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City closer to medical marijuana dispensaries

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

On Tuesday, May 8, at 5:30 p.m., the Madison City Commission gathered at City Hall to hold their regular scheduled monthly meeting. The first reading of an ordinance, to allow medical marijuana treatment facilities to operate in the City of Madison, was passed unanimously. In attendance was Mayor Ina Thompson, City Attorney Clay Schnitker, City Clerk Lee Anne Hall, City Manager Sarah Anderson, and Commissioners: Judy Townsend, Jim Catron, Rayne Cooks and Terry Johnson.

Previously, on Feb. 13, during the Madison City Commissioner's regular scheduled meeting, Commissioner Judy Townsend moved to direct the North Central Florida Planning Council to begin the process to ban medical marijuana treatment dispensing facilities in the City of Madison. Commissioner Jim Catron, Commissioner Townsend, Mayor Ina Thompson, and then Commissioner Jim Stanley voted in favor of the motion, with opposition by Commissioner Rayne Cooks.

Then, a special meeting was scheduled on March 6 for the purpose of reading the ordinance that would impose a ban on medical marijuana facilities entering into the City of Madison. Then, commissioner Stanley and Mayor Thompson voted in favor of the ordinance. However, Commissioner Townsend and Commissioner Catron did not vote in favor of the ordinance, resulting in the proposed ban dying on the table.

"Marijuana is an illegal substance, and there's a public safety issue," said Catron during the meeting on Tuesday, May 8. "But I feel a little better by saying, you know, at least you have to have a prescription." A medical marijuana facility can be allowed anywhere a pharmacy can be operated.

The second reading of this ordinance will take place at the next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 12, at 5:30 p.m.

In other business, the second reading of a new trash and collection services ordinance was read that would bring an existing ordinance up to date. According to the new proposed ordinance, the City of Madison has studied costs for providing the garbage and trash collection services, the current rates, and the rates charged by other municipalities for similar services. The commission concluded that the rates currently charged by the City for collection services, according to the existing ordinance, are currently insufficient and significantly lower than rates charged by other municipalities.

According to Public Works employee David Floyd, during the Tuesday, April 10 Commissioner meeting, some commercial accounts were paying residential rates for garbage and trash collection services. At one point, it was costing the City over $21,000 to collect garbage and trash and the City was losing approximately $6,644. With the new ordinance, providing for consistency, Floyd estimated a profit of $5,053.

The ordinance states that any and all owners, tenants, and/or occupants of a parcel property within the City limits of Madison receiving water services from the City shall be deemed to use the garbage and trash collection service, complying with terms and provisions and having an obligation to pay fees set forth.

Fees listed in the ordinance are as follows: residential garbage cans, $9.43 per month; commercial garbage cans, $15.24 monthly per can; commercial metal dumpster (two yards), $34.06 monthly, per dumpster; commercial metal dumpster (four yards), $68.12 monthly, per dumpster; commercial metal dumpster (six yards), $102.18 monthly, per dumpster; commercial metal dumpster (eight yards), $136.24 monthly, per dumpster; and commercial metal dumpster (ten yards), $170.30 monthly, per dumpster.

All fees include garbage and trash collection services twice per week, with the exception of holidays and/or unless unforeseen circumstances provide an absence. In the event a metal dumpster requires collecting more than twice per week, arrangements can be made with the City Manager for an additional fee.

However, as stated in the ordinance, if by the nature of a commercial garbage customer's business, federal or state law prohibits disposing of all of a commercial garbage customer's solid waste through the City of Madison's garbage and trash collection system, the City Manager may exempt such customers from this ordinance by written grant exemption, in which, the City shall have no obligation to collect and dispose of said customer's solid waste (normal residential and commercial garbage that can easily be placed in either a garbage can or a metal dumpster), waste material (wood, concrete, building materials, trees, furniture, appliances, large waste products, etc.), or yard trash (yard or shrubbery clippings, grass cuttings, leaves, small branches, etc.).

As for yard trash collection, from the effective date of this ordinance until July 1, 2019, all garbage customers shall be obligated to pay for removal and disposal of yard trash by the City, at the rate of $1.50 per month, whether there is or is not yard trash. After July 1, 2019, all garbage customers are obligated to pay $3 per month for yard trash under the same terms.

All garbage customers who wish for the City to remove and dispose of waste material, provided that the City agrees to do so, shall be obligated to pay a fee agreed upon by the customer and City Manager. Otherwise, all garbage customers are obligated to remove and dispose of their waste materials at their discretion.

Additionally, all fees set forth in this ordinance shall automatically increase by five percent per year.

For any additional questions about this ordinance, you may call City Hall at (850) 973-5081. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Madison City Commission is slated for Tuesday, June 12, at 5:30 p.m. City Hall is located at 321 SW Rutledge St., in Madison.

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