Columbia County passes unfair fire
Small property owners burned again
Columbia County, FL (Posted September 2, 2011 09:45 am)
Columbia County Florida's infamous County Commission once again buried its collective head in the sand last night when, without comment, except for a few misguided words from its chairman, District III's Jody DuPree, they once again passed a fire assessment routine that benefited the family of Dist IV Commissioner Stephen Bailey and many land developers and the rich, famous and well connected in the County.
2006 rate study - questionable
2006 was the last fire assessment in Columbia County and it was freely admitted that the rate study relied on questionable information and statistics from 2005.
Three years later in 2009, the County finally requested rate options from its consultant, GSG, for the land component of its fire assessment, which had and continues to have land owners with homesteads of 10, 15 and 20 acres paying fire assessments as if they owned 160 acres.
In 2009, the County Commission was informed that the call data was inaccurate and the land categories were inequitable. GSG told the County:
Because of the extreme limitations of the data, GSG cannot offer any other reasonable rate options...
The underlying cause of the problem lies in the fact that almost 50 percent of the 2005 calls for service were reported to the land category... Assuming the County's more recent fire department's calls for service have been more accurately reported and described according to the appropriate property use category (rather than land), then all property categories could be reevaluated to provide a more equitable and appropriate allocation of the fire department budget.
To this day, Columbia County's Good ol' Boy County Commission has ignored and refused to revisit the County Fire assessment schedule.
Prior Restraint - Com DuPree tries to keep names out of the record
Last night, your reporter tried to read the names of the biggest beneficiaries of this loophole, names which were prepared from the public record. Many of the names are the rich, famous and well connected. Some of them are very nice. Chairman DuPree, clearly not wanting the names to be read into the record, kept interrupting, with your reporter finally telling him he was sorry his name was not on the list.
Your reporter, who is also a property owner and taxpayer told the County Commission: If the County can figure out a per acre rate for parcels between 160 and 640 acres, the County can figure out a rate for parcels of between 6 acres and 160 acres.
Your reported concluded, "To do anything different is not fair and equitable and benefits a few of the families of this county to the detriment of all the fee payers in this county."
No one on the County Commission made a peep.
After the public hearing closed, Commissioner DuPree had this to say, "I would like to state for the record that individuals named prior was not the only ones in the county who are benefiting, if it is a benefit as suggested... I am sad to say that certain ones were listed and named because of what they do for Columbia County."
Recently, with the help of the County's long time Clerk of the Courts, P. DeWitt Cason, a long tradition of fair, accurate and complete County minutes has been obliterated and the history of the county is now being sanitized to show only motions, votes and virtually nothing else. Don't expect to see any of the above in the County minutes, unless in some way it has been twisted to benefit the Good ol' Boys on the County Commission.
In Columbia County it's business as usual.