Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

Florida Crown Gets Clean Bill of Health
$770,615 in stimulus money on the way

Forida Crown Board Meeting
Photo: Florida Crown meets for its quarterly meeting. At the end of the table are Executive Director,
John Chastain (left) and Larry Thompson (right) Chairman of the Board.

Florida Crown Workforce Board, Inc. (FCWB) is the service provider for the four (4) rural counties of Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist and Union, encompassing a total population of approximately 98,000. This four county region has been specifically identified by the Governor as a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern (RACEC) due to the fact that the region has failed to keep pace with the rest of the State of Florida in terms of economic growth.

The unemployment rate, according to Enterprise Florida statistics, is higher than the State’s average and the per capita income is lower.  The region’s wages are currently estimated to be twenty percent (20%) lower than the national average.  In the past, the area’s economy has been largely agricultural based.  As population has increased, available agricultural acreage has diminished creating a critical need for diverse employment opportunities producing a living wage.
John Chastain

This past Thursday, March 19th at 4:00pm, Florida Crown Workforce Board met for their quarterly meeting at their headquarters in Lake City. The presentation of the annual independent audit report gave the Workforce Board a clean bill of health and the Executive Director’s report was packed with information. At the end of the meeting, Board Chairman Larry Thompson went over the issue that is on everybody’s mind, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.

Once again, Florida Crown came through their annual audit with flying colors. The Annual Financial Audit performed by James Moore & Co., found no disallowed costs and other than a couple of minor problems caused by staff constraints and an accounting software problem there were no issues of any substance.

Mr. John Chastain’s Executive Director's Report was packed full of useful information, touching on the economy and its impact in the region; Florida Crown’s caseload; the Federal Stimulus; Florida Crown’s budget and of course, the issue that is casting a pall over the entire region, Columbia County’s wrongheaded decision to sever ties with Florida Crown.

Executive Director John Chastain (left) and Board Chairman Larry Thompson (right) listen and answer questions of the board

Mr. Chastain, discussing the horrible state of the region’s economy, told the Board, “We are being bombarded. People are just looking for any job they can get.

Mr. Chastain gave the Board some good news, explaining that a bright spot for the region is $770,615 in Federal Stimulus money which has been allocated to Florida Crown.

When Mr. Larry Thompson, Chairman of the Board of Florida Crown, addressed the issue regarding the relations with the Columbia County Commissioners, there was a palpable pall in the room. Ever since the illegal motion sprung on the public by Jack Berry protégé, Commissioner Jody DuPree, Columbia County has allowed this issue to fester and has made no effort to understand the workings and issues confronting Florida Crown.

The following documents relating to this story are available from the Observer. Just drop us a e-mail.

The Annual Audit
The Director’s Presentation
The WIA Plan

A level headed Chairman Thompson, visibly distressed by this distracting and continuing controversy, told the Board, “It is misinformation. Workforce is very complicated. Some of the perception is from when we had five million dollars. The perception is that we are not spending the money properly. When they [the County Commission] become more educated, I think this problem will go away. We’ve always had good support in Columbia County. I’ll do my part to make it go away.”  



Florida Crown Affair:

  County gives up battle to destroy Fl Crown - Good old boys play possum to the end (posted October 11, 2010 05:00 am)
 • Florida Crown remains in the lurch
(posted April 21, 2010)
 • Florida Crown on top again (posted April 14, 2010) 
Florida Crown - Columbia County -Time for a little mercy (posted March 19, 2010)
 Florida Crown Invitation Com Langford steps up – it takes a woman (posted March 15, 2010)
Florida Crown Soars $402,000 Wings Grant Awarded (posted Oct 28, 2009)
 Difficult economic times - Florida Crown stretched thin and working overtime (posted Nov 26, 2009)
  Florida Crown Affair • Search Continues For Columbia County Issues (Part II) (posted June 18, 2009)
  Florida Crown Affair • Search Continues For Columbia County Issues (Part I) (posted June 17, 2009)
Florida Crown Affair moves to Gilchrist County (posted June 2, 2009)
  County Commission ignores rule of law
(posted May 26, 2009)
 • The Observer responds to County Manager Dale Williams (May 21, 2009)
 Florida Crown Receives Florida Literacy Award (posted May 20, 2009)
 Florida Crown's harassment continues
(Part II)
(posted April 16, 2009)
 Columbia County Commission leaves Florida Crown in the lurch – again
(Part 1)
(posted April 15, 2009)
  Florida Crown Gets Clean Bill of Health (posted March 23, 2009)
  George Skinner, former Columbia County Commissioner, weighs in on the Florida Crown controversy. (posted March 16, 2009)
  Florida Crown Workforce Board -- To good to leave (Posted March 12, 2009)