The Ellisville Utility Project
Money down the drain
(The county meeting)
the city meeting)
Columbia County, FL (posted
The Columbia County Commission, still homeless, had
their county utility meeting in the Jack Berry LSHA's
newly renovated old jail. After spending millions, the
county walked away from the meeting without a plan and
without anyone to operate their unfinished Ellisville
Columbia County has been in the utility business
since 2006. The County Commission and the County Manager
did everything but proclaim from the mountain tops that
they did not want to be in the utility business. Three
years later after the squandering of millions of dollars
the Ellisville Utility Project is still in disarray.
Since 2006, County Manager Dale Williams has been at
the helm of the Ellisville Utility Project.
Since 2006, County Manager Dale Williams has been at
the helm of the Ellisville Utility Project. Recently the
leadership torch was passed on to new leadership.
Columbia County utility debacle now has at its helm
Columbia County Commissioner, Jack Berry protégé -- Jody
DuPree, who when talking about the wastewater (sewer)
problems in Ellisville told the County Commission at its
September 3rd meeting:
Commissioner Jody DuPree:
He's what my intent is.
Is that and I told staff today is that instead that the
utility committee hears the pro forma and the
information on the sewer portion of the ~unintelligible~
intent that by the 11th, Mr. Williams should give all of
us a pro forma.
We should then look at it – look for
ourselves of the sewer plant as presented as feasible
and then at the board meetin after the ten, which is the
17th – that gives everybody a week to look at where we
at. And on the 17th instead of having to go to us – come
here – and let's all hear it for the same time at the
same time and then we decide that night if we're goin to
go that route -- and the answer is no we're not – we've
got to steak that it will – then – what we'll do then
depends – we'll go back and start counting two
The usual lack of oversight and Columbia County's
legendary ability to cover up all its mistakes are
finally coming home to roost. The illegal shade meetings
between the county manager and county commissioners have
not stopped and brazenly continue in the County
Manager's office. A high placed county official (name
withheld) recently observed Commissioner DuPree meeting
with the County Manager and another commissioner in the
County Manager's office.
Over the past month there has been utility meeting
after utility meeting. The city has met; the county has
met and they have met jointly. At the city meetings
there is an air of calm and professionalism. After years
of experience, with some missteps along the way, the
city utility now operates as a well oiled machine.
Commissioner DuPree is in the habit of starting
meetings without all the principals in attendance.
The county utility meetings are now run by
Commissioner DuPree. Com Dupree began the August 2nd
meeting without the Clerk, the City Manager, the City
Utility director or the City Engineer present. All the
city folks were invited and in the building at the time.
Mr. DuPree questioned the County Manager about
beginning the meeting without the Clerk, i.e. the Clerk
of the Courts – DeWitt Cason. It was reported that the
County Manager said to start the meeting – they were
recording it. This part of the meeting has disappeared
off the county recording.
Life long well driller and county resident Ronnie Hughes
is taking it on the chin dealing with the county.
At this past Tuesday's, September 14th, county
utility meeting, Mr. Dupree again began the meeting
without all the main characters present. Well driller
Ronnie Hughes who was first up on the agenda and County
Attorney Marlin Feagle arrived together five minutes
late. It is unclear why Mr. DuPree didn't begin the
meeting with something else or just wait a few minutes.
During the meeting the county rejected all the sewer
plant bids that were opened on the previous Friday. It
was clear that the decision to reject these bids was
done well in advance of the bid opening.
The County Manager (CM) Dale Williams claimed that
there were fourteen people and twenty nine businesses in
the service area of the proposed Ellisville utility. The
Observer drove past the "business" district in
Ellisville and was hard pressed to find eight businesses
doing business in Ellisville.
During the meeting, CM Williams also said that both
the waste water and drinking water components of the
utility will have to be subsidized by the County
Commission (that's the working families of the county)
and that in 2006 the County Commission knew and agreed
The Observer scoured the Board minutes from 2006 and
could not find one word indicating the county would be
subsidizing the utility rates in any public meeting.
The Observer did find that "the county has purchased
close to $900,000 worth of property to be used for spray
irrigation for the project." The Observer has been
unable to find these numbers in any recent accounting by
the County Manager. It is also unknown where that money
As a result of the utility meeting the Observer
discovered that the County was not in possession of the
well water test results, but that the results were in
A confidential source has explained to the Observer
that Mr. DuPree has recently discovered the politics of
the land dealings in Ellisville.
It is well know that many of the rich, powerful, and
well connected families have invested in or have
property in the area of the Ellisville Utility Project
and it is perfectly clear to anyone that has followed
this project from the beginning that it was never about
getting the 14 families in the area decent water.
Great Columbia County Fire Rate Rip Off, it's about
the Columbia County good old boys taking care of the
Columbia County good old boys.
It is time that not only Mr. DuPree, but everybody
involved in this helter-skelter squandering of the
public funds in the ill thought out Ellisville Utility
Project should come clean, or be made to come clean. –