The Worth County Board of Commissioners held their first meeting for the month of December last Tuesday evening. After adding and subtracting several items from the agenda, the board approved the revised agenda and the minutes from the November 20 meeting. Then, Commissioner Bettye Bozeman motioned to move the meeting to the courtroom on the second floor as there was not enough room in the board room to accommodate everyone in attendance.
Once the crowd was reassembled in the courtroom, the board heard from their first guest speaker of the evening, Mr. Mike Shivok. Shivok stated that he had two issues he was concerned about. First, the Worth resident mentioned that in a previous meeting the board voted in agreement that Captain Ray Salter of Worth County Fire-Rescue should be the only contact point for ISO.
“Mr. Chairman,” Shivok said, “You’re still calling ISO. You are going against what the commissioners voted for. I think this is wrong. I thing we need to start doing the people of Worth County right.”
Secondly, Mr. Shivok brought up the recent issues with purchasing an SUV for the tax commissioner’s office. On this issue, he explained that the previous bid for the vehicle was rejected by the county, then he stated,
“It got bought anyway. We’re sitting here in the budget meetings saying ‘No automobiles for the sheriff’s department, no ambulances, no nothing, the critical stuff that we need… But, we have money to go out and buy an automobile for the tax assessor. That money belonged in the general fund.”
He said this sort of thing goes on in Worth County all the time, and in March, Shivok says the county plans to borrow $3 million, and we are going deeper into debt by doing these frivolous things. He continued,
“When you vote on something, that’s what you vote on. You do it just like it was voted on. You don’t change things to make it look better, or the way I want it. There’s no I in this. This is supposed to be a team. I blame the four commissioners for allowing this to go on. We need to do something about it and you guys are the only ones who can do something about it.”
Finally, the concerned citizen claimed the vehicle for the tax commissioner’s office was purchased without being voted on by the board. And, he thinks the vehicle should not have been bought.
Next, the board heard from Suzanne West from 911 concerning a firefighter and law enforcement event in Worth County in December of 2015. She stated that the event would not cost the county any money, however it would require a lot of participation and volunteerism from various county departments, so Mrs. West was merely requesting permission to move forward with plans for the event at this time. Commissioner Ken Hall motioned to approve the event, Joe Gaines seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
Then, Mrs. Marilyn Bass addressed the board concerning the Warwick Fire Department. She stated that the substation has been open for 13 weeks now. She also stated that the Friends of Worth County Fire Department raised over $20,000 for the department. However, Warwick residents are still “patiently waiting” for ISO representatives to re-evaluate the area and hopefully lower the current ISO rating from a 10 to a 5.
“I’m beginning to think that there’s a personal vendetta going on between board members and doing what’s right for this county,” she said.
She suggested that some members of the board have personal motives for keeping ISO from visiting Warwick and inspecting the department. Then she asked the board if the county followed ISO recommendations for Warwick in 2009, or if they are afraid of allowing ISO to evaluate the community because they did not adhere to the recommendations back then.
West also reiterated that the board voted in September to make Ray Salter the only contact for ISO. Then, she said each board member could be held personally liable for holding a personal vendetta concerning ISO or any other matter.
“You all know what’s going on, and when I came up here five months ago, I told each of you that I would hold you accountable. You all are not being accountable and good stewards of the tax payers’ money,” she said.
Hearing this, Chairman Mike Cosby stated that the ISO representative had recently contacted him and stated that he could not evaluate Warwick individually. He would have to look at the entire county. Commissioner Hall stated that he also talked to the same man last Tuesday. It would take a complete evaluation of the whole county. Hall then stated that it would be January before ISO could visit Worth County.
Commissioner Bettye Bozeman also asked why the substation in Sumner lowered the ISO rating within three weeks, but that was not the case in Warwick. The chairman responded that he had no idea. Mrs. Bozeman also stated that the WCFR captains were not allowed to handle their job in Warwick and the board micromanaged the situation. Hall also stated that the chairman has given unnecessary information to ISO regarding the distance between WCFR headquarters and the Warwick station and the response time required. He also mentioned the possibility of cross-training Warwick police officers so they could respond to meet the four firefighter requirement.
Then, Commissioner Hall motioned to have ISO conduct a county wide inspection and Commissioner Bozeman offered a second. All voted in favor, and Chairman Cosby asked the county clerk to start the process on Wednesday, December 10.
Moving along with the agenda, the board discussed delinquent trash bills. Apparently, hundreds of Worth residents are more than two years past due on their trash bill. As Commissioner Billy McDonald explained,
“We’re losing too much money to provide this service to Worth County. It appears to me that the only people that are paying are the people that are going to do right regardless. Our system is so broke that most anyone has been able to get around and not step up to pay.”
Commissioner Hall added that he believed the best way to resolve the problem is to add the bill to the ad valorem tax and mobile home tax. The chairman stated that the matter would need to be discussed further in a workshop.
Next, under old business, the agenda called to amend the budget in the amount of $21,159.12 to account for the purchase of the tax commissioner’s SUV. All voted in favor of this item except Commissioner Bozeman who stated the purchase misled tax payers and was illegal because the board rejected the only bid on the vehicle the night before it was purchased.
Apparently, a poll was conducted the following day, the rejected bid was confirmed to have come from Sunbelt Ford in Sylvester, and all of the commissioners (except Mrs. Bozeman) agreed to purchase the vehicle over the telephone the day after the bid was rejected in the public meeting. Attorney Hall stated that she believed the board acted legally in purchasing the vehicle as well.
Likewise, with everyone except Mrs. Bozeman in agreement, the current budget was amended. Again, Mrs. Bozeman stated that the county could not afford to purchase vehicles for the sheriff or the fire department and taxes have been increased, but the county can afford to purchase this vehicle. And, she stated there is a good vehicle available for the tax commissioner’s office with only 40,000 miles on it that only needs a new transmission.
Before the meeting was adjourned, the board voted to hold a workshop this Thursday, December 18, at 4:00 p.m. to discuss this matter as well as other financial matters. Following the workshop, the board will hold their regularly scheduled meeting at 7:00 p.m.