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The Madison County Board of County Commissioners held their bi-weekly meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 28 in the commissioners meeting room at the courthouse annex. After the meeting was called to order by Chairman Rick Davis and the adoption of the agenda, the floor was opened for public petitions. There were no public petitions. The board then voted unanimously to approve minutes from previous meetings.
Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart then spoke to the board about the shortage of manpower in the communications department. He informed the board that during Hurricane Hermine, the communications center received over 1,000 calls. One deputy has been moved over to the communications center. Funds had been requested of the City of Madison, but those funds did not come through. Stewart asked the board to consider a $48,000 budget amendment, but that request was tabled until a later meeting.
The board then approved, without discussion, items on the consent agenda. These included a contract between the board and the state Department of Health for the operation of the Madison County Health Department contract year 2016-2017. Resolution 2016-09-28; establishing a fee schedule for fees to be charged and collected by the Madison County Health Dept; a budget amendment request for a sheriff's office employee leave payoff in the amount of $13,292; approval of state aid for a library's grant agreement between the Florida Dept. of State and the Madison County Board of County Commissioners; and approval of a building entry agreement with CentryLink for an additional ethernet service line for the courthouse.
In a discussion regarding the renewal of the current mowing contract with King Forest Management, the board was informed that currently mowing is done on a cycle of once every 60 days. Several commissioners asked if it might be better to increase that frequency during times of more rain, when grass grows more quickly. It was decided that this item would be placed on the agenda again at a future time after commissioners have had an opportunity to compare costs, etc.
The Public Works Dept. reported that the recent tire round up was a success. A total of 7,716 waste tires were collected. Future tire round ups will likely be undertaken. Jamie Willoughby with the Madison County Mosquito Control office reported that disposing of used tires and other debris is a very effective way of controlling mosquitoes, since used tires and other debris that can hold water provide a prime breeding ground in which the mosquitoes can lay eggs and larvae can thrive. It only takes five to 10 days for a mosquito to develop from an egg into an adult mosquito. Willoughby also announced that the local health department would be receiving $5,000 a month to be used for Zika virus control and prevention. As of Aug. 29 of this year, there have been 545 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in the state of Florida, with a vast majority of those cases being in the Miami-Dade County area. Of those 545 cases, 42 were believed to have been locally acquired and the rest of the cases were travel related. Of notable concern were the 75 cases involving pregnant women, due to the increased likelihood of birth defects linked to the Zika virus. Willoughby said that a three pronged attack is being used to combat the likelihood of the virus in our area. First is prevention and source reduction by getting rid of breeding areas for mosquitoes. Second is public education on ways to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. Using an insect repellant containing the ingredient DEET is an effective way to avoid mosquito bites. Third is the spraying of areas around the county in order to kill the adult mosquitoes. Anyone wanting to get tested for the Zika virus may do so at the Madison County Health Dept., located at 218 SW Third Ave., in Madison.
New business was then taken up by the board. A presentation on the Foley Cellulose Mill and the Fenholloway Water Quality Project was made by Scott Mixon of the Georgia-Pacific, Foley Cellulose Mill and Dustin Hinkel, Taylor County Coordinator. During this presentation, Mixon told the board that in recent years, Georgia-Pacific has made great strides toward restoring the river to a more pristine condition. In 1947 the Florida State Legislature had designated the river for industrial use in order to attract industry to the area. This helped to attract Proctor and Gamble to the area to build the cellulose mill that still operates to this day, providing jobs and economic opportunity to not only Taylor County, but Madison County as well. Over the years the condition of the Fenholloway River had deteriorated, due to this industrial use. Beginning in the 1970's the mill began to take measures to lessen the environmental impact on the river. Today those measures are continuing and thanks to technological advances, the river's water quality has improved tremendously. In 1994 the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection determined that the river could achieve Class III recreational water quality. That is the goal of the Georgia-Pacific mill. The reason for the mill's presentation to the board was simple. “We want to be good neighbors,” said Mixon.
Other new business included the adoption of resolution 2016-09-28A, concerning Madison County's $356,550 industrial park note series 2016 (purchase from Raymond Williams), and approval of all related documents, including note, loan and lien agreement, tax and non-arbitrage certificate, public meeting certificate, closing statement, general certificate and IRS Form 8038-G. This item passed unanimously.
There was a request from Benjamin Wyche for a resolution recognizing “Working Forest Week in Madison County” from Oct. 16-22. In recognition of the positive impact that tree farms and working forests have on the local economy and way of life, Wyche asked that a resolution be passed so the community could be made more aware of that impact. The commissioners were in favor of this, however it was postponed until the next public meeting so Wyche could get more facts that could be read into the record.
The final item for new business was consideration of an amendment to the Interlocal agreement with the Conservation District for a Conservation Technician. This item also passed.
Before the meeting was adjourned, County Attorney George Reeves informed the board that Craig Grant was back in the area and had plans to re-open his “Caboodle Ranch” cat sanctuary and had a desire to take in 50 cats per year. In 2012, Grant was charged with animal cruelty when his cat sanctuary, located near Lee, was found to have approximately 700 cats. Many were diseased, living in dirty conditions and lacked veterinary care. These cats were seized and eventually sent to a Duval County facility. As a result of this case, the board adopted much more stringent guidelines regarding other such “sanctuaries.” These guidelines included limits on the number of animals allowed at the facility, requirements for documented veterinary care, etc. Reeves advised the board that swift action may be required should Grant reopen and violate these guidelines.
The next public meeting of the Board of County Commissioners will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 9 a.m., in the commissioner's meeting room in the Courthouse Annex building, located at 229 SW Pinckney St., in Madison.