Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.
On Monday, Feb. 6, State Senator Bill Montford from Senate District 3, and State Representative Halsey Beshears from House District 7, traveled to Madison to meet with constituents from Madison County. This
meeting gave local citizens the opportunity to voice their concerns to their elected state representative ahead of the upcoming legislative session, which gets underway on Tuesday, Mar. 7. Among those addressing the legislators was Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart who asked the legislators to offer some guidance for local law enforcement with the upcoming medical marijuana issue. Sen. Montford asked Stewart about the local methamphetamine epidemic. “It's really bad,” replied Stewart. “Used to a person could go down a path either with marijuana or alcohol, and it would take a while to maybe get addicted, but with meth it can be an instant addiction.” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Pickles also addressed the legislators and implored them not to cut funding to local schools. She told the legislators of the financial difficulties facing the local school district and that she is being told over and over from Tallahassee that she must cut her budget. The legislators told Pickles they understood her plight, and they would do all they could to help.
Dr. Hellen Miller from the Suwannee League of Cities addressed the legislators about water quality and infrastructure. She asked for $150 million in funding for water and infrastructure projects. She also expressed opposition to hydraulic fracking. Al Alexander from the Suwannee River Management District told the legislators of plans to work together with the St. Johns River District to improve water quality. Several local citizens from the area of Madison County off of County Road 255, south of I-10 spoke with the legislators concerning crop dusting and spraying of chemicals onto private properties by FullCircle Dairy and Damascus Farms. These citizens spoke of health issues they have faced as a result of this spraying. One citizen spoke of a potentially hazardous practice of spraying liquified animal waste directly onto the ground in amounts that are in violation of regulations. “These are very serious concerns,” said Sen. Montford. “We will contact the other side and we will address those concerns.” No one from FullCircle Dairy or Damascus Farms addressed the legislators. Another issue presented to the legislators was the ongoing plight of the Withlacoochee River and waste water being dumped into the river from Georgia and making its way south into Florida. Rep. Beshears expressed a great deal of concern over this issue. “We've heard a lot about water quality tonight,” said Rep. Beshears. “That's [the Withlacoochee River issue] something that's been going on for a long time, and quite frankly, I'm getting tired of it.”
Both Sen. Montford and Rep. Beshears expressed appreciation for the people who came out and listened and spoke to the legislators. The citizens present returned that gratitude to the legislators for coming to Madison and giving the citizens the opportunity to allow their voices to be heard.