Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Commission News

May 1, 2008

Columbia County Board of County Commissioner’s Meeting

Discussion And Action Item:  7:40 p.m.

“Request from City of Lake City – Combined Fire Service” 

Abbreviated Transcript
Prepared by the ColumbiaCountyObserver.com


          Commissioner: Ronald Williams
          Commissioner: Dewey Weaver (Chairman)
          Commissioner: George Skinner
          Commissioner: Stephen Bailey
          Commissioner: Elizabeth Porter 

          County Manager:  Dale Williams
          Columbia County Observer & Resident: Stewart Lilker



(The County Manager talks about the Fire Service letters between the city and county. The city’s request was for the county to take over fire protection in the city limits).

 (The County Manager reads questions and answers.

     Question one: Must fire fighters be retained? Answer: no.

     Question two & three: City liable for pension and unemployment? Answer: Yes.

     Question four: City fire apparatus transferable to county?  Yes. Equipment donated except for one piece of equipment. 

     Question five: City fire bldg available? Answer: Yes. Debt service of 160k, and utilities and maintenance. 44k utilities, 8k repair and maintenance. 

     Question six:  Non ad valorem assessment inside the city? Answer: Yes. Non-eligible, churches etc., administered the same as in county. Who and what source of revenue finances non-eligible costs? City unable to answer. No answer until study completed.

     Question seven:  County not required to have city approval of increases. Who pays for cost and allocation study? City suggests a 50 – 50 split. City already contracted with Kendall and Oliver to perform study.)

 COM. RONALD WILLIAMS:     (Doesn’t buy county paying ½ for study) – “Unless I’m missing something on this.”)

 COUNTY MANAGER DALE WILLIAMS:     All options open to you.

 COM. RONALD WILLIAMS:     I have a whole bunch of questions. We know the city is subsidizing fire for around 700k a year.

 COUNTY MANAGER DALE WILLIAMS:     Most likely, if you level the assessment county residents rates would increase at least on the initial survey. 

COM. RONALD WILLIAMS:     That dog won’t hunt.  

COUNTY MANAGER DALE WILLIAMS:     (Non ad valorem eligible expenses).  If we run the numbers and the numbers come back and they show those types of things happening, then at least they know where to identify the problems and to look at ways which they might be able to cure some of those. Without the study, they do not feel that they can predict those things... The study provides some answers, but it also produces a lot of questions. 

COM. RONALD WILLIAMS:     Under the same scenario that we have at our, the county fire department, you wouldn’t need near as many fireman as the city of Lake City have now? Am I correct? 

COUNTY MANAGER DALE WILLIAMS:     We can’t extrapolate what we’re doing in the unincorporated area and put it in the city. (The CM talks about contracting with Skip Starling and determining what it would take to maintain the city’s ISO rating. The CM explains the city has different equipment and staffing patterns). 

COM. RONALD WILLIAMS:     Under a perfect scenario, this might work. We shouldn’t be at the point where we got a city fire department and a county fire department. It still irks me that we are here… It seems like every year come budget time we get caught up in a fight between the city’s firefighters and the city government. It’s not fair to this board to have take that kind of criticism year in and year out… I don’t want to see those guys that got families, got a long career be throwed under the bus and left there. And then if I understand, the question what you asked was, “Would the county have to hire any of the city firemen and the answer to that, the answer was no. That would be left up to Trey and his staff to hire who he wanted to. Am I right?


 COMMISIONER DEWEY WEAVER:     Basically what the board needs to determine tonight is if we are going to move forward with the study?

 COUNTY MANAGER DALE WILLIAMS:     (CM explains options). For the unincorporated area only, we have no intentions of doing a new non ad valorem assessment study for this year.

 COMMISSIONER STEPHEN BAILEY:     (Explains he was at the committee meeting, along with Commissioner Skinner. Said he is glad to see some of the city fire fighters in attendance.)

      I think it’s important that folks realize that the county is not the one who went to the city and said, “We want to provide the fire protection for you inside the city.” The city came to the county, again and asked for that. I think that’s very important to make it clear.

      I also don’t think that it’s, we need to make a decision on this. This has went on now for two and a half years that this discussion has come up about this time every year as to who is going to provide the fire protection and things get said, here -- there -- everywhere and it’s not good for families. It’s not good for relations between the departments and we need to decide if we are going to do this or not. And if we are going to do it, then we need to move quickly with it and not let this drag out… And let’s make a decision as to whether we want to participate in it or not.

     For myself, I think it makes sense that you have one department. And that’s all I got to say.

 COMMISSIONER GEORGE SKINNER:          We need to move expeditiously if this is going to happen. 

Mr. LILKER:     (States that he is in favor of one unified county fire department and the folks from the LC Fire Department should get first options for those jobs. Speaking about the deal the County made with the city for Mario Coppick, “If you can make a deal for Mario, you can make the deal for the fire department.” Speaking about non-assessed buildings, Mr. Lilker explained, “We all take advantage of what goes on in those buildings and everybody should pay their fair share.” Speaking generally, Mr. Lilker said, “Nothing that happened in the past makes any difference .. only from this point forward. The bickering has got to stop.”). 

COMMISIONER DEWEY WEAVER:     … One thing. You keep insinuating that this board is interested in union busting. And what do you base that on? Is that your opinion? 

Mr. LILKER:     I base it on a comment of Mr. Bailey. 


Mr. LILKER:     Who said, 


Mr. LILKER:     The union is a non-issue. 

COMMISSIONER STEPHEN BAILEY:      Mr. Chairman, can I respond to that comment please? 

Mr. LILKER:     That’s his comment, not mine. So that’s not an insinuation. 

COMMISIONER DEWEY WEAVER:      No, that’s an assumption.

 COMMISSIONER STEPHEN BAILEY:     You take half what I said, you take half of it. 

COMMISSIONER GEORGE SKINNER:      We must have been at different meetings. Because I’ve never ever heard Commissioner Bailey mention anything, Stew, about union busting.

 Mr. LILKER:     I can certainly play the tape. When he says the union is a non-issue, they can get on line like everybody else and we don’t have to hire them that seems to me to be union busting. That’s my characterization Mr. Skinner and if that’s not yours, that’s fine. 

COMMISIONER DEWEY WEAVER:     Thank you for admitting that’s your assumption and characterization. Thank you.   

COMMISSIONER STEPHEN BAILEY:     As the record will reflect, Mr. Lilker, whenever I made that comment, I was responding to a comment that was asked for in the meeting… because the city had already said that the county did not have to take over the personnel and the question about the union would become a non-issue because the county does not have a union in its fire department. (Bailey opines that he doesn’t appreciate his name being connected with “union busting”). 

Mr. LILKER:     Does this board have a problem with recognizing the local of the Lake City Fire Department and hiring those people? 


COMMISIONER DEWEY WEAVER:     That will be a decision (interrupted by Com Williams). 

COM. RONALD WILLIAMS:     We’re not even there yet. 

Mr. LILKER:     I’m just asking that question Mr. Bailey. You said, “It’s not an issue.” Is it an issue? Do you want to hire those folks? 

COMMISSIONER STEPHEN BAILEY:     It’s not an issue. Our fire department does not have a union. Our fire department has not asked to have a union. They have not taken a vote. It is a non issue at this point. 

Mr. LILKER:     If the two fire departments combined (Lilker interrupted by Weaver and Commissioner Williams) 

COMMISIONER DEWEY WEAVER:      If the two combined, it’s the Lake City Fire Department Union. It’s not the Columbia County Union. The employees of Columbia County Fire Department, under state law, will have to petition and take a vote for that… the Lake City union will not transfer to the Columbia County Fire Department. -- unintelligible – together.

 Mr. LILKER:     There’s no law that prohibits them from maintaining a union, is there? 

COMMISIONER DEWEY WEAVER:      I’m not an attorney. 

Mr. LILKER:     Thank you Mr. Chairman. 

COMMISSIONER ELIZABETH PORTER:     (In favor of doing the study). 

COM. RONALD WILLIAMS:      (Doesn’t think the county should pay for the study.) 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. So I don’t have a problem with the study, as long as the city pay a hundred percent of it. 

COMMISIONER DEWEY WEAVER:     I would agree. I’m not going to support anything that’s going to increase the unincorporated areas assessments… We can’t make a good decision without that study and I don’t want six thousand dollars to be a stumbling block… I don’t want six thousand dollars to be a stumbling block to moving ahead and getting the information we need to make a good decision. 

COM. RONALD WILLIAMS:     … I’m for the study, but I cannot support we paying half of it. 

COMMISIONER DEWEY WEAVER:     … Six thousand dollars is what we are talking about out of a seventy five million dollar budget. It’s not a lot of money.

 (The motion passed, 4-1, to approve the study with the county paying for half the study and the city paying for the other half.)