Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

County Commission News

County Commission treats its own like dogs
Ellisville Utility Boondoggle marches on

A moderate crowd showed up for the county meeting. The Sheriff's department had five of  its members there to protect the County Commission from some mysterious threat from the old folks from Ellisville, who can barely pay their bills now.

It was a sad day in Columbia County Thursday night as long time County Commissioner and Board Chairman, Ronald Williams, treated Commissioners Bailey and Frisina with a rudeness and disdain that he usually reserves for members of the public and your reporter. Com Williams' treatment of Com Scarlet Frisina was particularly disturbing, as he pointed his finger in her face, wouldn't allow her to talk and treated her more like one of his hunting dogs than a representative of the people.

As the meeting progressed, Chairman Williams did a lot of talking about straw polls, cans of worms and other things, which were irrelevant, and it was clear that the county commission and the county management were entering into unchartered territory. The cries of "We're in the utility business," for the past few months by Com Williams and others should have been more accurately stated as, "We're in training to be in the utility business." That couldn't have been clearer during Thursday night's special meeting.

District III's Com DuPree's recent remark that the County Manager didn't know anything about the utility business may have very well been on point, but the rest of the sentence should have been and "neither do we."

What everybody has conveniently forgotten was in 2006, when the preliminary talks about the Ellisville utility began ratcheting up, it was boom times in Florida and unemployment was 3.3 percent, property values were skyrocketing and the county was rolling in the dough.

Throughout the meeting, County Manager Dale Williams, unlike the Board Chairman, was gracious with his answers. Here he is answering a question from Denise Bose of East Side Village

On March 15, 2007, with the boom times barreling along, this project was pushed into high gear to benefit the 19 businesses in Ellisville, when the County Commission presented and passed the Drinking Water Facilities Plan the Columbia County way, like a mugging, with so little notice that one is not aware of it until it is happening.

Broken Promises

A week later, County Manager Dale Williams was making promises to the big boys, like Pilot, that water could be at the Ellisville interchange by April of 2008.

The 10 residential customers that fell within the initial Ellisville service area were an afterthought and nobody was making them any promises.

April 2008 came and went and no one who was familiar with the SOP of Columbia County was surprised that there wasn't a drop of Ellisville utility water to be found.

Time marched on as Columbia County dragged its feet and jerked around. The economy was going bust and for a while at least, the county used some common sense and realized that it just couldn't afford to keep marching on with a project that was way behind schedule and clearly couldn't support itself anymore. The Ellisville Utility Boondoggle was headed into moth balls where it belonged. That didn't last long.

A short time after the elections of Jody DuPree and Scarlet Frisina, the "good ole boy" fat cats, the under the radar movers and shakers of Columbia County that are always getting the special deals on fire protection or timberland exemptions – the same folks that were wheeling and dealing the land around Ellisville before the utility talk left the hut built with Com Williams' "straw polls," made a stand. Never mind that they should have been the ones to get together and build a water plant or devise a plan to grow their investments in Ellisville.

So much for the moth balls.

Instead, their well connected friends in the county saw to it that the giant hand of government reached its mitt into the pockets of all the working families of Columbia County and the people of America, via fraudulently acquired stimulus money, to pay for something that they should have paid for themselves, proving once again that the true believers in private enterprise are the biggest hypocrites of all when they smell greenbacks in their neighbor's pockets.

Of course, the County could have worked with the City and pumped the best fresh water in Florida from the City line down 441 to Ellisville and built an eight mile long commercial corridor with endless potential, but the homeless

County fathers, after years of well practiced myopia and warfare -- spelled jealousy -- with Lake City, couldn't see the forest through straw poll dust in their eyes, as that plan fell dead, with the usual Columbia County cry baby excuses.

County utility attorney, Brian Armstrong of NGN, had to jump in and save the county from potential law suits after Commissioner Dewey Weaver made a motion, which would have treated some of Ellisville's residents differently than their neighbors. The leaders of Columbia County still haven't learned that folks are supposed to be treated equally.

Anybody who thinks that pipeline wouldn't have been a greater benefit to Columbia County and Columbia County's economic development than what is presently going on in the Ellisville Utility Boondoggle just can't think.

Attorney foils raid on mystery fund

Commissioner Weaver's attempted Thursday night raid on some secret "economic development" fund money to pay impact fees for the cash strapped, hapless residents in Ellisville and his explanation – longevity lets you know where the money is --  when queried by Com DuPree, confirmed what many folks have been thinking for years – that the county has not been playing it straight with its finances.

The County Manager's shuck and jive follow up begs for an explanation from the County Clerk, the chief financial officer of the county and a forensic audit by the Fed, who should finally come in here and turn the county pockets inside out, because they too have been getting screwed by the county for a long time.

Of course, with Florida's unemployment rate the highest in the nation and the highest it has ever been, none of this helps the poor folks in Ellisville and the folks in other parts of the county, who are going to be subject to the county's cast net and the unstoppable greedy hand of big county government when this utility scenario repeats itself again and again in other parts of the county.

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