Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

City $60 Mil Budget Hearing Kicks off at 4 pm. Salaries, Staffing, & Other Things May Be Discussed. Will the City Manager Speak Out?

Photo of Lake City Interim City Manager Ami Fields with caption

LAKE CITY, FL – At 4 pm today, Lake City's delayed $60,000,000 budget hearing is on the docket. As at the last meeting, there is no space for public comment. With state-mandated deadlines approaching fast and the triumvirate of Mayor Witt, Councilmen Greene, and Jefferson more interested in obstruction than getting something done, anything is possible.


This year's City budget cycle has gone helter-skelter and turned into a big mess. City Councilman Chris Greene has co-opted the budget cycle, with Mayor Witt and Councilman Jefferson (the triumvirate) following along.

See: Councilman Greene Leads Sneak Attack to Cancel Budget Workshop; Important Issues Pushed Aside; Public & Employees Left in the Lurch

The canceling of the August 17 budget hearing by the triumvirate has put the City administration and the public two weeks behind. It will be interesting to see if the almost two-week delay will have given the Mayor, Councilmen Greene and Jefferson the time to formulate intelligent inquiry.

As usual, the agenda for the meeting was delayed until the last minute and came out one hour before the close of business on Friday.

The Finance Staff incorporated anonymous changes provided by unknown elected and unelected officials smearing the long-standing tradition of budget transparency in Lake City.

The City Clerk, who prepares the agenda, once again left off “public comment.”

The Budget Hearing
What Is Going to Happen is Anyone's Guess

Interim City Manager Ami Fields has never been through a City budget cycle. At the August 17 miscarried budget hearing, as her staff and the budget process were being basted by Councilman Greene and derailed with the help of Mayor Witt and Councilman Jefferson, she remained silent.

Ms. Fields has gone from a salary of approximately $62k to $120k in the blink of an eye. Now she is scheduled to have her salary increased to $131,960, plus benefits. This afternoon, she may have to justify her salary at the budget hearing.

Top line City salaries by department.

                                                                                                         +++ Click to Enlarge

It is up to the City Council to approve it. However, there may also be nothing the City Council can do based on her contract, written by City Attorney Fred Koberlein and approved by the City Council.

Up for discussion this afternoon may also be the salary increase of City Clerk Audrey Sikes, who went from a salary of $64k in 2020 to a City Council-approved $95k. Ms. Sikes supervises an office of three, which is now budgeted for four.

On the docket tonight, Ms. Sikes's salary is rising to $103k.

Looking down the departments, one finds Utility Director Paul Dyal's salary going from $88.8k in 2017 to $93.3k in 2021 to $100.7k in 2022. Mr. Dyal presently supervises 83 employees and a budget in the tens of millions. Many people believe that he is the power behind the Interim City Manager, and he is running the City.

The Interim City Manager: Ami Fields

Unfortunately, Ms. Fields has become a pawn in a racial divide that a few individuals have tried to use for political purposes.

When Ms. Fields was talking, she never encouraged this type of behavior.

The community north of the railroad tracks has been ignored for decades. Communities north of the tracks have been neglected all over America.

The Blind-Eye

The blind-eye is a function of a lack of citizen involvement, a poor school system, socio-economic conditions, and the blind-eye of its elected politicians.

Recently, some folks in Lake City have been speaking out about this inequity.

Ms. Fields should be an expert in this. Maybe she will speak out tonight as she tries to weave through the budget process, a process that affects everyone.

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