Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Cnty 5 & Cnty Management Choose Slush & the Glad Hand Over Adopted Road Improvement Rules

2 miles of the recently surfaced Tiger Drain dirt road in Commissioner Ron Williams Dist. 1.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Burning through its financial reserves at a breakneck pace, the County 5, County Manager, and County Management continue to ignore its own rules for the selection of road projects. In place of its recently adopted Road Prioritization Policy, the County is flying by the seat of its pants and making up the rules as it goes along.

Background: how much does it cost to cover dirt with milling?

In July 2011, Jackson P. "Jack" Berry and the Lake Shore Hosp Auth decided to build a parking lot. His protégé, then County Commissioner and contractor Jody DuPree, covered approximately 415 feet of dirt with milling for $17,036. Milling is ground up asphalt. Milling costs about 1/8 the price of asphalt.

Insert (left-top) shows the dimensions of the paved area. The consistency of the milling is clear.

In the Past

Road building and maintenance was not an issue during the 30+ year reign of former County Manager Dale Williams. He balanced the road building/maintenance chores of the County between the 5 County districts. The wheeling and dealing went on in the back rooms. Everybody seemed satisfied.

In 2008, after the controversial hiring of Public Works Director Kevin Kirby, things began to unravel. Then, in 2015, with the arrival of a new elected County Attorney and the anointed County Manager, trouble began.

Through May of 2016, during the ten years your reporter has been keeping an eye on the Columbia County 5, he had never seen a discussion regarding any process of road prioritization. Lists showed up and some roads just happened.

April 21, 2016: "Road Improvement Needs"

The April 21 budget workshop minutes show as a discussion topic: "Road Improvement Needs/Options."

The Columbia County's governing body, the Board of County Commissioners, known as the Columbia County 5 or just The 5, under the direction of the Clerk of the Courts, P. DeWitt Cason, ramped-up minimalist minutes  years ago after the County strong armed him.

That's all it shows.

Assistant County Manager Kevin Kirby began his presentation to The 5, "I'm here today to tackle roadway prioritization options."

Mr. Kirby's presentation and the road issue conversation went on for an hour.

There is no record in the minutes regarding the remarks of any of The 5 or the County Management regarding "Road Improvement Needs."

May 19, 2016
Road Prioritization Policy Approved During a Workshop

The May 19 minimalist minutes are basically a carbon copy of the April 21 minutes, except for the phrase, "Two of the topics had motions."

The 5 discussed the policy. Your reporter, also a citizen of Columbia County, spoke against the policy because of its vague reporting requirements. The sanitized minutes read, "Citizen Stewart Lilker offered comment."

The new policy passed unanimously.

The New Policy: it is to be "fair and reasonable"

The facts are contrary to the headline in the Lake City Reporter: No firm rules for selecting roadwork, and the purported quote by Assistant County Manager Kevin Kirby, "There ain't no science to it ... it's a moving target."

The new and improved (road) policy begins: The purpose of the policy is "to develop a fair and reasonable method for determining priorities for projects to be completed by the Columbia County Public Works Department."

The policy continues, "In tasking the Public Works Director to submit a listing of projects in order of priority, the Board of County Commissioners directs that the following criteria be considered. Some of these are:

• Complaints - number of work orders/daily work entries. A list of the top ten highest number of work units performed per road from each district covering a three (3) year period to be formulated.

• Physical inspection performed to determine method of construction needed (LR, MR, WRR, NC) and estimated cost. There are no definitions of the abbreviations in the policy.

• There are more: right-of-way widths needed; safety and accident history; traffic volumes- data collected from traffic counters; accessibility of emergency vehicles; and the number of residents affected.

   new policy

The last directive in the policy is, "[the] Final list prepared by Public Works Director to be submitted to Board of County Commissioners for approval during budget workshops each fiscal year."

During the workshop, your reporter objected to the vagueness and contradictory nature of the reporting requirements. The policy also states that the list is due by April 1. Neither The 5, the County Management, or the County Attorney had a problem with the policy.

The 5 could have chosen to vet and approve the new policy in the sunshine during regular meeting which followed the workshop. It didn't.


Tiger Drain  Road, the 2 mile road to nowhere in the photo is estimated to have cost between $200k and $400k.

While the public paid for it, it is not clear who knew about it. It is definite that the public did not.

The legend of the Columbia County 5, Florida's infamous county commission continues unabated, only worse.

Neither the County 5, nor the high priced top heavy county management, nor the popularly elected County Attorney seem to care how deep they reach into the public's pocket.

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