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Proposed agreement returns to council

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

On Monday, Jan. 8, beginning at 6 p.m., the Town of Greenville gathered to listen to what kind of progress was made in the past months regarding appropriation requests concerning pump station number five and the youth bill that will provide the younger generation “with things to do.” In attendance were Town Attorney John Reid, Town Manager Edward Dean, Mayor Calvin Malone and council members: Barbara Dansey, Brandi Seabrooks and Joi Collins. Also in attendance were County Commissioner Ronnie Moore and Kovecherich Arnold, whose attendance record has been a subject of contention within the Town of Greenville.

The meeting was opened with a word of prayer by a citizen and the pledge of Allegiance, for which Collins stood but did not participate. Councilwoman Dansey objected to Arnold sitting at the table. The minutes from the last couple of special and regular meetings were approved unanimously. The meeting continued with Town Manager, Edward Dean announcing a “very simple budget amendment,” as he was carrying over the estimated balance from 2017 to 2018. The only notable change was that the town manager was moved from the general fund to the consultant fund.

Town Attorney John Reid was in attendance once again to discuss changes to the proposed rules  and procedures for the Town of Greenville that will govern all official meetings of the town council. Councilwoman Seabrooks expressed that she needs more time to look over the latest revision of the charter and Councilwoman Dansey made it known that she believes that Mayor Malone had to much power and authority over what is in and what is not in the charter. Dansey expressed that she would like further discussion. A special meeting will take place on Monday, Feb. 5, beginning at 4 p.m. The meeting will take place in Greenville Town Hall, 154 SW Old Mission Ave., in Greenville.

Mayor Malone requested that citizen participation be moved to the beginning of the agenda in the general and miscellaneous business section of the meeting. Justina Cone was the first to come to the podium and requested that the council move forward with the proposed interlocal agreement that was brought before the council in the fall of 2017.

Mayor Malone pointed out that he would like the council to understand the do's and don'ts of the Madison County Sheriff's Office (MCSO). “We can't tell the sheriff's department what they need to do and when they do it.” Cone expressed that the document is meant for the thoughts of the council, on the proposal of the agreement, to be taken to the MCSO for consideration and negotiation with the MCSO.

Dean believes that the document is solid. He stated that he had reservations at first but is prepared to move forward. “I will say that I'm not sure if it's a long-term sustainable solution. I think it brings a certain degree of comfort to the community so therefore, I'm for it,” said Dean. “But I do think we need to talk about some long-term solutions: do we take the interlocal agreement for a year and then try to partner with the MCSO or do we apply for the C.O.P.S. Grant?”

The Community Oriented Policing Services (C.O.P.S.) Grant was suggested by Sheriff Ben Stewart and would help cover the costs associated with having a part-time deputy in Greenville. Collins does not believe the interlocal agreement is a long-term ordeal but more of a security blanket. Dean believes that for $25,000, the services need to be more than just a security blanket. “It needs to have some substantiability, because this is a part of a larger plan,” said Dean. “We would like to see more police. I know I would [like to see more police],” said Collins. “Let's do something beside sit on it.”

Dean explained that he is hesitant to spend money, not knowing where the money is going, but will stay firm on his belief for the need of a long-term sustainable solution.

“We are responsible, at this table, for the financial status of our community. We understand that we have a need for safety,” said Mayor Malone. “I'm all for peace, but I also want to get the biggest bang for the buck. Just because we are threatened with discord, doesn't mean we can afford to go out and spend money, in a particular area. We need to know what we're spending this money for.”

“It's in the interlocal agreement what the $25,000 [is for]. It's been spelled out in the interlocal agreement,” said Cone. Mayor Malone asked to move forward and Cone was asked to take a seat by Dean. “I feel that Mr. Dean should seek to do whatever he needs to do to work out an agreement for additional police protection. There is talk being done to delay it or prolong it, because somebody sees that additional police protection is not needed.”

Collins began making a motion to move forward with the proposed interlocal agreement when Dean interrupted Collins to allow Dr. Patricia Hinton her time to speak. Dean says that the topic went over the allowed time. Dr. Hinton also spoke on the interlocal agreement. “This council promised, by it's vote, $25,000 for an additional deputy detail,” said Dr. Hinton. “We expect you to live up to that but it is the least investment. In fact, some of the council members said the only reason they were voting for a tax property increase was so that it would go into this $25,000 to provide additional deputy detail. That's not unreasonable. Secondly, I have no idea why Mr. Arnold is allowed to carry on a conversation and discussion when he is not a legal member of the council and I suggest the sergeant of arms do his job.”

“As it stands currently, there is a 2/2 divide on this issue so it's not going anywhere right now,” said Dean. “As far as me not doing my job, Mr. Arnold is not doing any harm right now. As far as him physically sitting there, we've discussed this. It's not the greatest good to go down that road right now. The citizen's voice will be heard shortly. Everyone has serious concerns.”

Dean continued to talk about the appropriation requests and the establishment of Greenville Day, on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. “Those appropriation requests, they're not something that has to stand idle. You have to move on that. Every county in the state of Florida is fighting for limited resources.” Dean has a five-year plan that he wants to outline including bringing the entire town from septic to sewer. He has also been working with the Department of Environmental Protection, regarding infrastructure issues in Greenville. Dean expressed that the outline for the youth bill, providing a diploma, a skill within the construction industry and a placement program will be available in the next week. “I want to get past the politics of personal destruction and what I call majoring in minor things,” said Dean.

Bobby Burnette spoke up about a quote from Albert Einstein. “I'm reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein: 'You can't solve a problem at the level of the source, you always have to go above it,'” said Burnette. “I believe we have more than just a socioeconomic problem, we have a deep spiritual problem in this town. While we're trying to address these problems, I believe we're trying to put band aids on cancer and pretty soon we're going to run out of band aids. We need to address the hearts and minds of young people. They're stealing because they want money and they're breaking in people's property because they want money.”

Burnette expressed his beliefs that a house divided cannot stand. “I believe there's a lot more people in this town that's concerned about more than just having a deputy sheriff over here. If you're gonna spend $25,000, I want them to get out of that truck and shake the hands and meet the people. I was stirred by something beyond me. I love my community and the people in this community and it breaks my heart to see the senior citizens scared to death. It breaks my heart to see good, young men but don't know how to get a job and don't have the skills to get one. We're going to have to move beyond our pettiness.” Burnette also believes that addressing, not just the socioeconomic, but spiritual and other issues is the long-term solution.

“I applaud Mr. Dean for his efforts and his experience,” said Mayor Malone. “I do remember this city being a very caring, nurturing [city]. There's care here. Let's move past the pettiness.”

The next regular meeting of the Greenville Town Council will take place on Monday, Feb. 12, at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place in Greenville Town Hall, 154 SW Old Mission Ave., in Greenville.

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