Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Citizens Against Forced Utilities tell Columbia County "Don't tread on me."

Some of the members of CAFU outside the Bd of Elections
It was a jubilant scene at the Columbia County Supervisor of Elections Hdq after the Citizens Against Forced Utilities filed their petitions for a referendum to stop mandatory utility hookups in Columbia County. This would not have been necessary had the county commission made an attempt to listen to the people that elected them, instead of Columbia County's "good old boys."

turning over the petitions
Patrick Lee turns CAFU's petitions over to the Sup of Elections Office, as Frank Singletary (far left) and Melinda Fryman (second from left) make sure everything goes smoothly.

A jubilant Citizens Against Forced Utilities gathered at the Columbia County Supervisor of Elections office to turn over 3914 signed petitions to change the county mandatory utility hook-up ordinance to one which gives Columbia County's residents the choice to hook up or not.

After the petitions are certified by the election's office and if the County Commission doesn't drag the group into court to question the validity of the petitions, the question should be presented to the people at the next election.

Citizens Against Forced Utilities (CAFU) seems to have the support of the majority of the residents of Columbia County in their effort to change the recent county ordinance that requires mandatory hook up to the county utility. The utility is scheduled to go on line in Ellisville.

Toby Witt
Toby Witt address the County Commission. (file photo)

Toby Witt, one of the original organizers of CAFU, told the Observer that the group had planned to collect petitions for another week, but they had so many signed that they turned them in a week early.

Based in good measure on Com Stephen Bailey's actions in the Ellisville Utility Boondoggle, Mr. Witt threw his hat into the ring and is running against Mr. Bailey for the Dist IV County Commission seat.

Mr. Witt told the Observer, "I am very proud of what the group did. I think that when this passes, everyone in the county will benefit... We want to send a message that says what the people say counts."

Joyce Collins
Joyce Collins spent days collecting petitions. Her smile tells the story.

Don't tread on me

Joyce Collins told the Observer, "We want our county back. We want our freedom of choice. That's what I want. That's exactly what it's about."

Chris Williams added, "That's what we're fighting for. It's a very fundamental thing that we are fighting for."

Mr. Williams (no relation to County Manager Dale Williams) continued, "My dad – I told him Dad, I'm going to stir up some trouble in the county. My dad – he always supports me."

Bob Rodgers added, "I'm glad I supported this and I am going to continue to do so. Hopefully, they can stop the expenditures before they get totally out of hand on this two hundred and fifty thousand dollar monstrosity [the combination utility/public works building] they are building down there."

Mr. Rodgers explained, "Many people on city water signed the petitions because they didn't want the county dictating to them that they would have to hook up if they moved outside of the city to the country."

Sammy DunnNavy veteran Sammy Dunn said, "The five commissioners are trying to force the people in Columbia County to take sewer and water that they don't need or want. I got about two hundred of them [petitions] signed myself. I had two people that worked for the city that wouldn't sign them because they are scared of their job. That's the only ones that wouldn't sign them."

Patrick Lee told the Observer, "These people are Americans. They are doing what they are supposed to do."

The Columbia County Commission has finally angered enough people about the same thing, at the same time and the people are fighting back and telling the county they aren't going to take it anymore.

Columbia County has turned back the clock

Unlike in the city, where Mayor Witt and the City Council believe that council meetings can be a market place of ideas, which also includes the public, the County Commission since the election of Dist III Commissioner Jody DuPree, with the help of long time Dist I Commissioner Ronald Williams, has turned back the clock on liberty and public participation in Columbia County.

It appears that now the county commissioners are proclaiming they believe in the petition/referendum process. What the County Commission isn't telling anyone is that if they would have listened in the first place instead of acting like royalty and turning a deaf ear to the citizens they are supposed to represent -- CAFU, the petitions and the coming referendum would not have been necessary.

In the 1800's Wendell Phillips said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

Citizens Against Forced Utilities has found the truth in this often quoted remark.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On May 27, 2010  Bobby Rucker of Lake City wrote:

I have been keeping up with the utilities in Ellisville for some time now. I was born in Lake City in 1974 and lived my whole life in Ellisville, so I have heard this issue for the last 30 years a lot. The commissioners need to bring to the citizens' attention exactly their plans and how they plan to obtain them before going ahead and spending our money and resources on this project.

The statement that I keep hearing from Commissioner Ron Williams is that the utilities in Ellisville are necessary to bring business and industry into Columbia County. And these utilities should be paid for by those that will be using it… i.e. the citizens within that area. The citizens in Deep Creek area should not be made to pay for a utility in Ellisville.

My problem with that is that if the business that is going to be generated in Ellisville is going to profit the whole county, then the whole county should pay for it, if wanted at all.

The business that comes into Ellisville will generate jobs that will be filled by all in the county and outside of it. It will also generate tax revenue that will be used by all within the county. Or is the plan to only allow those that paid for that utility to bring the businesses into the community the jobs and tax revenue provided by it. That is a crazy thought and way of thinking, but not out of frame for the statements made by our county officials to date.


On May 30, 2010  Country Girl from Lake City wrote:

In response to Mr. Rucker's May 27th comment, I have seen this scenario, i.e. infrastructure coming out of nowhere, blindsiding the citizens. The County should have a Master Plan for the Ellisville area and if that plan has been dormant for 20 or 30 years, why now. Being involved with Economic development, dabbled in politics, and planning and zoning, this is my view, and only my opinion.

There are huge land owners in that area, and with infrastructure in place, the value of that land increases. Here comes, Mr. Developer offering to buy this land for subdivisions and probably getting tax breaks at the same time, thus increasing the population in this area. Business and Industrial? New Schools?  It would take years and years to fulfill that vision. One, big box stores or high end groceries wouldn't come in early on, as the demographics would not justify their cost. Industry, manufacturer's, small business, medical, are possibilities, again that's not going to happen for years.

Now, if they succeed in bringing in water supply, why wouldn't they save the taxpayers' dollars and include a sewer system at the same time, digging the same pipeline ditch and only  if a landowner's existing well or septic ceases to provide, at that time and only then would they be required to hook up.

It's time, as the citizens from Ellisville just proved, to bring these questions into the Sunshine, and without the political dance, put the plans on the table for all to see and explain in Layman's terms the direction of growth.

One thing all of us must remember, at the top of the Governmental Command of Order .... the top line reads -- VOTERS.

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