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County 5 Strong Arm Tactics Work – Fort White Headed to Lake City For Meet-Up

Lindsey Lander: Fort White Town Counsel
Columbia County Observer photo & graphic

FORT WHITE, FL – Last night’s Fort White Town Council meeting once again had the infamous County 5 pitted against somebody. Once again, it was the Town of Fort White.

The County’s deteriorating relationship with Fort White has been festering ever since County Chairman Rocky Ford had issues building a subdivision within the Town limits. For the latest in the Fort White – Columbia County relationship, see: Columbia County 5 vs. Town of Fort White, Good Will and a Partnership, or Outright Extortion?

When the Town's agenda rolled around to the County's demand for a Fort White – County meet-up in Lake City, Mayor Ronnie Frazier said, "I think everybody's aware at the board tonight that we been put on a 30-day time [limit] that we have to react or get removed. I don't know how else to put it. They're wanting us to do a meeting in Lake City. They won't come to the [Fort White] Community Center."

The Fort White Community Center is County owned property within the Town limits.

Mayor Frazier asked Councilman Bill Koon if the joint Fort White– County meeting came up at the last County Commission meeting.

Councilman Koon said it didn't.

Mayor Frazier addressed the Council, "David Kraus [County Manager] was supposed to bring it up and read the letter. It never came up… I wrote a letter asking them if they would come to Fort White and do the meeting. We did some dates… I called David Kraus. He said he'd never get it to work… So now we're on a timeline."

Fort White Town Clerk Connie Brecheen
Town Clerk Connie Brecheen has been in contact with the County regarding the scheduling of the meeting.

“Does the Council want to go to Lake City and meet with these guys? If we do, we need to pick a date and get Ms. Connie to write a letter… They're calling for the meeting. We really have nothing to discuss. Go listen to what they have to say, I guess. Not make no decisions and then have them come back to a meeting in Fort White on a second date that we do a joint meeting, and by that time, we can have a workshop on what we met about. Then we can give a decision."

Councilman King asked Town Attorney Lindsey Lander if he had a clarification of the proposed meeting.

Town Manager Connie Brecheen asked, “Do you want me to read the letter I sent them?”

Mayor Frazier: “Yes, please.”

Ms. Brecheen read the November 13 Mayor's letter. The letter was from Mayor Frazier to County Manager David Kraus. Mayor Frazier suggested, "It may be a better option to schedule a joint meeting after the holidays are over." The letter continued, "As you know, everyone's schedules are only going to become more complicated the closer it gets to the end of the year. Also, I have just been made aware that there is a good possibility that I will be required to be out of Town most of December 2023."

Mayor Frazier suggested the meeting be held in the Fort White Community Center on either January 10 or January 17, 2024.

Mayor Frazier's letter continued, "While I realize that this exceeds the 30-day time limit the Board of County Commissioners mandated, it seems to make sense to post-phone [sic] this attempt until after the holidays. This also gives the County plenty of time to pass a resolution and advertise a meeting held in Fort White."

County Manager Kraus replied the next day, November 14, at 11:24 am. He said the County had voted, and that's the way it was. The meeting would be held in Lake City.

Mr. Kraus concluded with the question: “Does the Town wish to meet?”

Councilman King addressed the attorney, “What say you?

“A Line In The Sand”

Attorney Lander replied, “They’re flat sayin’, ‘they’re not commin' here,' and if we don't go to their meeting on their timeline and their location – they're going to follow through on their threat to begin withdrawing from our interlocals. We're both at a line in the sand… You could tell 'em to go pound sand and see if they follow through on withdrawing the interlocals, which I don't think would look good for them. But it doesn't mean that they wouldn't do it…"

Attorney Lindsey Landertalks about the Town Council meeting in Lake City

The Council discussed the Water Utility Interlocal [miss-named-it is a water and wastewater proposal], which the County wants the Town to join. From all the discussions held in the Town, it appears none of the Town Council members support the proposed utility.

Councilman Bill Koon, getting agitated, said, “It’s not right for Fort White residents to be put in the middle of this.”

South Columbia County resident Carl King asked the Clerk, “Have they given you an agenda?”

She answered, “No.”

Mr. King said, “I think if Fort White decides not to go, it would be a bad thing.”

Attorney Lander asked, “If this board is not in favor of joining the water authority, and the purpose of the meeting, according to Mr. Koon, is to get an answer about whether or not we want to join the water authority, why couldn't we cut out the middleman and just give them an answer. You don't need to have a meeting to say ‘whether or not’, if you're not interested.”

Councilman King:  "The way it's been up there, it's been pretty hostile."

Carl King from the audience, “You need an agenda.”

Mayor Frazier wondered out loud why, if the County had a problem, they hadn't called him.

The Mayor answered his question, "Because they're embarrassed is what it is. They're embarrassed and know I will call them out."

Councilman King: “The problem is the spin that they’re – is gonna to be told – is we wouldn't come up there to the meeting.”

Mayor Frazier asked, “Do you all want to go to the meeting or not?”

Councilman Koon:  "I think we ought to step up and go to the meetin’, and if they want to have another one, then it would be down here."

Councilman King said, "I’m plannin’ to go.”

Councilman Koon added, “Fort White water has been bad since they put it in. The residents have the right to have good water in Fort White."

There was discussion among the Council members. It was mentioned the County had not provided an agenda. The Council members decided they were not voting on anything the night of the proposed meeting before they had a chance to discuss it at a regular Council meeting.

Fort White Councilman Jason Florence
Counciman Jason Florence thought what the county was doing boderlined on extortion.

The Council decided to go to Lake City and give notice that the Town Council would be holding a workshop in the TDC conference room in Lake City.

Mayor Frazier said, "We are making a sacrifice to go up there. I really don't want to go. They can come down here. They can come down here, and they can sit here in front of our residents – if they have questions. I'm adamant about that… I ain't very good at gettin' told what to do. It's almost like they're blackmailing us to do this. So, let's go do it. Let's also make them come down here with our residents. I'm 100% for that."


Attorney Lander told the Council, “I’ve never seen this – never heard it – never been around anything like this, where you're being openly threatened to break good-faith agreements over something that has nothing to do with what the agreements are made for.

To me, it's almost a case of first impression. The courts have never seen something like this before.

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