Springs seems to feel that the Citizens have a non-ending source of funds so that anytime the officials feel they need money they will put together some fee.    Yet something which does or could possibly impact the citizens is a fire where they may lose their homes or a medical emergency, but the Town does not think enough of their Fire Department to provide a small fee to help maintenance of equipment,  retain volunteers and possibly purchase additional equipment or an ambulance.

Discussion followed about promoting property for sale on the website and the possibility of adding audio minutes to the website, and printing professional looking handouts of what is available in White Springs.  

What do we have to offer those who may consider purchasing property in our town?  High Sewer Rates associated with increased water rates because we have to use the Enterprise Account to pay for the General Fund?  No elementary school for young children who now have to be bussed 20 miles a day…and two tries at a Charter School which ended up in failure because certain people did not go to the right resources?  No public swimming pool or activities to young people except baseball and tennis?  A Council which will not answer questions? High Theft rates especially to businesses?  Unfriendly White people whereby if you do not fit within a click, you are treated like dung or they will send the Camel Club after you.  If one wanted to be a volunteer, they would have to go through scrutiny at Town Hall because the Mayor has the only right to choose those who may work with the Town? And now the Town has set a precedent which is against State Law, if a new person applied for a position at Town Hall, they could be arrested if the Town felt there was something wrong without a thorough background check or arrested if they just didn’t like you and smear that information through the local newspapers.

White Springs is beautiful but until all people are treated fair and equally under the law and are allowed a voice, nothing will change and has not changed in years.  A comment was made by McKenzie that the people complain but do not come to the meetings.  Well Mr. McKenzie it is because everyone knows that your special friends are treated better than others.  They also know, and the Griffins have experience, that they will never be listened to.  Well maybe, the town will hear one’s five minute speech, but rarely does the town react and try to assist it’s citizens and this is Truly Sad.  Listening and hearing are two different topics.

Vice Mayor McKenzie stated over 350 bicyclist were in town last weekend and restroom facilities and restaurants were not available to accommodate this large group of people. Mr. Farley injected that the staff came out Saturday morning and cleaned restrooms at the ballpark to help accommodate the bikers. The subject of the new pavilions and possible rental and liability issues were also discussed. Mr.Farley informed everyone about tulip insurance policies for special events that are not town events.

These special event policies should be secured even for others using Town property for Town Events.  I previously brought up the fact that if people did not have their own products liability and food contamination prevails, the Town could be sued by the individuals who may be ill or die.  This includes fees for other vendors.  However, what I cannot understand is how the Town virtually stopped the Swap Meet by charging $30 per vendor without advance warning.    The people at swap meets are like flea markets who do not get a lot of money for what they are doing, unlike major art vendors or wood working vendors who stand to make over the $30 charged.  Anyway the Hardware Store sponsored the Swap Meet and the Town apparently did not do due diligence about the differences in vendors when making such an insurmountable charge without warning.

Council discussed possible available grants for the town and for business owners. The vision of White Springs is healthy environmental place to live.

Except for the fact that a large percentage of our Black community are getting cancer, as are some of our white people, possibly from the drinking water (And this is no complaint against Mr. Greene, who does what he possibly can do with water quality).  Part of the problem I believe are old sewer pipes some of which would never meet today’s standards, possibly containing asbestos.  And there has never been a sinking fund to remedy the situation.  All citizens are charged exorbitant rates but cannot trust the water or the pipes.  Instead, the citizens have to purchase drinking water or other beverages because of the fear of contracting diseases.  Lift Stations are placed in front of some residential homes whereby it lowers completely the property value of homes.  It is so neat to smell sewage outside of one’s front door. The people can barely handle the necessities of life because of the economic situation and have additional burdens of paying high fees if their water is shut off. 
And if the Town officials would have smartly used their money for real economic development or business incubation rather than building a concrete small park and an amphitheater, we may be making some progress today. In other words, when the Town gets grant money it doesn’t seem as though it goes to its intended purpose and there has been some proof of that which Richard Marshall had in his possession.

Mr. Farley stated that developers expect to pay impact fees. Vice Mayor McKenzie commented that the impact fees issue was to protect the current citizens from having to pay the cost for new construction.

Vice Mayor McKenzie added that we paid an engineer to come up with the impact fee schedule which the town passed an ordinance and then local citizens presented a referendum vote and the ordinance was overruled by the citizens. Mr. Farley said he would check with the attorney to see if we can reinstate the impact fees by ordinance or if it has to be by referendum vote.

Unbelievable this is proof that the Council will not abide by the Citizen’s wishes.  They feel they know best when it comes to what the Citizens are to pay and it doesn’t matter whether there is a benefit to the citizen.

Mr. Farley asked the Council if they felt the town had sufficient funds for a rainy day. Finances Director Pam Tomlinson stated the town currently has approximately $110,000. Councilman Price conveyed his confusion with the financial reports. Mr. Farley also stated the reports were confusing and he will get with Mrs. Tomlinson to work on the financial reports.

Mr. Farley did an excellent job in changing the financials and further improvements have been made by current Manager Bill Lawrence.  Whether the council sticks to any budget or not however is something to see.  They should be like a business and check the amount expended versus the money coming in monthly.  Yet, it may be as always, if a crisis comes up they will take the money from the Enterprise (Sewer and Water Account) and show a deficit.

Mr. Farley noted the importance of lobbyist trips to Tallahassee to meet with our legislators and to tell them and informed them of the needs of the Town of White Springs.Councilman Marshall stated that we have a tremendous staff that needs additional help. If we should lose Mr. Hutcherson it would take three people to replace him. Mrs. Heath proved her abilities over the last few months as Interim Town Manager and Town Clerk. Mr. Farley stated we are understaffed and we are paying our highest earning employees to do the minimal jobs. Mrs. Tomlinson and Mrs. Heath have to get up from their work they are involved in and wait on customers and answer the telephone. This should be a job for a full-time receptionist.

Most people in the community have felt we are overstaffed.  If it is too hard to get up from their work to answer the phone or to take payments for sewer and water, that is a real problem.  Even executives in business are taken away from their work when a client drops by or when there is a problem which needs to be solved.  There has never been a problem for an Exec to assist with the Phone.  All of this is customer service.  I guess I am understanding more and more that government never runs efficiently…only businesses because each business watches it’s profit margin and needs retained earnings for the future.  Whereas government, when something is unaffordable and the officials run out of money because they never look at their bottom line, just charge the Citizens more money.  At what point do the citizens run out of money to support the whims of the Town. Thankfully the impact fees were fought by the People of White Springs.  White Springs seems to feel that the Citizens have a non-ending source of funds so that anytime the officials feel they need money they will put together some fee.    Yet something which does impact the citizens is a possible fire where they may lose their homes, but the Town does not think enough of their Fire Department to provide a small fee to help maintenance of equipment, retain volunteers and possibly purchase additional equipment or an ambulance.

Vice Mayor McKenzie remarked that we are not able to hire enough staff to make it easier for our citizens. We have many volunteers who work on our festivals and they are overworked.

Mr. Farley and Mrs. Heath reported on the new software that has the freed up a lot of her time in typing the minutes. Mr. Farley also stated that he, Mrs. Tomlinson and Mrs. Heath met with First Federal and we will be setting up direct deposit for the payroll which will save time for Pam and the expense of buying and printing checks. We are also going to start electronic payments that will also save money and Planning Workshop time. First Federal will waive the fees and this new technology will be a benefit to the town.

 Mr. Farley also, spoke with First Federal about the possibility of reopening the bank in White Springs. Representative from First Federal stated they had been discussing the possibility of a training center in White Springs for new tellers. Mr. Farley continued and asked First Federal if they can’t reopen the bank to put in a full-service ATM machine. Discussion then proceeded to electronic meter reading which would free up more staff hours. We will discuss the cost and how to find the money during the budget workshops.

From a business standpoint, who would wish to drive from Lake City or Live Oak to be trained in White Springs?

At this time the Council took a five-minute break.

The manager pointed out the importance of a full-time receptionist. We currently have a part-time young lady that does an outstanding job, in fact we do not have to tell her what needs to be done, adding she does things on her own and is always willing to take on a new responsibility.   (This has to be Monica…she was fabulous and so smart)

The workforce people take too much time to train, they are here one day and gone tomorrow. Pam and Shirley have to jump up stop what they’re doing.

It must be this area or the town because most people who are workforce, wish to take long assignments, especially in this economy which as not improved.  So if they were here one day and gone the next….why?

Mr. Farley spoke with the town’s auditor Mr. Richard Powell about internal controls stating that the Finance Director should never have her hands in the cash drawer since she balances the bank statements. Mr. Powell said if at all possible the town should hire a full-time receptionist to handle the money and the deposits. Mrs. Heath has to stop what she is doing to answer 119 requests, make copies, collect money and we do not see any relief in sight. They lose their chain of concentration with the constant changing of duties. 

 Most Women can multitask???  It’s obvious none of these people had been exposed to the real business world where you can’t sit on one project until it is done but may have many projects one is accountable to as well as projects of clients.  What a sore excuse…but I am beginning to understand the difference between Government and Business People.  It shows up nationally but definitely shows up in White Springs.

The subject then turned to the police department and their needs. Police vests need to be replaced every five years. They can be purchased and 50% of the cost can be refunded through the Florida League of Cities Safety Grant Program. Council and citizens would like to have 24-hour coverage through our police department but unfortunately we do not have the funds. The Sheriff’s Department supplies a deputy when we do not have anyone on duty.

The Police Chief reported the flex schedule of his officers to have more coverage. Councilman Marshall stated that the police department does a tremendous job but he has seen an increase in drug activity and vagrants in the town.

The department also needs new tasers but they are not covered under a grant. Mr. Farley expressed the need for a public safety building to house the equipment for the fire department, adding that he will be working to find money.

The policy in Live Oak was if you do not have a 911 address on your structure utilities will not be turned on. If the property is unsafe the utilities will not be turned on.

Also discussed were a storm shelter/multipurpose center located on the old Carver School property.

Have you noticed any changes to this time?

Karin for the blog

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