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Ralph Thomas is the Public Safety Commissioner!...

Ralph Thomas is the Public Safety Commissioner!
Protecting Public Safety requires wise decisions and proper funding, not empty promises and misleading campaign signs.  Let's take a look at who actually gets the job done.   On September 21, 2015, Commissioner Thomas voted to change the allocation of the One Cent Sales Tax that increased revenue for Public Safety by $195,475 annually without placing any additional tax burden on Wakulla County Citizen.  This table shows the "before and after" revenue figures. Commissioner Thomas voted for an increase to Public Safety funding.  His opponent voted against it! Prior to 2015, the Public Safety portion of the One Cent Sales tax was only used to purchase ambulances and Sheriff vehicles.  It has never been used to purchase fire trucks.  Wakulla County Firefighters need a dedicated, predictable funding source for their operational expenses and their equipment expenses.  This re-allocation of the One Cent Sales tax provided additional revenue to Public Safety, which made it possible to use the One Cent Sales Tax to purchase fire trucks for the first time in Wakulla County history.  Shifting this expense out of the Fire MSBU fund and into the One Cent Sales Tax fund, freed up significant revenue in the Fire MSBU fund, making it easier to fund firefighter's salaries and operational expenses from the Fire MSBU fund.   Commissioner Thomas voted for this re-allocation.  His opponent voted against it.   The Public Safety re-allocation was recommended by a citizens advisory group who serve on the One Cent Sales Tax Committee, after holding public meetings and considering the needs of Wakulla County. Commissioner Thomas agreed with the citizens and voted for the re-allocation.  His opponent voted against the citizen's recommendations. You can see the proposed agenda item by clicking here. You can see the adopted resolution by clicking here.  The resolution passed with a 4 to 1 vote. Commissioner Thomas' opponent was the lone vote in opposition to increased funding of Public Safety! You can watch the discussion that occured at the Board of County Commissioners meeting here. Commissioner Thomas promised to not raise your taxes.  He promised to make wise decisions to spend your hard earned tax dollars efficiently while working within the budget currently available, just like you do with your personal budget.  Commissioner Thomas kept his promise and has never voted for a tax increase.  Instead, he voted for this re-allocation which provided an additional $195,475...

Show Me The Money!

Show Me The Money!
Lately, numbers have been thrown around regarding the cost of lawsuits that were related to the Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance.  Below you will find a breakdown from the County Attorney On Oct 17, 2013, at 4:01 PM, “Encinosa, Heather” <hencinosa@ngn-tally.com> wrote: Commissioners: This email summarizes what I spoke to each of you about regarding costs associated with wetlands lawsuits.   The financial information is from the clerk’s records.To the best of my knowledge, there have been two lawsuits with claims involving wetlands.  Both of them occurred under the old wetlands ordinance that was enacted in 2006 and has since been repealed.  If there are other lawsuits involving wetlands, I am not aware of them. Crum and Tucker v. Wakulla – this case involved a challenge to the wetlands ordinance enactment process and a public records violation.  The wetlands count was resolved very early when the court ruled that the ordinance was not enacted through the proper procedures.  The public records count was litigated and ultimately settled.  The attorney’s fees were about $50,000.  The settlements were $158,000.  Attorney’s fees for Mr. Crum and Mr. Tucker are statutorily authorized for public records lawsuits and were included in the settlement amounts.  Total = $208,000.00, but majority dealt with public records. Log Creek – this case included both an appeal of a code enforcement board finding of violation and a separate suit filed by two landowners in the County.  The separate lawsuit included claims of equal protection, due process, takings, and defamation.  Only the takings claims concerned wetlands. The County’s insurance provider covered this suit.  The attorney’s fees paid by the county were about $40,000 for both.  The County would have also paid a $5000 insurance deductible.  The case was settled, but the county’s insurer covered all settlement costs.  Total = $45,000.00, but only two claims dealt with wetlands (on a percentage basis, it would be about 22%). Like you all, I have heard the statements that the County has spent $600,000 on wetlands lawsuits, and wanted to ensure that you had this information.   Let me know if you have any questions.   Heather J. Encinosa, Esq.  1500 Mahan Drive, Suite 200 Tallahassee, Florida  32308(850) 224-4070 hencinosa@ngnlaw.com   The information contained in this e-mail is attorney privileged and confidential.  It is intended only for the use of the individual or entity named above.  If the...

Wakulla Commissioners to take up Community Center issue...

Wakulla Commissioners to take up Community Center issue
Wakulla Commissioners to take up Community Center...

A Better Option for the Community Center

I was recently asked, “What is the most important feature of a Community Center?”  I pondered the question for a brief moment then responded, “The answer is quite simple.  The most important feature is the Community itself.”  I’m guessing there must be hundreds or thousands of Community Centers across the Country.  I’m certain, none of them are the same, nor do they provide the same services to the community.  The success of a Community Center is not guaranteed by simply allowing an organization to duplicate its plan into our community. Why am I bringing this up?  As you read this, our county is rapidly heading toward allowing the YMCA to operate our Community Center.  If that is all you heard about this proposal, you might think that’s a great idea.  I think most of us can agree that the YMCA is a first class organization that brings value to the community.  The purpose of this letter is not to bash the YMCA, because I truly do respect the organization, but I feel compelled to make sure that our citizens are given the complete picture. Let’s start by discussing the proposed agreement with the YMCA.  Our Community Center was purchased with 1.4 million tax payer’s dollars.  We are currently in the process of spending nearly $400,000 to build a third building on the property.  By a 3 to 2 vote of the Board of County Commissioners, an additional $250,000 is proposed to be spent on the third building.  The agreement will then require us to turn over control of this $2,000,000 facility to the YMCA.  The YMCA will not be required to pay rent, nor will they be required to pay for major maintenance on the facilities.  Wakulla County will pay for all utilities and we will even mow the grass and maintain the grounds. After using millions of tax payer’s dollars to ensure the YMCA’s success, they will then be allowed to compete with local companies who offer similar services to our community already, such as fitness centers, gymnastics, martial arts etc. Is this the best deal we can put on the table for our citizens.  I say no and would like to offer up a better option.  I would like to see us bring together the best community programs that already exist in our county.  By doing this...