County commissioners discuss sinkholes, Cowgirls and change of venue

The Madison County Commissioners met in regular session on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.

Under petitions from the public, Lisa Leary came to the podium to thank the commissioners for the completion of filling the sinkhole on Celosia Drive. County Engineer Bill Steves explained that the final paving and reopening of Celosia Drive for traffic depended upon how well the compacted soil sat in the sinkhole for a period of six months.

Sheriff Ben Stewart reported that the computerized locking mechanism at the Madison County Jail is in need of repair. The approximate cost of this repair is $190,000; a quote was received in the amount of $35,865.22 from the sheriff's technology support company. Sheriff Stewart stated that he did not have the funds to make the necessary improvements. Clerk of Court Tim Sanders told Sheriff Stewart that general fund reserves could go towards his request and paid back with available fiscally constrained dollars in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The board voted unanimously to allow the sheriff's office to borrow $35,865.22 from the general fund to pay for the repairs.

Under new business, Chairman Rick Davis welcomed members and coaches of the Madison County High School Cowgirls basketball team and recognized them for their achievement as winners of the 2016 State Championship. Each member of the board congratulated the team for their outstanding season.

The board voted to approve the advertisement for the position of County Coordinator, as Allen Cherry is retiring in July. The board agreed to advertise the position in the newspaper along with an advertisement with CareerSource and the Florida Association of Counties.

Cherry informed the board that there would be a conflict due to early voting in the board meeting room on Wednesday, March 9, so the regular scheduled meeting for that day will be held at the Madison County Extension Office at 9 a.m.

The commissioners then discussed bids for the proposed Sirmans Public Safety Building. Two bids were submitted for the project, which was budgeted at $150,000, one from Childers Construction and one from Gray Construction. The board voted unanimously to accept Childers Constructions' bid, which was $173,802 as opposed to Gray Construction's bid of $182,700.

Emergency Management Director Alan Whigham came to the podium and introduced Madison County Fire Board Chairman Hakili Washington. The Fire Board voted at its last meeting to purchase 35 new county map books from Fire Assessment Reserves. The books would be placed in each volunteer fire department apparatus. It was brought to the attention of the board that county departments, such as emergency medical services, wanted to purchase new county map books as well with their respective budgets. The board approved these requests.

Whigham also requested an exemption from the county's purchasing policy for Emergency Management to develop a siren-based lightning detection system in conjunction with WeatherSTEM. Emergency Management would be responsible for costs up to $5,000 but WeatherSTEM agreed to pick up most of the costs, an estimated $25,000 to $30,000. The board approved this exemption 5-0.

Next, Cherry presented a grant application submitted by Jellystone Park Jam and Bryant Thigpen. The Tourist Development Council requested $3,050 for the event, which will begin on Sep. 15, 2016 and end on Sep. 18, 2016. The board approved the grant application.

It was announced that a program change will occur for the Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that reduces the minimum annual percentage rate for random controlled substance testing for drivers of commercial motor vehicles from the current rate of 50 percent to 25 percent, effective during the calendar year of 2016. Sanders reported that most clients are staying at 50 percent, so the board voted unanimously to stay at the current rate of 50 percent.

A workshop on the status of Cherry Lake was scheduled before the meeting adjourned. The workshop will be held on Tuesday, March 29 at 5:30 p.m. at the Cherry Lake 4-H Camp.

The next county commission meeting will be held Wednesday, March 9 at 9 a.m. at the Madison County Extension Office, located at 184 College Loop.

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