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In a matter of months, one of Madison’s showpieces will close its doors to the public under its present arrangement with North Florida Community College. NFCC President John Grosskopf gave the dire news to the Madison City Commissioners at their regular meeting on July 12.
Grosskopf told the board that the college will be working under an eight-percent budget cut this year, and cannot afford to continue serving as the gatekeeper for the Wardlaw-Smith-Goza Conference Center. He explained that the Friends of the Museum account has about $60,000 remaining, which will keep the historic site open for a few months. Maria Greene, an NFCC employee, who is the organizer of mansion events, will be paid out of that account as long as the funds last.
Grosskopf said that the wooden structure is not suitable for use as classroom space. “We cannot justify spending our money on a building that students cannot use,” he stated. “It’s on life support.”
Commissioner Myra Valentine asked, “Should we set up some kind of steering committee to find funds for the mansion?”
Grosskopf replied that the college is already attempting to find partners who will support activities at the site. He also expressed some concern that many of the furnishings and decorative pieces in the mansion are on loan. “I’m not sure what we will do about those at this time,” he said.
Persons interested in helping keep the center open may contact Grosskopf at the college or contact any city commissioner.
In other business, the commissioners voted to reduce the impact fee for a second water meter at sites where the owner has already paid the fee for the first meter. Valentine suggested the change, saying, “I think in these times it would be a wonderful gesture from the city.”
After some discussion, the board approved a motion to reduce the fee for a yard-watering metering to $250, plus the cost of the meter and installation, which would bring the total cost to about $600, lowered from the original $1,500. The second meters used for lawn-watering do not use the sewage system, so are exempt from those charges.
The board also adopted changes in the retirement program for firefighters. The new policy allows for retirement after 25 years of service, and lowers the pension contribution of the employee.