Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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SVTA: Columbia County Commissioners Nash & Phillips Put Columbia Cnty Residents Last  – Again

Columbia County's Phillips (left) and Nash during Monday's Suwannee Valley Transit Authority meeting. They continued to ignore the needs of Columbia County's residents.

COLUMBIA, HAMILTON, SUWANNEE COUNTIES, FL – Monday's March 26, 2017 Suwannee Valley Transit Authority meeting once again had Columbia County Commissioners Nash and Phillips relegating Columbia County residents to the back of the bus by intentionally scheduling Suwannee Valley Transit Authority meetings to conflict with Columbia County's county-wide taxing district, the Lake Shore Hospital Authority.

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The only members of the public that attended Monday's improperly noticed Transit Authority meeting were four Columbia County residents who also attend Hospital Authority meetings, a gesture which fell on the blind eyes of Commissioners Nash and Phillips.

Background: Coincidence or Design?

Our March 7, 2017 article, Suwannee Valley TA Chief Fails at End Run Around Law –Improperly Noticed Meeting Canceled at 12th Hr, detailed some of the recent history of the SVTA and how Commissioner Sessions and the SVTA made a full court press trying to find someone to help the SVTA make an end run around the notice requirements of the law.

During the four years beginning in 2012, the Transit Authority minutes show that through 2016, only three Transit Authority meetings were scheduled on the second Monday of the month, the day of the  Lake Shore Hospital Authority meetings and occasional Lake City, city meetings.

Commissioner Nash previously stated that he wasn't concerned about the meeting conflict because he didn't attend those meetings.

Commissioner Evertt Phillips hasn't said anything.

Monday Night

Hamilton County's Commissioner Beth Burnam chairs the Transit Authority Board.

She asked Commissioner/Administrator Sessions if he would like to cover the meeting scheduling issue.

Commissioner/Administrator Sessions said he was happy with the meetings being scheduled on the second Monday. "I'm happy with it. I think the other people are too," he said. Two other Suwannee County, county commissioners sit on the Transit Authority board.

He did not mention that the City of Live Oak meetings were on the second Tuesday of the month, making three Suwannee County Commissioners unavailable to attend Live Oak City Council meetings when necessary.

Ms. Burnam added, "We originally met on Tuesdays, the second Tuesday of each month, for a while, and then we moved it to quarterly. Then there were some conflicts that came up and we moved it to the second Monday of the month."

This is not entirely accurate. Notwithstanding special meetings, the Transit Authority met on the second Tuesday for three years, except for special meetings. Ms. Burnam did not mention the nature of the conflicts.

Ms. Burnam asked, "Are there any comments from the board members on the meeting day?"

Columbia County's Commissioner Nash jumped right in, "I don't have a problem with it."

Columbia County's Phillips was completely unintelligible.

Suwannee County's newly elected Commissioner, Ronnie Richardson, added, "I like Mondays, they tend to be days that aren't meeting nights."

In Suwannee County Mondays "may not tend to be meeting nights." In Columbia County, they are.

Commissioner/Administrator Sessions added, "This [meeting] would have originally been on March 6."

Commissioner/Administrator Sessions did not add that the March 6 Transit Authority meeting, as well as the next one had to be cancelled because he was out of compliance with the special district laws regarding meeting notice.

Neither Commissioner Nash nor Commissioner Phillips mentioned that on March 6 the Lake City, City Council met. It is not clear if they knew that.

Meeting Notices on the Transit Authority Buses

Columbia County resident and Transportation Disadvantaged Board member Ralph Kitchens was recognized by Chairperson Burnam. He got right to the point. "I just have one question concerning the meetings. Mr. Sessions, do you notice the meetings in the buses?"

Mr. Sessions responded, "No. We don't put them in the buses because..."

Mr. Kitchens interjected, "They might come?"

Mr. Sessions was taken aback, "No. They're going to get knocked down."


The Transit Authority's Sessions has installed cameras in the Authority buses. The ridership is under surveillance.

Local Transportation Board member L.J. Johnson, who previously was the user advocate, when informed about Mr. Sessions's remark, told the Observer, "That is ridiculous. It's obvious he doesn't want the riders showing up at the meetings."

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