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Gilchrist County Delegation Meeting held last week

The Gilchrist County Legislative Delegation held it’s annual public hearing on Wednesday, January 16 at 4 p.m. The meeting was held in the Gilchrist County Commissioners’ meeting room. State Senator Rob Bradley, Republican from Fleming Island and State Representative Charles “Chuck” Clemons, Republican from Newberry came to hear the concerns and requests from local citizens and local elected officials.
Todd Gray, Chairman of the Gilchrist County Commission, spoke on behalf of the Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Gray thanked Rep. Clemons and Sen. Bradley for their support in Tallahassee. Gray had a short list of county needs in the order of importance. He requested some money to help with the new jail project, reporting that it took around $450,000 of the county budget to house inmates last year in the Dixie County Jail. Gray requested seed money to help the county with the start up expenses for the jail project. His second request was concerning the need for high speed internet/broad band in the rural part of the county. He also talked about the Valdosta, Georgia wastewater spills and how these spills are hurting the quality of the water and the impact of the spills on the Suwannee River. The fourth request was for the State to widen State Road 26. There was also a request to name a part of Hwy. 129 for the four officers that have been killed in the line of duty in Gilchrist County.
Clerk of Court Todd Newton explained some of the problems with the funding of all the clerks offices in the state. He also brought everyone up to date on the number of cases that this county has. He also requested that at the end of the year, if there were funds left in the Clerks budget that they be allowed to keep it. He said that if the clerks could keep the extra funds in reserves, these reserves would take care of future budget shortfalls. Newton also went over how many cases are still open from 2018.
Senator Bradley reminded those gathered that last year the state provided funding for the CR 232 project. Commissioner Gray said that project was in the design and bid stage currently.
Property Appraiser Damon Leggett said he would like to see the property tax exemption raised from $500 to $5,000 for widows and widowers. They also discussed the Save Our Homes Amendment. Leggett told the delegation that money could be saved if Trim Notices could be posted on the Property Appraisers web site and not mailed out.
County Court Judge Sheree Lancaster asked for money for the court system to give non-judicial employees raises.
Superintendent Robert Rankin was on hand to thank the delegation for the funds that are currently in the state budget for the Trenton High School improvement project. This project will be a multi year project and will include a new cafetorium.
Fanning Springs Mayor Trip Lancaster spoke to the delegation about funds for the Regional Sewer Plant. He spoke of the need to keep septic tanks off the river. He also spoke of the hotel project in Fanning Springs.
Joshua Akin spoke for the Tobacco Free Partnership and their youth prevention efforts. He told the delegation that Vaping has increased during the last few years.
Rosemary McDaniels came before the delegation to request a change in the law concerning discharging firearms in a residential area. She said it was a public safety issue and a noise issue when people decided to target practice in their yards. McDaniel said, “I have searched through the Florida Statutes under ‘firearms’, but found nothing related to firearm discharges in a residential area.” She requested that the delegation develop and submit a bill that would offer increased public safety and reduce noise and environmental pollution.
Suwannee River Water Management Executive Director Hugh Thomas attended the delegation meeting. Thomas thanked the delegation for supporting the Suwannee River Water Management District programs through the years.
Landon Hoffman, Regional Director for Congressman Neal Dunn, attended the hearing to learn the citizens’ and county officials’ concerns.
In closing Senator Bradley said, “I’m excited about the new governor coming into office.” He stated that Governor Ron DeSantis shares a passion for protecting the springs, rivers and Everglades as does the delegation. Sen. Bradley went on to say the future looks bright in the state.
Rep. Clemons said that he also felt the future looks bright, but the state is growing with 800-900 people moving to Florida per day. Rep. Clemons said there are many good initiatives out there, but the state has to operate within their budget, so we can’t fund them all. It was also reported that while the state budget is large, everyone should know that 42% of the budget went to health care.