Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

Columbia County Commission leaves
Florida Crown in the lurch – again (Part 1)

The Florida Crown Workforce Board packed their board room in preparation of a joint meeting with the County Commission, which was once again cancelled at the 12th hour.

On Thursday, April 9th, Florida Crown Workforce Board (“FCWB”) Chairman, Larry Thompson, opened what was scheduled to be the planning session for the 6 p.m. joint Columbia County -- FCWB meeting.

Florida Crown Workforce Board Chairman, Larry Thompson
The strain is evident on Florida Crown's Chairman Larry Thompson. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Thompson told the Observer,
"Especially as tight as things are now, we've
spent so much time doing this that we haven't
been able to do what we're supposed to be

Ignoring the hardship and the second consecutive Columbia County 12th hour meeting cancellation, FCWB Executive Director, John Chastain took the high road and e-mailed a personal invitation to each of the Columbia County Commissioners inviting them to attend the FCWFB meeting, hear his presentation and ask questions. Columbia County Manager Dale Williams was the only official from Columbia County to show up. From information received by the Observer, it appears that Jack Berry protégé, Commissioner Jody DuPree, and Commission Chairman, Steven Bailey, had left town, leaving the twenty six people that had showed up for the meeting in the lurch once again, along with those who were going to speak on behalf of FCWB and the other county residents who had made plans to attend the joint meeting.

Undeterred by the events, Mr. Chastain began his presentation by telling the group, “Ninety five percent of what’s going on here is a misunderstanding of what the mission of Florida Crown is ... Nowhere does it talk about economic development. We are the people side of economic development ... Everything that we do is tied to people.”

Florida Crown is inundated by applicants.

Executive Director "JC" John Chastain
Executive Director "JC" John Chastain makes a point.

Mr. Chastain said that Florida Crown is inundated by applicants. “Everybody is just looking for a job ... The wages are not keeping up with the cost of living.”

Mr. Chastain continued, “We administer Federal and State Grants.  Each  one of them has a distinct funding stream. The funds cannot cross  streams.” “At the end of the day we must account for everyone that comes in here. If we don’t, we get violated.”

Dispelling the rumors that some folks come to Florida Crown to receive welfare checks, he explained that when it comes to welfare transition, “Our mission is to find them a job. Nobody comes here and receives a check.”

Dispelling another rumor, Mr. Chastain told the group that Florida Crown has a food stamp education program and nobody comes to Florida Crown and just gets food stamps. 

What else does Florida Crown do?

Florida Crown is now helping the state of Florida with unemployment claims and putting people back to work as soon as possible.

Since Feb. 19, 2009 when Commissioner Dupree sprung his motion on the people of Columbia County, Florida Crown has spent 133 man hours gathering information and answering questions. They have made over 1300 copies and have accrued over $4,000 in charges to the County. Chairman Thompson told the Observer, "So far, the S4,000 is an investment on our part to try and resolve this."

Florida Crown’s customers are low income and the federal government sets the guide lines. Florida Crown must put the people in those jobs. Florida Crown will not put people in jobs that pay nine dollars an hour. Florida

 Crown is designed to give people self sufficiency wages. Florida Crown finds jobs that pay $11.77 an hour for entry level employees.

Florida Crown will place folks with “mom and pop” businesses. Mr. Chastain said, “If I place somebody at a nine dollar an hour job, I’ve got to find a fifteen dollar an hour job to offset it.”  “We refuse services to no one at anytime for any reason.” Mr Chastain explained that if Florida Crown does not find a fifteen dollar an hour job to offset the nine dollar an hour job, (according to the Federal guidelines, $12.44 is the wage FCWB must meet) Florida Crown’s performance is reduced and that is related directly to the funding that is brought into the region.

Florida Crown’s relationship with Lake City Community College.

Mr. Chastain explained that Florida Crown gives its customers a choice, “We don’t try to Shanghai people and send them over to LCCC.”  He said we try to direct them there, but if they don’t want to go there, it’s where they want to go to school. “They get to select where they want to go.”

Later on Mr. Chastain spoke again of Lake City Community College. He said, “Lake City Community College has the first right of refusal. If Suwannee can do the job cheaper, we go with them. It is competitive.”

Mr. Chastain said, “Some customers need a lot of help. They camp out here. They want to work.”

Mr. Chastain said, “There is an allegation that we cook our books here. There is no cooking the books ... We can only take credit for the services that the state and federal government allow.”

The performance of Florida Crown

The performance of Florida Crown over the past four years speaks for itself. After reading the facts, it is impossible to know on what the County Commission is basing its decision to wreck the Florida Crown Workforce Board:

•      From FY 04 - 08 FCWB contacted over 350 separate employers annually. Some weekly, some monthly, some quarterly, some annually.

•      FCWB listed over 3,400 job openings and placed over 7,700 people in employment.

–     FCWB had over 99,700 individual customer contacts. Customers may return multiple times for service.

•      FCWB provided over 200,000 services to the workforce of this region during this period.

Part II • The Columbia County Position • (coming tomorrow - April 16th) 


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)