Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Commission News

A Unified Fire Department – Round Three
Will the city fall into the county’s trap?
Columbia County Florida (posted May 5, 2008)080505_LCFD_Bldg
by Stew Lilker

On the agenda for this evening’s 7 p.m. Lake City Council meeting is the continuing discussion of a unified county fire service and the fate of the Lake City Fire Department. It is now up to the City Council to not fall into the well worn trap of the County Commission and throw in the towel before the discussion really begins.   

The growing pains of this once sleepy rural county and city couldn’t be plainer as both the city and the county creak and groan their way into the twenty first century. Both sides, during the past six years, have been experiencing unprecedented growth. Both sides have their partisan supporters when it comes to who is doing the better or worse job. 

Tonight, the Lake City Council gets its bite at the apple after last Thursday’s dismal performance by the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, where only one commissioner, Elizabeth Porter, seemed to recognize that the residents of Lake City are really also residents of Columbia County. 

The big question on the table is not about fire trucks, but about people. The fates of the Lake City fire personnel continue getting short shrift by the County Commission, who continue to turn a blind eye to time served and the dedication to duty of the Lake City Fireman. 080320_Stephen thinking

Commissioner Stephen Bailey denied that he was union busting when he said the Lake City Fire Department Union is a “non-issue.” 

The Observer asked Mr. Bailey and the Board, “You said, “‘It’s not an issue.’” Is it an issue? Do you want to hire those folks?” 

Their answer: (see the transcript). The Commission beat around the bush, but wouldn’t answer. 

All that have spoken to the Observer believe that it is in the best interest of the County to have one unified fire service; that the time and service of the Lake City Fireman should be respected; and have no problem paying a little more to preserve jobs and maintain protection. 

Resident Barbara Lemley told the Observer, “Guys that have twenty years shouldn’t be told they have to reapply for their job. That’s totally unacceptable. 

Lance MacDonald, a life long resident of Columbia County, said about personnel retention, “If you were there, you stay there. They shouldn’t lose their jobs or just have to apply with everybody else.” 

Mr. MacDonald said on the issue of a countywide fire assessment, “Everybody needs to pay their fair share for everything. The rate should be the same for everybody, whether you live in the city or the county. I am willing to pay more. Another fifty, yes. Another hundred, no. I want to know that I am safe. I want to know they have the best equipment and the best manpower.” 

On the other side of the issue are Commissioner’s Ronald Williams and Dewey Weaver.

080320_Ronald Thinking Commissioner Ronald Williams said on the issue of an increase in the fire assessment for a countywide unified fire department, “In advance, if we have to increase the rural residents at all to balance the fire budget, by incorporating two into one, I am one hundred percent against it, before the study comes out, if that’s what the study shows.” 

Commissioner Dewey Weaver seconded the notion, “I would agree. I’m not going to support anything that’s going to increase the unincorporated areas assessments.” 

Hopefully, more reasoned heads will prevail at the City Council.            


May 5, 2008
County Commission Meeting