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County commission considers jail issues

Rick Patrick, Greene Publishing, Inc.

At the regular scheduled meeting of the Madison County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday, Dec. 14, the commissioners heard about maintenance issues facing the county jail. During the meeting, Sheriff Ben Stewart introduced new Jail Administrator Leroy Buchanan and Jail Operations/Maintenance official Dennis Pitts. Pitts has several certifications in various areas of building maintenance which could be applied at the jail. According to Buchanan, the jail, which was constructed in 1993 has numerous maintenance issues which need to be addressed. Some of these issues include the boiler system, the air conditioning system, the electromechanical locking system, plumbing, water heaters, emergency generators, and the camera system. There are also issues at the jail annex which include security cameras, door locks, a side security gate, and a recreational yard cover. At the Sheriff's Office outlying buildings, areas of concern include the septic tank, the investigations compound area camera system, the training office at County Camp Road, and the shooting range. Under Sheriff Epp Richardson suggested these needs would qualify for fiscally constrained funding with the focus on cutting costs. With Pitts' expertise in building maintenance, much of the work could be done “in-house.”

In other business, the consent agenda for the meeting was unanimously approved. Items on the consent agenda included the appointment of Phyllis Williams and Trent Abbott to the Original Florida Tourism Task Force; the approval of fire board purchase of thermal imaging cameras; approval of the amended 2017 holiday schedule; approval of surplus items and offer for sale via online auction; a budget amendment request for fire special assessment to amend to include actual revenues and expenditures; a budget amendment request for general fund to amend to include actual revenues and expenditures; a budget amendment request for the indigent care/hospital tax to amend to include actual revenues and expenditures; a budget amendment request for second local option fuel tax to amend to include actual revenues and expenditures; and the approval of a fireworks permit application.

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution declaring that Nov. 8, shall hereafter be known as “Joe C. Peavy Day” in Madison County.

The floor was opened for petitions from the public. Mr. Benjamin Wyche asked about the sale of timber on the recently purchased Williams Tract adjacent to the County Development Complex. County Attorney Tom Reeves said the county does not have a standard timber sale policy and he was working on paperwork that will be similar to the Suwannee River Water Management District's sales approach. Wyche spoke of the flooding of his property in the West Farm low area along Old County Camp Rd. that has destroyed his timber beginning in 2013. Wyche asked about a grant the County and City of Madison received in the amount of $239,000 from the Suwannee River Water Management District. County Manager Brian Kauffman stated the actual grant was in the amount of $147,000 and affected landowners, including Wyche, had been contacted. Kauffman stated that an offer had been made to Wyche, which was rejected. Kauffman stated he was waiting on a counter offer from Wyche. Wyche made a counter offer for the record in the amount of $10,000 per acre. Wyche then asked about the status of the old Western Auto building next to the Courthouse Annex the county purchased in 2008. Clerk of Court Tim Sanders stated at the time of the purchase the Sheriff's Administrative Office moved from the courthouse to a renovated downstairs portion of the building that now houses the Supervisor of Elections office. Sanders stated the thought at the time was to renovate the remaining downstairs area for a combination board and an extra courtroom, but funds have not been available to follow through with those plans.

CareerSource Executive Director Sheryl Rehberg presented a paper entitled CareerSource North Florida 2015-16 Annual Report. Rehberg noted that 92 percent of total expenditures were directed  to direct client services. Average wage at placement is $16.90 per hour. There were 31 youth placed in work sites and 3,755 job seekers placed. The average wage for welfare transition is $9.23 per hour. Veterans were also targeted for services.

Madison County Health Insurance Agent of Record Robin Riley of Brown & Brown Public Risk Insurance Agency presented paperwork entitled Madison County BOCC Claim and Plan Review Meeting. Riley reported a meeting with the County Employee Health Insurance Committee, where there was a consensus to offer a Health Fair for employees to promote the value of preventive health care and healthy lifestyles.

The board then held a scheduled public hearing on an ordinance that would add a setback requirement for commercial poultry houses, 100 feet off any property line and 300 feet to any dwelling. The public hearing was opened and Dale Gibson, whose son is in the process of building chicken houses, asked if he was in compliance. Gibson was assured his son was in compliance with the proposed guidelines. The ordinance was then passed unanimously.

A unanimous resolution was passed recognizing and honoring the work of retiring Madison County Clerk of Court Tim Sanders.

The board considered a resolution providing for the collection of future non-ad valorem special assessments by the uniform method for collecting ad valorem taxes. According to County Attorney Reeves, this was to keep the option open to collect special assessments via ad valorem taxes if a special assessment is levied. The resolution passed.

The board approved the donation of an atlas to accompany the official records of the Union and Confederate armies to North Florida Community College.

Tax Collector Lisa Tuten reported that the City of Madison has changed a street name, which requires a change of address on the driver's license for those affected by the change. Tuten stated the Florida Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has waived the $25 for a new license and asked if the board would consider waiving the $6.25 county fee. The board voted unanimously to waive the $6.25 county fee for city road name changes whenever the state waives its fee.

Property Appraiser Leigh Barfield sharred an opportunity her office has to customize and build a new pc-based Computer Aided Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system which would replace the current system. The current system has been in use since the 1980's. Barfield introduced RealCAMA Product Specialist Jan Vann, who explained the new system will be a valuable and more efficient tool for property appraisers in Florida well into the future. Barfield explained the software development would be a three year process and the reduced cost of $150,000 could be spread over three or four years. The board voted to approve a budget amendment of $37,500 for the cloud based CAMA system at a cost of $150,000 spread over four years, with funding would come from the Fiscally Constrained Fund.

Sheriff Ben Stewart provided an update on the ongoing request for the City of Madison to assist in funding the Sheriff's county-wide communications center. The City of Madison accounts for 26 percent of all law enforcement and fire service calls, yet the city has consistently refused to assist in funding  the communications center. Stewart asked the board to consider funding the salary for a law enforcement position. Stewart did not think such an ongoing expense should be funded from the fiscally constrained fund. Stewart also reported his office may be able to return approximately $13,000 from fiscal year 2015-16, but currently medical costs at the jail are over budget.

Next, County Attorney Reeves advised the existing contract between the county and Certified Towing, Inc. does not allow an assignment of rights. At a previous board meeting Ann Vickers stated a desire to assign all rights from her old corporation, Certified Towing, Inc. to her new corporation, Certified Service Center, Inc. The board voted unanimously to approve the assignment of rights and duties.

Retiring Clerk of Court Tim Sanders recommended that incoming Clerk Billy Washington be appointed to the Florida Local Government Health Insurance Consortium (FLGHIC) Board of Directors, a position Sanders has held since its inception. The board voted unanimously to appoint Washington to the FLGHIC board beginning January, 2017.

Regarding the county's option on the Pyramid Bakery property located in the Madison County Development Complex, County Attorney Reeves informed the board that the owner, Mr. Sarkis has refused to convey the property back to the county after failure to produce a facility on the site. The board voted to authorize Reeves to file suit against Sarkis. Reeves stated he would pursue reimbursement of all legal fees expended by the county on the lawsuit.

A discussion followed regarding the renewal of a lease agreement for the establishment and maintenance of a county airport. Kauffman stated the current lease, which expires at the end of the year, is for the sum of $2,500 annually, plus insurance in the amount of $1,300. Kauffman reported one crop duster currently uses the airport exclusively. He and the lessor are agreeable to him taking over the lease, saving the county approximately $3,800 per year. Sheriff Stewart expressed concern over future public access to the airport. Concern over the effect on the agribusiness community was also raised. The board voted unanimously to renew the lease for the airport. Kauffman stated he would bring information to the board regarding user fees in order to recoup expenses.

The board considered a request from the Madison County Memorial Hospital for the endoscopy equipment loan to be forgiven. This loan amount is a total of $151,000. After discussion, it was decided to table the matter until the first board meeting in January.

Commissioner Davis volunteered to be the board's liaison with the Sheriff's Jail Improvement Committee. Davis also reported a conflict occasionally arises with meetings of the North Florida Economic Development Partnership meetings. Commissioner Moore volunteered to continue to be the alternate as needed. The board agreed by consensus to approve the appointments to community organizations and/or councils as presented.

The annual employee appreciation luncheon was discussed. The board requested the County Coordinator to get input from board employees with recommendations and options for consideration at a later date.

Commissioner Vickers reported that the fire board agreed to spend $1,500 for a new entrance gate at the ball field adjacent to Pinetta Elementary School to better accommodate fire and ambulance vehicles. The board unanimously approved the expenditure from the fire board reserve.

County Coordinator Kauffman reported he has been in negotiations with the Peacock family regarding a possible conveyance of property owned by the family located in the West Farm Low area of Old County Camp Road in exchange for the county owned old road camp parcel (not including the recreational park) located on Farm Rd. With board approval, the County Attorney could proceed with advertising the exchange of parcels. Kauffman also said, as part of the agreement, the county would pay for the relocation of a double wide mobile home, as well as the associated well and septic tank, which would be funded by a Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) grant. Kauffman also reported the agreement included the purchase of an unrecorded lot owned by the Peacock family in the West Farm Low area at the value set by the Property Appraiser. Kauffman stated this purchase would be funded by the SRWMD grant and the lands could be used by the county for fill material in the future. The board agreed to direct the County Attorney to draft a contract and set a Public Hearing to consider the exchange of the properties.

Commissioner Davis reported attending a Town Hall meeting in the Town of Lee regarding the Medical Marijuana Constitutional Amendment. Reeves suggested looking at the county's land development regulations to determine dispensing locations. The board agreed to allow staff to research the issue and bring back proposals for board consideration.

Commissioner Davis expressed concern over different annual and sick leave accrual policies that exists within the county. Davis expressed a desire to see a more uniform policy regarding annual and sick leave accrual. Since the board cannot dictate policy over Constitutional Officers, Reeves suggested seeing if there is any interest in adopting a uniform policy.

The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Madison County Commissioners will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 28, at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place in the Courthouse Annex, located at 229 SW Pinckney St., in Madison.

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