HIGH SPRINGS – In a city commission room packed to overflowing with High Springs residents, much of the meeting time was taken up with citizen comments regarding the city's police department, acting police chief and nepotism.
In order to quell the furor over the relationship between the mayor and the acting chief, who are second cousins, City Attorney Scott Walker read the state statute on the question of nepotism to the commission and audience. Once it was established that second cousin relationships are not part of the statute, Walker also pointed out that the person who appointed the acting chief was the city manager and not the mayor. He explained also that the city manager is the supervisor and not the mayor. One of the commissioners who seemed most concerned that the temporary appointment reflected nepotism was Commissioner Bob Barnas. Upon hearing Walker's comments he said, “I guess the nepotism issue has no legs.”
Sandy Gardner, who said she lived around the corner from City Hall, expressed concern about the city's emergency notification system when she realized she had received no notification that her drinking water needed to be boiled after the city issued a “Boil Water Alert” the previous Thursday. The alert was issued as a precautionary measure following an accident in which a truck ran over a fire hydrant, thereby cutting off water to a portion of the city residences.
City Manager Ed Booth agreed that the situation could have been handled more efficiently. “Staff is looking into a better way to handle that in the future,” he said. Explaining that staff had some ideas on how they could improve the system, he said they were reviewing options to deliver the news more quickly to citizens in an emergency situation.
When commissioners were able to get back to the agenda, they approved a bid for waste hauling by WCA, a Gainesville-based company, which would reduce the cost of residential waste removal for the city. During budget discussions, some commissioners want to see if there are ways in which some of those savings can be passed on to the customers.
A contract for the use of some of the city's ball fields by the Santa Fe Babe Ruth program was approved with minor suggested changes. In the past, the contract had been written for 5-year terms. The current contract is for one year with the right to renew included if both parties agree to do so.
Commissioners approved a Special Event Permit to allow the High Springs Chamber of Commerce to put on their Pioneer Days fundraiser in April.
Basty Gonzalez received commissioner approval to donate 50 percent of the proceeds of a Farmers' Market fundraiser to the Irish Water Dogs. In the past, some of those funds have come back to the city. Gonzalez said she needed their permission to change that agreement for this year.
Gonzalez also received clarification that although her contract with the city to operate the Farmer's Market was month-to-month, their intention was for her to remain in the position until the end of this fiscal year, which is the end of September. Walker said he would modify their existing contract and bring it back before commissioners at the next meeting.
Booth was asked to send a letter to the county telling them the city would be unable to take on management of Poe Springs Park at this time. This measure was taken after a short discussion and unanimous vote by commissioners not to accept that responsibility.
Barnas made a motion to place the question of whether to keep police dispatch in High Springs on a referendum. The motion died for lack of a second.
However, Commissioner Scott Jamison suggested that during the budget process, the commission could look at the facts and figures on costs and services received of maintaining local police dispatch as opposed to having the county take it back again.
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