Rhett Bullard and Stacy Bullard continue to despise any achievements Helen Miller has made on behalf of the community and they have belittled her for the projects which have not worked out.
I have two comments for these people:
1. What have they done to assist the people of White Springs during Rhett Bullard’s tenure as mayor; it seems as if there has been more corruption than projects to assist the citizens
2 Why can’t it be realized by Tebo and Bullard that the majority of reasons that some of Helen Miller’s projects did not work out in White Springs is due to the fact that the Town Staff which has been protected and has remained the same for years is worthless in accomplishing anything. There is no way that projects could succeed without a Strong Town Manager and Staff doing their jobs and following the recommendations of the council. And it certainly must have been frustrating for Dr. Miller to watch this fiasco and not be able to do anything about it when the council appreciated things the way they were without any intervention, including such by citizens.
Some of the Achievements of Helen Miller’s Tenure as Mayor
“Former Mayor Helen Miller, on behalf of the Town of White Springs was involved in a joint project with the Development the Development Authority for the building of the Ahmoglee Okalee Park in downtown White Springs. Although the project took three years to complete, the park was opened May 20, 2013 with a grand opening. “White Springs is small with limited resources, but we do have a vision and that is to restore and revitalize our community by focusing on our cultural heritage and ecotourism,” said Miller. “Those are the two main assets we have in this community and we have to build on that. This park does that.”
There are two entrances into the park, front and back. Brick paved sidewalks (to nowhere), lined on both sides with red mulch and landscape plants and flowers, will guide you to each of the three covered pavilions, which include lighting and ceiling fans. Each pavilion has its own name as tribute to the native American Indian tribes who originally settled in White Springs; the Timucuan, the Apalachee and the Calusa. There are some black wrought iron benches along with restroom facilities which unfortunately today, are rarely maintained by the town
In January of 2014 the town of White Springs was selected to participate in the Competitive Florida Partnership Pilot Program through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The Town had until June 30, 2014 to complete the deliverables specified in the contract with DEO including holding public meetings for citizens and business leaders, preparing a history and previous attempts at economic development as well as preparing a strategic plan for major priorities. Included in this scope of work was mapping of community assets and identification of areas needing improvement, all of which was completed on time.
One major issue that was identified was the lack of lodging – hotels, cabins, RV hook-ups and campsites – in the town that could accommodate visitors and guests during major events at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, such as the annual Folk Festival, and various events sponsored throughout the year by the Suwannee Bicycle Association, which draws hundreds of cyclists and nature enthusiasts to the town and surrounding areas.
One result, after meeting with the Suwannee River Water Management District and the Lands Committee, was that an approximate 180 acres of land adjacent to the town’s old sewer plant (referred to as the Barnett Tract) was conveyed over to the town for development of an eco-friendly lodge. The property has subsequently been surveyed and a deed of conveyance is being drawn up by town attorney Fred Koberlein. “Once that is complete, it goes back to the SRWMD governing board for their signature,” said Mayor Helen Miller, who has been spear-heading eco-tourism development in White Springs.
The only restriction is that the town cannot sell the land, Miller explained. The town will be seeking private sector partners to form a public-private partnership to develop and operate the eco-friendly lodge. “The objective is to create jobs in the community by facilitating private sector investment that will result in additional revenue and taxes flowing to the town, which is how the town benefits from that kind of development,” said Miller. The town received $40,000 in funding from DEO. Yet since funds for these projects are not kept separately, somehow $40,000 was rumored lost by our Finance Director who apparently used it for other payables and it had to be replaced with Sewer and Water Funds.
On March 24, 2015, then Mayor Helen Miller briefed Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet on economic development in White Springs.
Miller’s remarks focused on year one’s achievements of the CFO and the town’s current infrastructure projects that include Phase 1 of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sanitary sewer project. The project’s objective is to curtail inflow and infiltration, thereby reducing sewer expenses for town residents.
Miller also spoke about the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) small cities grant for construction of a new fire station in White Springs. Both infrastructure projects are being made possible by matching funds provided by the Hamilton County Development Authority. This project is a success.
Miller secured two long-term leases for the Town of White Springs. One was the Nature and Heritage Tourism Center, for which the town could not afford the $500 a month utilities. Although we had volunteers to sell the artwork by various artists, the program did not have permanent staffing nor advertising, which the Town could not afford. So even though Dr. Miller had a wonderful plan which should have worked, the logistics did not work out in White Springs. Alas, the officials did not even take after the artist who did not pay the percentage required the Town for her art showing. Although many art exhibitions were run by volunteers, a permanent employee must oversee the operations and make the necessary checks and balances and pay the necessary taxes. No one seemed to know how to handle the building expenses nor did they work out a sample budget to determine if they should take the Nature and Heritage Tourism Center under lease. This was a travesty since no one thought beyond securing the lease And this must be mentioned, the onus was on the Town Manager and not Helen Miller due to the fact that it was up to the Town Manager to work out the appropriate logistics and make certain everything was working as planned..
The second long term lease was for the historic Delegal Service Station, and two acres of undeveloped land immediately across from the south entrance to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. Yet, no one has sub-leased the Delegal Building for a business and we had initial promises that a radio station would be moving in.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Miller added, is at the 60 percent planning stage for installation of historic signage and lighting to enhance the town’s aesthetics. Thanks to Dr. Miller we received our signage and lighting this year, for which Stacy Tebo received the credit along with Mayor Bullard. It was only Dr. Miller, folks who did the work on this and it is easy for slackers to take the credit, isn’t it.
The amphitheater is another item for which we received a grant. If that Amphitheater would have been built in an area of downtown where there was parking spaces available and strategically placed so that the sun and heat would not affect people as it does currently, it would not be so objectionable. Yet, it’s location was not solely the decision of Mayor Miller but that of the Town Council.
Instead of the town officials fighting for SHE, and asking the school board for maintenance money, we let SHE fall apart Even Johnny Bullard who was on the school board for years did nothing to save SHE; then complained when SHE was so delapataded that there was fear of it falling or hurting students and others. So the mayor Miller elected to start a Charter School but even with the so-called help of the Town Attorney and Attorney Rhett Bullard, no one could assist her or do the research to assist her at the time…so the specifics of the Charter School were not worked out.
During her tenure Dr. Miller has received substantial money from an outside source for the continuance of the HOPE program so that Children would have new experiences and have a place to go during the summer and/or after school.
I really believe any and possibly all the failures which may have transpired are that of our Staff who are not educated for the jobs they hold. And, as a reminder, the town operates under a Town Manager/weak mayor form of government and many of our Town managers either did not have budgetary experience or they were afraid of Pam Tomlinson who in no way had the experience or education to be a Finance Manager. The pattern has never changed because there is no one who knows how to plan or budget. It has become worse since Stacy Tebo became our manager and has not demanded efficiency and adherence to the laws.
Karin for the blog
Mayor Helen Miller and her team should be commended for recognizing there are problems with some of the LDR regulations in spite of the objections made against the Fruit/veggie stand. The stand is a wonderful addition to the Town of White Springs and it is refreshing to see that the Council followed her lead to honor the Town Manager’s initial decision.
I wish your team the best of wishes in complying with regulations pertaining to properties 8301-001 and 8301-005 since a precedent has been made by the Town to not impose compliance against two former owners. Although “No Trespassing” signs would protect the Town against liability in the case of adults, such signs do not protect the Town for injury or damage in the case of “Attractive Nuisance Laws” pertaining to Minors.
Again, thank you Mayor Helen Miller for listening to your constituents and for the realization that some ordinances have no common sense. Good luck to you and your team. These revisions are necessary so that it does not seem as though there are special strokes for special folks.
A special thanks to Tracy Woodard of the Planning and Zoning Board who professionally handled all objections and to the Jasper News for a wonderful article.