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City considering fire assessment fees

Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.

During the regular monthly meeting of the Madison City Commission on Tuesday, Mar. 14, the commissioners discussed the possibility of imposing a fire assessment fee. In discussing the possibility of the City enacting a sales tax in order to help fund the City's fire department, Attorney Tom Reeves informed the Commissioners that the City could not levy a sales tax, but that it would be possible for the City to levy a non-ad valorem special assessment. Reeves informed the Commissioners that in order to levy such an assessment, a study would need to be conducted in order to establish amounts, etc. The County is currently in the process of conducting such a study with an outside consultant. Reeves raised the possibility of the City saving some money on the study if they combined the city study with the county study currently underway. If the City Commissioners decide to levy a non-ad valorem special assessment, it would be separate from any ad valorem taxes currently in place. It would be a separate charge and homestead exemption would not apply. No action was taken at the present time. Reeves reminded the Commissioners they were under no obligation to do anything at the present time. City Manager Tim Bennett and the Commissioners decided to examine the issue further and see what other communities are doing.

In other business for the Commissioners, outgoing Mayor Jim Catron was presented a Certification of Appreciation for his service as Mayor for the past year. Catron turned the Mayoral duties over to District 1 Commissioner Rayne Cooks. Cooks will serve one year as Mayor, then the position will rotate around to another Commissioner. District 5 Commissioner Judy Townsend was voted in as Mayor Pro-Tem by the other Commissioners.

The Commissioners voted to pass the consent agenda. Items on the consent agenda included minutes from the Tuesday, Feb. 14 meeting. A donation of two police vehicles from the Perry Police Department, pending approval by the Perry City Commission, was accepted. The duties of City Floodplain Administrator were given to the city's Community Development Director. The City accepted the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the amount of $1,764, to be used for the First Responder Photo Evidence Program. Authority was given to the City Manager to sign routine day-to-day documents related to the Small County Outreach Program to reconstruct Range Ave. The Madison Fire and Rescue Department responded to 16 calls within the city and 43 county fire calls. The county fire calls resulted in $11,000 worth of total damages and a total cost of $4,950. The Madison Police Department (MPD) answered 2,065 calls for service. There were 11 reported felonies, 26 reported misdemeanors, and 105 incident reports. The MPD cleared three felonies and 20 misdemeanors. The MPD handed out 81 written and verbal warning citations. The MPD also investigated 13 traffic accidents, five criminal and 45 non-criminal citations.

Jennifer Johnson, from the local office of the Florida Department of Health, presented the City with the “Healthiest Weight Florida” award. In presenting the award, Johnson commended the City for the work done in building parks and playgrounds around the city.

The Commission held the first reading of Ordinance 2017-1 regarding a Temporary Moratorium on Medical Marijuana Dispensary Facilities. There was no input from the public. The second reading will take place in April.

The Commissioners heard from representatives from Duke Energy regarding upgrading the City's street lights to energy efficient LED lights. City Manager Bennett will check with other towns that have had similar upgrades and report back to the Commissioners.

The Commissioners received information regarding numerous current and future grant applications and projects. Among these was a $50,000 grant from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program (FRDAP) to be combined with possible funds from the U.S. Tennis Association to build four youth tennis courts at Lanier Field. Another $50,000 FRDAP grant to enhance Jesse Solomon Park which is awaiting the Governor's approval of the state budget. A Small County Outreach Program (SCOP) grant was awarded from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to reconstruct a portion of Range Ave. Future applications include a $50,000 FRDAP grant to enhance Miller Park and grants for MPD needs such as a vehicle heat detector to protect K9 Bolt, a traffic monitor and in-car radios.

There was discussion regarding repaving of E.R. Scott St. and College Loop. Both of these projects would be funded with SCOP grants. The FDOT has requested that these two projects be prioritized. It was decided by the Commissioners that a traffic count will be done on both roads and prioritization would be made based on the results of the traffic count.

City Manager Bennett updated the Commissioners on the status of several procurement projects underway. Some of these projects include: the purchase and installation of two vortex separators to screen debris from Lake Frances, two F-250 trucks for the Public Works Dept., one F-250 truck for the Wastewater Dept., a grapple truck for the Public Works Dept., a garbage truck for the Sanitation Dept., and five new police vehicles.

The Commissioners passed a resolution urging members of the Florida Legislature to oppose HB 17 and SB 1158 which preempt home rule power to take certain actions in the best interests of the city unless expressly authorized by the legislature.

The Commissioners voted to schedule a special meeting of the City Commission in order to review and take action on the USDA Community Facility Grant Program. This special meeting will take place on Tuesday, Mar. 21, at 5:30 p.m.

There was discussion regarding installing public restrooms in the downtown area of Madison. It was suggested that USDA-RD be used as the funding source. This was part of the Sense of Place Project with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

City Manager Bennett gave the monthly financial report for the city. The report shows the city is in good financial shape with funding and expenditures.

The next regular meeting of the Madison City Commission is scheduled for Tuesday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m., in the meeting room at City Hall. City Hall is located at 321 SW Rutledge St., in Madison.

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