Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Manager Nixes Arts Council
Tonight, Ball in the Court of the County 5

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – On August 14, 2015, during a budget workshop, seven agencies made requests for funding from the County 5. If granted, the requests are funded out of reserves. The 5 listened and reserved its decision. The County minutes do not state when or how The 5 was to decide these seven additional requests. On November 24, County Manager Ben Scott made a decision to allocate the funds. His decisions come before The 5 tonight. The County has tens of millions in the bank. The Arts Council was looking for $4,000. Mr. Scott decided the Arts Council received "$-0-."

Christa Pribble presents her proposal for an Arts Council


On August 14, 2015, seven agencies requested Columbia County tax dollars from the County 5.

• Suwannee Valley Transit Authority requested $61,07 in recurring funds, meaning they want this additional money every year. The SVTA already receives $24,492 of County tax dollars.

• Columbia County Senior Services has a current funding level of $166,767. They were asking for two levels of funding: recurring funds at $15,000; non-recurring funds at $17,420.

• Columbia Citizens for an Arts Council currently receives zero funding. They were requesting $4,000 to help establish a Columbia County Arts Council.

• CARC currently receives $80,000 a year. They were requesting an additional $50,000 of non-recurring funding.

• United Way is listed as receiving no funding from the County. They were asking for $20,000 in non-recurring funds.

• Suwannee Valley 4C's currently receives no funding. They were requesting $10,000 in non-recurring funds.

• Meridian Behavior Healthcare currently receives $204,750 of County tax-payer dollars. They were requesting an additional $15,750 in recurring funds.

No one appeared to address the Board from CARC, United Way, Suwannee Valley 4C's, or Meridian Behavior Healthcare.

Ms. Pribble explains, "Why an Arts Council.

The Arts Council

Christa Pribble had a dream that an Arts Council in Columbia County would benefit everyone and improve the chances of youth at risk staying in school and going on to college. She prepared presentations and asked to be added to the County's agenda.

The County Commission (The 5) approved rules allow anyone to be added to the agenda with 7 days notice. During the rule discussions, long time County Commissioner Ronald Williams fought back an attempt by those that would have restricted that right.

County Manager Ben Scott, who was acting County Manager at the time, blew off Ms. Pribble at every opportunity. When she asked to be put on the agenda she was advised that she had to give 2 weeks notice. When she gave 2 weeks notice she was told she would not be put on the agenda, but would have to present her proposal in 2 minutes at the end of a meeting during the public comment section.

On July 16, your reporter received an email from a frustrated Ms. Pribble which stated in part:

I called Ben Scott on 7/14/15, to try to get on the Agenda for 8/6's BOCC meeting and, if possible, the Budget Workshop on 8/14. He said he was not sure if the Chairman would allow. Called him back today and neither date was available for putting Columbia Citizens for an Arts Council on the Agenda. I would need to make a comment card out and be limited to two minutes at a time.

Eventually, Ms. Pribble was allowed to make her presentation at the August 14 Budget Work Shop. She presented a PowerPoint presentation detailing the benefits of an Art Council and the availability of additional funding should the County decide to establish an Arts Council.

Ms. Pribble was asking for $4,000 in seed money.

The Kibosh

Last week, on November 24, County Manager Scott decided three groups would receive Columbia County tax-payer dollars: CARC at $25,000; Coulumbia County Sr. Services at $25,000; United Way at $20,000;

Columbia Citizens for an Arts Council received  "$-0-."


Tonight, The 5 will make the final decision. 

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