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4 Years After Opening Fort White Library in the Woods Gets Outside Lighting: What took so long?

Posted April 18, 2014  08:15 pm

A precursor of things to come, the 2007 initial drawings of the Fort White library were without outside lighting. Other than the Observer, nobody asked, "Where are the lights?"

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night after almost 4 years of inaction, The Columbia County 5, The 5, finally decided to pay to put lighting in the Fort White in the woods library parking lots. Dedicated in a private "invitation only" ceremony for The 5, some County staff, and County royalty in November 2010, the parking lots have remained unlit. The County claimed it couldn't afford the lights.

Columbia County 5During the intervening years, The 5 spent millions on anything they felt like, such as the $28k-$100k on the Boondoggle in the Boondocks debacle, or an outright donation of $80,000 to the Lake City Chamber of Commerce for a three year study to determine what you are thinking about before you buy a six pack of beer.

The Fort White Library design was kept from the public and most of the County staff through nearly all of the planning stages. The 5 requested zero input from the public until the very end of the design cycle. That was only after the Observer criticized the lack of transparency and public participation in the project, and the inane design of the circulation/checkout desk of the proposed library, which had the staff with their backs towards the front doors.

On November 12, 2010, the Observer wrote, "The library, which is way off the road, in the woods, does not appear to have any outside lighting and the parking lots do not have lights." Nobody paid attention.

As with many things that go on in Columbia County, there are various stories regarding the outside lighting at the Fort White library. One story is that the architect's lighting plan was too expensive. Another is that an engineer working for the County drew the lighting plan and it was too expensive.

Last night: "We've been tryin' to figure out somethin' to do."

The 2007 initial site plan. The 2 parking lots were no surprise to The 5.

The Observer asked The 5 why this issue, which was just deemed a safety issue in a memo from Public Works Director Kevin Kirby, took almost 4 years to be discovered. There was no answer. Mr. Kirby's memo was copied only to Commissioner DePratter.

Commissioner DePratter, who is up for reelection in the Fort White area, explained, "It has been an ongoing problem. The initial estimate I believe was $69,000. The whole time we've been tryin' to figure out somethin' to do."

The whole time began in 2007, seven years ago.

The Observer asked Commissioner DePratter if he was inspired by the upcoming election to finally take some action at the Fort White library.

Mr. DePratter answered, "The answer is no. I don't feel like I have to put up lights during election time."

Commissioner DePratter mentioned that recently, Art Butler was called in for assistance. Mr. Butler is the County's Director of Buildings and Maintenance, but more importantly, with a lifetime of work experience building and maintaining buildings, he is the County's building guru.

Mr. Butler got together with the Fort White library director and subsequently used his talent to coordinate a lighting system which will adequately light the library's two parking lots. The cost: $5,000.

A check of reliable sources revealed that the job could have been done for about the same cost four years ago.


Why did the Columbia County Fort White library parking lots remained dark for almost four years? It is the same old Columbia County story.

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


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