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Lake City – Columbia County, Utility Progress: While They Met About Gas – The Theme Was Cooperation

Photo: Manny Becerra - Unsplash | Columbia County Observer Graphic

LAKE CITY, COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The North Florida Mega Industrial Park needs a gas supply. Lake City Utilities are the County gas experts. Yesterday, the County and City sat down to discuss gas, a necessity for industrial economic development. They met in the County Economic Development Office.

Columbia County and Lake City moved past politics and the controversy of providing the former Plum Creek, now the North Florida Mega Industrial Park, with gas – a lot of gas, to spur economic development in the Columbia County.

Paul Dyal, Lake City's Utility Director
Paul Dyal, Lake City's Utility Director (file)

While the meeting was about gas, the kind of gas that provides industrial energy, not what goes into your car’s gas tank, the meeting was also about cooperation. In plain English – can the City and County get along and work together.

Anyone who has been following the City and the County's utility history knows the road toward cooperation has been a rocky one at best. The kind of meeting that happened yesterday should have happened 15 years ago: no politicians, just subject matter experts, sticking to the subject and leaving personalities out of the equation.

This is good news for everyone, including the participants, who left a meeting feeling they had accomplished something – not an ulcer.

The Managers Weigh In

Late yesterday, City Manager Joe Helfenberger told your reporter, “We met today and had a productive meeting. I am very positive about the new course of the County and City and am looking forward to an active partnership and open lines of communication.”

County Manager David Kraus interrupted his dinner and told your reporter, “We met today, and it looks like the City and County are on the same track. County Economic Development Director Glenn Hunter shared his knowledge about the North Florida Mega Industrial Park, while City Gas Director Steve Brown provided necessary gas expertise. I feel that the City and County are turning a corner on cooperation.”

Lake City Utility Director Paul Dyal said, “Everyone sat down at the table today, and utilities were the issue, not personalities. The City's Gas Director Steve Brown shared his ideas with the County, and Glenn Hunter contributed to the conversation. Everyone is working toward the same goal, and I feel good about future utility cooperation between the City and County.”

Moving Forward: Utility Advisory Committee Meeting Scheduled

After a couple of missteps, reportedly because of bogus information provided by City Attorney Fred Koberlein, Jr., City Manager Joe Helfenberger has scheduled a Utility Advisory Committee meeting for Wednesday, March 31, at 2 pm.

At the last City Council meeting (Lake City & Columbia County Finally Smoke a Utility Peace Pipe. Agree to Cooperate)  on a motion by City Councilman Todd Sampson, the City Council voted to include on the committee the following: 2 City councilmen; 2 County commissioners, the City and County Managers, the City Utility Director, and the County Economic Development Director.

For months, County Chairman Rocky Ford is on the record as looking forward to working with the City getting the committee meetings started.

Wednesday’s meeting will be in the City Council Chambers and will be Zoomed. This time the politicians will be involved.

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