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Lake City Utilities: Councilman Sampson Keeping County 5 Committee Seats Open – Interim CM Dyal Keeping LC Utilities Safe for All

facing photos of Paull Dyal and Todd Sampson with caption: Lake City Utilities. Councilman Sampson keeping the door open. Interim City Manager Dyal keeping safety first.
Photos by the Observer | Columbia County Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – The withdrawal of the County 5 from the City Utility Advisory Board, where County-City elected leaders discuss City-County utility service, “will not affect public safety,” according to Interim City Manager Paul Dyal.

Additionally, City Utility Advisory Board Chairman Todd Sampson said, “We will be keeping the County Commissioner seats open, and we hope they will be back soon.”

Part one of this two-part article, Led by Commissioner Ronald Williams, County 5 Stampedes Away From Utility Transparency With Lake City, reported on the latest upheaval at the County 5, which withdrew from the City Utility Advisory Board, or attempted to withdraw.

You can read the County approved motion here.

The County’s bollixed motion and failure to follow its own rules is nothing new in Columbia County, where the Lake City City Council has had the same issues. All these folks went to the same school system.

With all the turmoil in the City, cooler heads are prevailing on the City side of the street. The City is keeping the channels of communication open.

This weekend your reporter spoke with City Councilman and Utility Advisory Board Chairman Todd Sampson and Interim City Manager and City Utility Director Paul Dyal.

Utility Facts

Columbia County is in the utility business. It has two employees working utilities.

The County's main operation is in Ellisville, where it has a water plant and a wastewater package plant [sewer].

The total County Utility budget is not broken out in the County budget. The Utility payroll is listed as $86,785.

The County and the Town of Fort White are working together to build a utility authority. The County 5, to secure a deal with Fort White, agreed to pay Fort White $75,000 over three years to run its water utility. Columbia County taxpayers are footing that bill.

See: Town of Fort White To Get $75k From Columbia County Taxpayers For the Privilege of Providing It With Clean Water

Lake City has been in the utility business for a long time. While the City has screwed up things – the utility continues to survive and make a profit.

The City has approximately 12,500 taps or meters, of which thirty to thirty-five percent are in the County.

The City Utility Department, including support staff, employs approximately 75 people and has a budget of $20 mil.

City Councilman/Utility Advisory Committee Chairman Sampson

This weekend your reporter spoke with Councilman Todd Sampson. He acknowledged there are communication issues between the two public bodies. Councilman Sampson said, “It's important that the City and County keep personalities out of the equation and work together.”

Councilman Todd Sampson (file photo)Councilman Sampson continued, "County Manager David Kraus was onto something when he noticed that the committee members, in order to comply with the sunshine law, could be involved in conversations which would put them in jeopardy of being in noncompliance. It is not clear why our City Attorney, who attends all Utility Committee meetings, never brought that up."

Your reporter asked Mr. Sampson about the future of the City Utility Advisory Committee.

Councilman Sampson answered, “The Utility Advisory Committee will continue to meet. I will be asking the City Council to modify the committee's makeup to include just elected officials: two City council members and two County commissioners. The County can come back to the table any time it wants. It does not need an invitation. I am sure the Council will approve this change.”

As the conversation ended, Councilman Sampson added, "A lot of people don't know that the City has been providing technical support to the County. We are trying our best to keep an open-door policy with the County and not get caught up in the static."

Interim City Manager and Utility Director Paul Dyal

On Sunday, your reporter followed up with Interim City Manager and Utility Director Paul Dyal.

Your reporter asked Mr. Dyal about the ability of the County utility department.

Interim City Manager and Utility Director Paul DyalMr. Dyal said, "The County has a two-person department without the depth and experience of the City. It is critically important that we help them when we can because sometimes a small screw-up can lead to a major calamity.

Your reporter, “That’s very generous considering what has been going on.”

Mr. Dyal responded, “At the end of the day, my responsibility is to make sure our residents, the community, and everyone passing through the County is safe when they use our utilities.”

Mr. Dyal continued, "I'm a Columbia County resident. This is my home. I have kids and grandkids that live in the County; I have great-grandkids that live in the City. I would never intentionally deny anything."

"If the County called me tonight and said, 'Hey, we need somebody to do this-this, or this,' if it affects citizens, that will get done. I don't play politics. That's the biggest thing that irritates me."

Your reporter said, “You have been catching a lot of flack lately.”

"I don't care what the County commissioners think about me. I don't care what the County management thinks about me. My goal is to take care of the citizens. That's my job, to make sure everybody's safe, have clean drinking water and don't get into any issues with septic or anything like that."

"I will protect the people of this County because this is my home."

The Observer, “Thank you for speaking with me.”

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