Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Another Strategic Plan for the Cnty 5: Who Needs the Econ Dev Director, or Anybody Else? (Part I)

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – At 3:30 this afternoon, the County Purchasing Director Ray Hill is meeting with the County Manager's handpicked committee to review 7 proposals for "Strategic Plan Consultant Services." Missing from the committee is Economic Development Director Glenn Hunter, who didn't know the County had asked for more consultants for yet another Columbia County Strategic Plan. County Commissioner Rusty DePratter didn't know, and Katrina Vercher, the Clerk who takes the County de minimis minutes also didn't know anything about the new strategic plan.

Ray Hill had scheduled the evaluation committee meeting for April 25. It appears that the committee members, or at least some of them, didn't feel there was enough time to evaluate the proposals and the meeting was moved forward to today, May 1.

The County, rather than state that the meeting was moved forward, disappeared it from its meeting calendar.

County Manager Ben Scott

On April 26, your reporter spoke with County Manager Ben Scott about the request for the proposals; the interviews; the rankings.

Observer: Isn't this a county decision, considering what the strategic plan is supposed to do? Shouldn't the County 5 be making the final decision?

County Manager Scott answered, "I haven't heard them say they want to make the decision on hiring the consulting firm. The committee is not making the decision on what the strategic plan is going to be. The committee is just buying the consultants to come in and do the strategic plan... The firm will be meeting with the board to give them direction."

Observer:  "Don't you think the board should meet with the three finalists to decide which one they want to work with?"

Mr. Scott answered, "I'll leave that up to the board."

Observer: "How are you going to do that?

Mr. Scott replied, "... Right now I am trying to short list the firms."

Observer: "What happens after they're short listed."

Mr. Scott answered, "Then we'll let the board make a decision.'Do you want to interview the people? What do you want to do?'"

No Record Anywhere

The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams; Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Everett Phillips; Tim Murphy. A board that does not like minutes that inform.

There is nothing in the County minutes where the Board approved another strategic plan, hiring consultants to do the job, or what should be in the plan.

Late last week your reporter spoke with Commissioner Rusty DePratter about the new strategic plan.

Observer: "Do you know that the County has gone out for strategic plan proposals?"

Mr. DePratter:  "For what?"

Observer:  "A strategic plan. The County received proposals for a long range strategic plan."

Mr. DePratter:  "I'll have to talk to Ben about that." [Ben Scott, County Manager]

Observer:  "Don't you think the County 5 should be making the decision? You guys are County."

Mr. DePratter concluded, "I will attend and if I have any questions, I will ask them."

Earlier today your reporter spoke to the Clerk, Katrina Vercher.

Observer: "Do you recall the County talking about going out for a strategic plan RFP or if there is anything in the minutes about the County looking to put out an RFP for a strategic plan?

Ms. Vercher was not at a loss for words, "No."

Economic Development Director Glenn Hunter

This morning your reporter spoke for a few minutes with Economic Development Director Glenn Hunter.

Observer: "The County is doing a strategic plan. Have you been involved in the process?"

Mr. Hunter responded, "The County itself is doing a strategic plan?"

Observer:  "Do you know?"

Mr. Hunter answered, "No."


It appears from looking at the proposals this strategic plan will cost the County's taxpayers upward of $100,000.

It is not clear if the County Manager has been talking to at least some of the commissioners about this plan. Commissioner DePratter told the Observer, "Nobody polls Rusty DePratter and I have made sure they know that."

On September 17, 2009, Commissioner Jody DuPree commented on what eventually cost Columbia County taxpayers $80,000 plus. His remarks can be found in the County minutes. "Commissioner Dupree stated that he found it odd that the commissioners began this initiative regarding planning for the future of the county, but suddenly finds itself out of the 'loop'.”

Columbia County where nothing changes for the better: the legend continues.

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