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Business as usual… until the end

Nancy Taylor: Greene Publishing, Inc.

The Madison City Commissioners met for their regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10. The consent agenda was approved as presented, and there were no items removed from it. There was one participant during the citizen portion of the meeting – Mr. Danny Plain. He wished to inform the board of the fact that he, a local contractor for land work, had not been given the opportunity to bid on a job recently. He voiced frustration, but stopped short of filing a formal complaint against Madison, stating, he was “just making commissioners aware of procurement issues.” City Manager Tim Bennett and City Attorney Clay Schnitker stated that regulations and the bidding process were followed. One of the "non-regular" items on the consent agenda included a proclamation of Oct. 23 - 29, as Florida City Government Week within the North Central Florida Region. The Florida League of Cities sponsors this week, and it encourages city government entities and the individuals involved in them to reach out to the community (to the schools and young people; the civic organizations, and other groups). This is done in order to improve communication and understanding between citizens and their local government. It is also a great opportunity to educate the next generation on the importance of involvement in their local community and an understanding of what makes it work. The first new item on the agenda involved a report and update concerning the county's "Community Health Assessment." Pam Beck, Operations Management Consultant for the Florida Dept. of Health for Madison and Jefferson Counties. She discussed plans to target areas of concern that the study brought to light for the area. There will be more specifics presented at a later date. Beck and Pam Albritton, also with the Health Department, emphasized that October is "Breast Cancer Awareness Month," and they encouraged everyone to keep a regular check on their personal health.   Deena Hames, with the Madison Kiwanis Club, came before the Commission asking for their involvement and assistance with the upcoming 7th Annual "Light up Madison" during the holidays. This kick-off to the holidays will be held on Saturday, Dec. 2. Of course the club wants the city officials to attend, but the event also requires their assistance regarding city lights, heightened police presence, and needed road barricades for portions of the event. She also reminded everyone in attendance of the club's desire for vendor participants and local business support. Contact local Kiwanis Club members for additional information. The next item on the agenda was a proposed three-way stop sign at the intersection of SE Oak Street and SE Cherokee Avenue. After minimal discussion confirming the need for this action, the placement of the signage and its enforcement was approved. It was at this point in the meeting where things took a negative turn. It involved the handling of the dedication of the new city tennis courts. City Manager Bennett had asked Commissioner Thompson to set up the dedication for the new tennis courts since she had been involved with the writing of the grant for the court, which she did, including the selection of a date for the event (based on available dates of featured speakers). The courts, however, are at Lanier Field (an already existing recreation area), which is in Commissioner Cooks' district. The date selected for the dedication was a date when Commissioner Cooks could not attend, and she felt disrespected because she had not been consulted concerning the event date. All of this resulted in Commissioner Thompson issuing a formal apology to Commissioner Cooks, but both Thompson and Cooks placed the blame for the miscommunication on the shoulders of City Manager Bennett. They even went so far as to say that they felt disrespected as a result of the entire incident's handling. Commissioner Townsend added to these comments that she, too, had felt disrespected, at times, by Bennett. Commissioner Catron attempted to bridge the gap by voicing understanding for both of his fellow Commissioners' frustrations. As former Mayor of the City, and his years of experience in city government, he understands the pressures and conflicts that can arise. However, through his current position with the Florida League of Cities, he also has some understanding of City Manager Bennett's position, responsibilities and pressures. "Being a city manager is like being the quarterback for a team that is down by 14 points, with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. You have the ball on your own 20 yard line, and your own team is allowed to tackle you." (1915 Book on City Managers) Following hearing the commissioners’ comments and concerns, Bennett responded with regret and remorse over the entire event. The next City Commission meeting will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Madison City Hall. The City Hall is located at 321SW Rutledge St., in Madison.

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