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Columbia County News

Emerald Lakes Special Assessment Ballot Fails
Tonight, Will The 5 Take Matters Its Own Hands?

Columbia County 5
The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Chairman Ronald Williams;
Commissioners Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Stephen Bailey; Scarlet Frisina

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Columbia County's infamous County Commission is a legend in Florida. Like Washington, where the will of the people is generally meaningless, The County 5 do most of their real business and deciding in the back room. Tonight, The 5 will decide whether to impose a special assessment in a subdivision where the vote was overwhelmingly not to have one.

Florida Statutes enables The 5 to establish an MSBU (Municipal Service Benefit Unit) and levy a special tax to benefit a specific area in the County, such as a subdivision. This is done in many counties in Florida, where public services in subdivisions, such as road maintenance, are paid for by the folks that use them.

The 5, which remains the quintessential good ole' boy county in Florida, has generally shied away from MSBU's, only two exist, and spreads these charges throughout all the taxpayers of Columbia County, subdivision road maintenance being the prime example.

No one likes to pay a special tax and not charging one, which is what is collected from the residents of an MSBU, gets The 5 votes and contributions. Developers love this, as their subdivision roads, essentially private roads, are turned over to the County taxpayers for maintenance.

Recently, the residents of Emerald Lakes Subdivision were given the opportunity to decide if they wanted to continue to pay for street lighting in the subdivision after the developer failed to pay its lighting bills to Florida Power and Light.

The County met with residents and explained the purpose of an MSBU and balloting process.

The County put it this way, "The residents were notified by the County on November 21, 2013 that if the majority of the residents did not remit favorable votes the street lights may be disconnected."

Ballots were mailed to the residents, to be returned by January 10, 2014. A non returned vote is considered a no vote. The residents were aware of this.

A 75% affirmative vote is needed to establish an MSBU. Including the unreturned ballots, only 42% voted for the establishment of the MSBU.

The 5 will decide tonight if the will of the people will be heard, or they will override the vote and as the County put it, "Proceed with implementation of a non ad-valorem special assessment."


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