Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Commission News

Columbia County Florida - Celebrating Black History Month by driving the children to drugs

Columbia County, long known for its cronyism, "good ole boy" mentality, and failure to value both secondary and higher education, proved once again at their February 4, 2010 County Commission meeting, that common sense and the ability to reason have no place on the Columbia County Commission, when they shuttered the downtown library two nights a week, a decision which was most likely made the Columbia County way, behind closed doors.

Civil rights activist, teacher, and human being Glynell Presley, holding plaque, has been fighting for civil rights for over 50 years in Columbia County.

Civil rights activist and life time NAACP member, Glynell Presley told the Observer, "They are driving the children to drugs."

Last year, while discussing the deplorable run down and filthy conditions at the downtown library with a highly placed member of County Government, your reporter mentioned that the library fund had over a million dollars and maybe the county could use some of that money for paint and carpet.  Your reporter was told, "You know who uses that library."

In Columbia County, everybody knows who uses the downtown library. It is the poor, the elderly, and of course the black population of the downtown and surrounding area.

When presenting the reduced hour issue to the County Commission, County Manager Williams said, "We have received a number of calls about this particular item. A lot of kids do not have computers at home and they do depend on our libraries to provide that need. Some of those parents have called to express concern."

Mr. Presley told the Observer, "It’s Black History Month and closing down the library -- it is a slap in the face of the African American community to take their local library away from them.  Closing down the library -- you have to be out of your mind."

Mr. Presley explained that before the meeting he called Commissioner Williams regarding the reduced hours of the library and asked him what was going on. According to Mr. Presley, Commissioner Williams claimed he hadn't read the agenda.

Mr. Presley said that after his conversation with Commissioner Williams, County Manager Dale Williams called him. Mr. Presley said that at that time he told County Manager Williams that children were in school at nine o'clock and suggested that the library open at twelve.

County Manager Williams told the Board, "Some people have called to suggest instead of taking the hours in the evening, you could take the hours in the morning, in other words, open later."

Before the Board meeting, the library director, Ms. Debbie Paulson, sent a memo the County Manager explaining that the library's slowest times were Wednesday and Thursday evenings. In the typical Columbia County flying by the seat of their pants, making it up as they go along way, the library director supplied not one shred of evidence, not one statistical analysis, not one chart or graph to support her position that the library had to be shuttered two nights a week. Nor did the uninspiring Ms. Paulson come up with different scenarios and a cost analysis for each, making it obvious that the deal was cut and decided well before her memo ever went out.

Commissioner DuPree addressed the County Manager, "I have a question. It don't tell me here... Have the hours of the West Branch been reduced at all? What's the hours of the West Branch?" (The West Branch is on the white side of town, three miles as the crow flies from the downtown library.)

County Manager Williams, who for years has shown his disdain for any kind of renovation or expansion of the downtown library, answered predictably, "I could not tell you the number of hours the West Branch is open."

None of the Commissioner's asked why not.

The Board's only African American member, Ronald Williams, a man who has for years watched rampant drug dealing in the hood and a declining school system, told the Board, "The Chair also agree with staff recommendation. It’s one of those things that we’re damned if we do and dammed if we don’t... Unless somebody got a golden goose to lay a golden egg and give that gold to the County, I don’t see any silver lining in the clouds so far, so we have to do what we got to do. The library is the least thing that we have to worry about right now."

Dooming its children to failure is nothing new in Columbia County, Florida.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On February 11, 2010, Citizen at Large wrote:

My children and I have gotten a great amount of use out of the downtown library and the last time I checked, we're not poor, elderly or black. As for Commissioner Williams obtuse attitude concerning the issue - why worry at all? Of course, I can only speculate on his linguistically challenged comments.


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