Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Murphy's Promise of Transparency in Reporting the Costs of the New Hunter-Hilton (Jail) in the Clouds

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – This story began at the end of the September 20, 2018 combined budget hearing - County 5 regular meeting. For years, your reporter has been asking for County 5 to add to the agenda a separate update section or having individual reports and updates on what has been going on in the County between meetings.

Various members of the County 5 are on boards like the Tourist Development Council (a multi-million dollar budget), the Economic Development Advisory Board, the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (close to a $2 mil budget), and other boards and committees.

Additionally, the Columbia County Attorney, the only elected county attorney in the state, is answerable to the people, while at the same time being the legal counsel for the County 5. The County Attorney has his finger on the legal pulse of the County and is well equipped to keep the public updated on the legal proceedings involving the County.

Background: September 20, 2018

At the conclusion of the September 20, 2018 County 5 meeting your reporter addressed The 5 on a subject brought up from time to time over the course of the past 10 years, the lack of updates by The 5 and the staff regarding the important ongoing business in the County.

Your reporter mentioned that the County 5 has spoken from time to time about the lack of updates of County business. The 5 and commissioners have complained that they are not updated on what has been going on and while some progress has been made, promised lobbyist reports by the County Manager on the tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on lobbyists have gone up in smoke as County Manager Scott has never reported back with any lobbyist information.

As for the County Attorney, your reporter told The 5, "A lot of the stuff is legal in nature and we were talking about having the County Attorney, being he is elected, reporting on the major legal issues facing Columbia County, like the mitigation credits, the law suit about the city election, and other reports like the SVTA [Suwannee Valley Transit Authority]."

Your reporter continued, "I would ask this board to consider that there is a lot of stuff that the county commissioners and other folks are involved in that really should be reported so that the people have an idea of what is going on."

A short while later, Chairman Murphy addressed the issue on the recent voter rejected blown up financing plans of the new $32 mil Hunter-Hilton (the proposed county jail), which was already $9 mil over budget on the drawing board depending on whose numbers are relied upon.

Chairman Murphy said, "This was the plan before Mr. Lilker got up here expressin'."

Mr. Murphy explained that he was going to be involved in a meeting scheduled for the next Thursday, September 27, with the Jail Committee.

Based on Florida's broad open meeting law, this meeting needed to be open to the public and wasn't.

Mr. Murphy continued, "We will be bringing to you all an update on the jail. The jail project has not been killed... We're fixin' to get to crushin' to see where we can save some money. We will continue to keep the public and this board updated on the project at the jail."

Mr. Murphy concluded, "We will have a couple of new commissioners here in November. We probably need to do a little bit better job of keeping people informed of some of the subcommittees that we sit on."

One and a Half Months Have Past

The only elected Columbia County Official that has given the public any updates since September is County Attorney Foreman, who advised The 5 at the last meeting that the SVTA is being sued by your reporter for public record violations.

The financing of the Hunter-Hilton (Jail Construction Project) continues to be a mystery.

Chairman Murphy is yet to deliver his promised update.

It is not scheduled for tonight's meeting.

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

On Nov. 15 2018, Carol from Columbia County wrote:

It sounds as though our elected Commissioners believe that they are an entity unto themselves who owes no explanation nor is accountable to anyone.  As far as the jail goes, since they want it so badly, will they be 'robbing Peter to pay Paul?'  Seems as though residents of Columbia county might be getting a bit short-changed by 'our' commissioners.

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

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