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Gilchrist residents concerned about grants for Internet service

A Gilchrist County resident addressed the Commission at the beginning of the July 19th meeting to request an update on the $4 to $6 million-dollar grant that was reported by Sen. Bradley that would be received by Gilchrist County from the Florida Legislature. The gentleman explained that the funding was discussed during a previous Legislative Delegation hearing and was identified as funding in the way of a grant, which would provide for broadband service to the rural areas of North Florida.
Mr. Bobby Crosby, Gilchrist County Administrator, explained the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is working on the broadband funding program. He explained that the rural counties in North Florida have been informed that the first phase of the broadband program would involve mapping of the area to determine the infrastructure and how it would be best to provide broadband service to this rural area.
The resident asked the Commission if Gilchrist County received volunteers to establish the identified broadband committee that was advertised by Gilchrist County some time ago?
Mr. Crosby explained that the counties broadband committee has not been established at this time. Gilchrist County will be working toward establishing the committee as the FL DEO requests more information and involvement with Gilchrist County.
The resident explained to the Commission that cellular phone service when calling 911 is very unreliable. The resident explained if a call is made to Emergency 911 in Gilchrist County from the outer area of the northern portions of the county, the service is questionable. The resident pointed out that dropped calls are often the case.
Commissioner Bill Martin explained that the Board would be hearing a request from two cellular tower applicants later in this meeting.
Ralph Smith, Gilchrist County Emergency Management Director, reported the SMART 911 program is available to receive texts for emergency issues in Gilchrist County.
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The Gilchrist County Commission held a meeting Monday afternoon as the Board requested a COVID-19 outlook on the latest number of cases reported in Gilchrist County.
Ralph Smith, Director of Emergency Management in Gilchrist County, told the Commission there are some new COVID cases in the county; there are some rises in the COVID-19 counts that are being reported in nursing homes in Gilchrist County.
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The Commission discussed and identified the Florida Blue health insurance rate plan that is being proposed for 2021-2022. Mr. Bobby Crosby reported that if the Board accepts this plan, Gilchrist County could save up to $122,000 on this proposal that covers the 180-member plan. He explained that Gilchrist County has a loss ratio of 55%-65% that also supports improved rates for those involved in the plan. Gilchrist County’s plan did not receive a rate increase for the proposed 2021-22 fiscal year, but he warned that there could be an increase in the future for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Gilchrist County Clerk Todd Newton reported the new proposed insurance plan provides new benefits such as hearing aids, tele-medical, and other needs. Commissioner Bill Martin made a motion to approve the Florida Blue insurance plan 0359 for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Commissioner Kenrick Thomas gave a second to the motion before the Board approved the proposal by a 5-0 vote.
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The Commission discussed and approved the Emergency Management Preparedness and Assistance Trust Fund, which provides revenues to operate and fund the Gilchrist County Emergency Management Director and office. The total funding for this program was identified to be $105,806.00.
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The County Administrator reported to the Commission that the renovations of the former Gilchrist County Supervisor of Elections’ office for the Veteran Service Office and the Public Defender’s Office would be completed soon and the cost would not exceed $3,000. A motion by Commissioner Martin was made to approve the funding to complete this renovation of the one office to become two offices in the Gilchrist County Courthouse. Commissioner Darrell Smith gave a second to the motion before the Commission approved the motion by a unanimous vote.
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Mr. Crosby presented requests from Hopping Green and Sams to allow a six-month extension to Site Plans 2020-03 and SP 2020-04 for cellular tower construction in Gilchrist County. The County Administrator explained the attorneys representing Tarpon Towers II, LLC is requesting this extension due to complications involving COVID-19 illnesses.
A motion by Commissioner Kenrick Thomas was made to approve the six-month extension request for both SP 2020-03 and SP 2020-04 applications. Commissioner Marion Poitevint gave a second to support the motion. Madam Chairman Sharon Langford called for a vote as the Board approved the motion by a 5-0 vote.
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Gilchrist County Clerk of Court Todd Newton reported to the Board that Gilchrist County needed to approve the service and salary of the attorney for the Value Adjustment Board in Gilchrist County. Commissioner Kenrick Thomas made a motion to approve the contract for the attorney to provide for legal service for the VAB during the entire proceedings. Commissioner Martin gave a second to the motion as the Commission approved the proposal by a unanimous vote.
The Commission discussed which two board members would volunteer to serve on the Value Adjustment Board. Commissioners Kenrick Thomas and Bill Martin agreed to serve on the committee during the VAB proceedings. Commissioner Darrell Smith made a motion to approve the two commissioners, Thomas and Martin to service on the VAB, and Commissioner Poitevint gave a second to the motion as the Board gave a unanimous approval to this action.
Mr. Newton asked the Commission for a Citizen Member to serve on the VAB. Commissioner Martin made a motion to request Mrs. Amy Owens be asked to serve on the VAB committee. Commissioner Smith gave a second to the motion as the Board gave a unanimous approval to the motion.
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Commissioner Reports:
Commissioner Bill Martin reported that he recently saw bags of trash dumped outside the fence at the Donnie trash dumpsite. He asked if any other locations were having this type of problem involving the dumping of garbage outside the collection areas in Gilchrist County.
Mr. Crosby reported that other areas had reported these problems too. The Commission requested staff investigate these problems to find out who is dumping this garbage and go forward with prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
The Commission adjourned this meeting just after 5 p.m.
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