Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Commissioner called special meeting to set date, hand out memo. 23 Public Officials and staff show up.

Seen in the photo, names omitted: One county manager, one city manager, one sheriff, one mayor, two county commissioners, two city councilmen, one city clerk, one county clerk, three members of the sheriff's high command, four members of the communications center staff, two members from the media and unseen we have two members of the LCPD high command, the LCFD assistant chief, and other staff members.

The meeting begins -  in their own words

Commissioner DuPree: The purpose of this meetin is not to discuss any issues that relate to a combined dispatch.  What it is for is to set a meetin in the future... The county is going to give a list of questions that we want to have answered for the next meeting, so we don't waste a lot of time.  We get to where we need to be at... our hope is the city in turn has put together somethin to present to us, the County, of questions that you all may have as it relates to the combined dispatch center - so that we can get answers to them.  So that when we come to the next meeting ... we can move forward.

City Clerk Audrey Sikes, Mayor Witt, Sheriff Dep. Capt Colman (in back). Lake City is always concerned about public participation and the Sunshine Law.

Mayor Witt:  Before we all get started there have been some issues whether this [meeting] complies with the Sunshine Law. I spoke to Mr. Darby [City Attorney] and he has some concerns about it... I don't know that this is a good place for the public to have a meeting.  We can use the City Council Chambers... I think that's more - for the public to get in and out of.  When I came in they asked for my name - you can't do that at a public meeting.

Com DuPree: We can prop the door open.

Mayor Witt: Well, I think it's just easier to go somewhere else. This is supposed to be a secure area... From now on I think we need to do a block ad in the paper [advertising the meeting] and that way we just don't have any questions about it.  I defer to my Clerk – if that's what she thinks.

City Clerk Audrey Sikes:  I totally agree with that.

Com DuPree: Why?

Clerk Sikes: If it's an area of critical public concern, which this is, then a block ad in the newspaper to notice the general public would definitely be appropriate.  It is not required, but it is very much appropriate.

Com DuPree and Sheriff Hunter. Sheriff Hunter told the group that he wants the Combined Communications Center to be a success.

Com DuPree: Is this building designated as such?

Sheriff Hunter: As what?

Clerk Sikes: As what?

Com DuPree: A area of critical concern.

(Clerk Sikes explained that she was talking about the topic and it is important that the public be able to come to meetings and voice their concerns and ask questions.)

Clerk Sikes: To be able to be a part of this.

Mayor Witt: There are issues about the building and how accessible it is to the public and you can just take that out of it as an issue...

Clerk Sikes: The notice that was on the County's website.  It had the wrong location - until about 12:30 today.

Com DuPree: Really?

City Manager Johnson, City Councilmen Melinda Moses and Jake Hill look on.

Clerk Sikes: Yeah. It actually said the School Board Complex.

(Sheriff Hunter opined that he thought it might be a good idea to rotate the meetings around in different buildings.)

Sheriff Hunter: From here on out I don't have a problem putting the advertising out.

(Mayor Witt explained that he thought more could be done by correspondence rather than having meetings, telling the group that they could send questions out and that everybody would be able to "come to the meetings prepared and be ready to go.")

Sheriff Hunter: The only problem I have with the correspondence - I think some of the delivery gets lost in the mix... You accomplish a lot more by having the personal contact with everybody.

(There was some discussion about the number of times that the Executive Committee meets and Sheriff said that at the next meeting there will be some issues that have to be brought up in depth).

Com DuPree:  ... I'm looking around this room and I ain't seenin nobody from the public. Unless -You got Stew here - You got Karl here - You got Tony here. [members of the media] I don't see the public...

Clerk Sikes (and others): They didn't know about it.

Com DuPree: You all didn't notice the meetin?

Clerk Sikes: Your staff sent over the memorandum that said, by copy of this memorandum, notice has been served to the Lake City Reporter. Kinda told us that you guys were handling it. And it didn't get handled. [The County made no effort to contact either the Observer or the Lake City Journal.]

Com DuPree: OK. We'll make sure that don't happen again.

Sheriff Hunter:  ... We want to make sure everybody knows what we're doing here.

The rest of the meeting

The rest of the meeting was uneventful.

Mayor Witt nominated Sheriff Hunter to be the first chairperson of the Executive Committee, explaining that the Sheriff has been doing a good job so far [as chairman of the user group] and that he should continue as the chairman of the Executive Committee.

County Manager Dale Williams shows the stress of 30+ years as County Manager.

The date for the next meeting of the Executive Committee was agreed upon to be March 15th, at the Sheriff's Office, at a time to be announced.  It is expected that the public will be encouraged to attend and participate. 

County Manager Dale Williams read from a memo that was dated the day of the meeting and addressed to City Manager, Wendell Johnson. The memo is here and self-explanatory.

The meeting lasted thirty minutes

Nothing was accomplished other than electing a chairman. Everything else, the other two items, setting a date and place for the next meeting and the reading of a memo, could have been done over the phone or by e-mail.


The Observer, in conversations after the meeting with the Sheriff, the City Manager, and the Lake City Police Chief, found everyone looking toward to the successful completion of the 911 Combined Communications Center, which now is moving past the building renovations and technology and into the nuts and bolts of any good organization - governance and people.

Chief Gilmore, file photo

Chief Gilmore, who had a prior speaking engagement arranged a year ago and could not make the meeting, reflected the views of everyone when she spoke with the Observer via cell phone after the meeting: "This project is important for everybody. I commend the Sheriff and the user group for getting the technical side of the County's center modernized and up and running - reliably. We are now moving to the governance and people side of this important project. I am confident that we will be able to work together making Columbia County's Combined Communications and Dispatch Center a first-class operation."

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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