Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

County News

Columbia City Park: A Chance to be a Showplace or Another County 5 Screwball Screw-Up

                                                                       (Photo: Thomas McDonald for the NY Times)

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last Thursday night, July 21, the County 5 threw a screwball at District 5 Commissioner Scarlet Frisina and all County residents when it voted down a little park in rural Columbia City. According to County Manager Ben Scott, Ms. Frisina has been working on a rural community park in Columbia City for three years. The proposed site is adjacent to a grade school and five miles from the Interstate.

In May, Ms. Frisina was successful in having the School District donate the land to the County. A Florida grant is available that could make Columbia City's little park a show place for the County and a state of the art park for the physically challenged. The grant application is due August 17.  Late Saturday afternoon Commissioner Frisina told the Observer, "I'm going to ask to be put on the agenda for the next meeting. I am not giving up."


In May 2015, by resolution, the County 5 established a County Reserves Policy which was supposed to take care of decades old issues regarding County reserves. The reserves policy gave The 5 the authority to establish a Capital Projects Reserve Fund.

According to the policy: the Fund is utilized to maintain Capital Outlay Reserves for the General Fund and other governmental funds that have use for capital project reserves. The purpose of this fund is to create a reserve account to prepare for large capital projects used to acquire land and construct buildings, improvements, and infrastructure.

A park is a capital improvement.

On May 19, 2016, the County 5 authorized a transfer of $2,000,000 into the Capital Project Reserves Fund. See: Cnty 5 & Cnty Management Ratchet in $2,000,000 Slush Fund: Sunshine Law, What's That?

On May 24, 2016, the School Board donated 10 acres for a park in Columbia City.

On June 16, 2016, The 5 accepted the property and authorized the County Grants Department to apply for a Fall 2016 Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program grant (FRDAP). To be considered for the grant, the application must be postmarked no later than Wednesday, August 17, 2016.

On July 7, 2016, county management did a do-over and accepted the park land again.

Thursday Night at The 5

What the public saw.          ++ enlarge

County Manager Ben Scott presented the Columbia City Park Project to The 5. It is not clear why Commissioner Frisina did not present her own project.

Once again, there were issues with the PowerPoint presentation. The graphic showing a County map and the park's location was incomprehensible.  

Mr. Scott explained that Commissioner Frisina "had been working on the project for about three years."

After a brief description, Mr. Scott continued, "What we are asking for tonight is a budget amendment. The funds currently are sitting in the capital improvement project fund and we're asking to designate those funds for this park."

Mr. Scott did not reveal the balance in the Capital Projects Fund, but it appears that the recent $2mil has been reduced by about $500,000, leaving a balance of about $1.5 million.

Ms. Frisina was asking for $235,000.

The Grant

An area such as this is grant eligible.           (Photo: NYC Parks)

The FRDAP grant: the Florida Legislature awarded $3 million in funding for FRDAP projects with funds becoming available July 1, 2016, “exclusively for projects that provide recreational enhancements and opportunities for individuals with unique abilities.”

Translated, that means a park with an ADA accessible playground and other ADA amenities would be reimbursed for 50% of its cost. As mentioned above, the grant application must be postmarked by August 17.

Ms. Frisina Made Her Case

      (Photo: Boundless Playgrounds)

Ms. Frisina told The 5, "As the whole Board knows, District 5 is the only district that has no community center. I have not asked to build a community center. I don't think that our community is in need of another community center at this time, but I had been approached several years ago about the park in the Columbia City area... I began looking for potential property that would save us as much money as possible. I think this is a really good project and a really good thing for that community."

Commissioner Williams was in agreement.

Commissioner Nash said, "I think the Park is a great idea, but we don't know what it's going to take to maintain it. I think the timing could be a little better. We have other community centers that we have a list of things for two years. I don't think putting this ahead of those is a wise idea. It does come out of discretionary funds."

Commissioner DePratter agreed with Mr. Nash and had his own caveats, "I had already asked about that recurring cost. I know our parks and recreation crew is full. They are staffed fully up. They can't do anything else. Before we can maintain this park or any other place we are going to have to find a way to come up with the recurring funds to hire help to do it."

Mr. DePratter continued, "I don't have a problem with the park. I'll support it at a later date. I've decided that personally I'm not going to approve a project that might look to give any advantage to a Commissioner at election time. To me it has the look, whether it's true or not I don't believe it matters. At this point I am going to stick to my guns."

Commissioner Phillips weighed in (as spoken), "I agree also. The Park is really a good idea and I think you need, but I think we need to put it in the pleasure before we can all get everything that has been left in the past that I've come across since I've been here that needs to be done, instead of doing something new. Take care of the old things and then go to the new thing unless we get (unintelligible)."

Misters Nash, DePratter, and Phillips voted against the park.

Commissioner Frisina: Not Giving Up

Com. Frisina after the vote. She said she is not giving up.

Late Saturday afternoon, Ms. Frisina told your reporter, "I fully intend to get this back on the agenda at the next meeting. If you are in an election year, are you just supposed to stop working on things that you have been working on?"

She continued, "They claim it gives me an advantage, but it must be nice for my main opponent to have a cousin and a business partner on the Board."

The Observer asked, "Who is that?"

 "Tim Murphy and Bucky are cousins and Rusty and Tim have had business dealings," she said.

Ms. Frisina added, "There are people who are going to come down to the County Commission and tell them why the park is needed in the area. I feel that area is just as important as any other one. It's not just my district. The way I look at it -- it would be used by more than one district."

The Observer: "Are you saying they voted against their own constituents?"

Ms. Frisina: "That's why I am going to let people know. I know exactly why they did what they did."

The Observer: "Why?"

Ms. Frisina: "To make me look bad. To not let me get things accomplished for my area, even though I have been working on it. I don't want something huge, but something where people can go have little get-togethers and take their kids to play in the afternoon and stuff like that."

Ms. Frisina concluded, "This is just a coincidence that the two things, the park and the election lined up when they did. I'll be back."


Beginning Monday, the County will have 3 weeks in which to apply for the FRDAP grant, a grant that would help make the Columbia City Park an asset for the County; a show place for the physically challenged; and a nice place to stop for those traveling down the interstate. The Columbia City Park will be just 5 minutes for those traveling down I-75.

Comments  (to add a comment go here

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

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.