McIntosh Mirror: Reflecting news in the Tosh

Want to impact your community? Many of McIntosh's citizen boards have open seats and a council at a loss as to how to fill them.

Light-up McIntosh December 15

Light-up McIntosh will begin at the Civic Center at 6:30 p.m. The event will host Santa Clause and an area choir from six local churches will sing.

10.30.06 -- REPORT: Council hires local candidate as town clerk

By CHER PHILLIPS

The McIntosh Town Council voted unanimously to hire local candidate Deborah Miller as the new town clerk to replace the retiring town clerk, Julie Musselman.

Council President Frank Ciotti said in a phone interview that Miller accepted the offer of the position about 10 p.m. when he called her after the council meeting.

"She was real happy and looking forward to it," Ciotti said.

Miller, a new resident of McIntosh, will begin the job on Monday since Musselman will start drawing retirement officially in December and can only work a limited number of hours in November.

The final candidates simplified the selection process for the council during the last interview stage of the search.

Two of the three finalists, both of whom had experience running small governments, withdrew their applications stating other opportunities arose.

But their withdrawals saved the council a spot on the hot seat of choosing between a resident and one of the other candidates.

The council interviewed the remaining candidate, Deborah Miller, of McIntosh, and voted to offer her the position of town clerk paying her $29,000 with two opportunities for $1,000 raises in the next year. The package did include health insurance. Miller said she would need that benefit.

The council members had been ironing out how to balance health insurance with a salary package throughout the process. In the past, the council has paid and not paid the town clerk's health insurance and those costs have varied depending on the employee.

Miller, who goes by Debbie, has a background working in two different accounting firms. Her last job before moving to McIntosh was as an office manager for a boat manufacturer in Ft. Lauderdale, where she worked for 10 years.

Miller was also very active with her former home owner's association in Coral Springs where she owned a condo serving as both secretary and as president.

Miller just moved to McIntosh last month. She and her boyfriend, who will be moving to McIntosh after the first of the year, own a home in the historic district on the corner of Avenue G and Fifth Street.

As part of her application, Town Council President Frank Ciotti gave her an assignment to role play preparing a letter that was a response to a resident who wanted to know how the FEMA maps would effect his insurance if he lived in flood zone A. Miller read her letter into the record stating that she made two phone calls to different FEMA representatives because she wasn't satisfied with the first answer.

Her first question for Ciotti in this segment of the interview was, "Is this a trick question?"

Miller said she found in her research that McIntosh does not have flood insurance under FEMA's official maps for McIntosh, which are under review but have not been updated since the '70s. She said that if a homeowner was required to have flood insurance by their lender, they would have to seek it from a private company, and the odds were it would be cost-prohibitive.

posted by Cher @ 9:39 PM, , links to this post

10.30.06 -- REPORT: School board to host Sunshine Law seminar

By CHER PHILLIPS

The McIntosh Area School board will host a seminar to learn more about Florida's Sunshine Laws on Dec. 5 in the Civic Center with the First Amendment Foundation. While the school board is footing the bill for the developmental project, they are opening up the doors of the meeting to the public, as well as inviting public officials from McIntosh, Reddick and Micanopy.

The school board members approved a $300 budget to bring experts from the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee to McIntosh to educate the local boards and residents about the state's open meeting and open records laws. The First Amendment Foundation is a non-profit group who serve as experts on Florida's laws that govern what records and what meetings open to the public and exemptions that might close records and meetings. The First Amendment Foundation publishes a guide each year called the Sunshine Manual.


"There are so many questions about it," Joedy Smith, school board member, said.

He said having a seminar will help clear up any gray area in differing opinions people might have about the scope of the Sunshine Law.

Smith, the event organizer, said that as the school board is part of their board development. As the school prepares grants to build a new school, he said the purpose of hosting a Sunshine Seminar will help the board learn about protocol. He said the school's enrollment is now up to 70 students.

"As the school grows, it becomes more of an issue," Smith said.

In addition to inviting the McIntosh Town Council and citizen board members, Smith will be extending invitations to public officials in Micanopy and Reddick. He said since the board was paying for it already, the other commuties might as well benefit from the training, as well.

While the First Amendment Foundation does not charge for their seminars, the group hosting the seminar compensates for travel costs from Tallahassee to McIntosh. Smith said the board members agreed to kick in for a hotel room, as well as rental car.

The event is open to the public and will begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 5 in the McIntosh Civic Center in Van Ness Park on Avenue F.

posted by Cher @ 3:49 PM, , links to this post

10.28.06 -- Editor's Note: The McIntosh Mirror in the news

Have your ears been burning? Because I've had a busy week and McIntosh has been the subject of quite a few of those conversations.

We had something at the Journalism school this week called "Journalism Week." During this week, a number of alumni and professionals return to the college and talk to the students. I decided that I should talk to some of these professionals about the blog. I graduate in December. I'm planning on going to grad school at UF if I'm accepted and continuing the blog so I could study community journalism.

I've been wondering what to do with the blog for awhile now. Since the town has moved from one stage where protest seemed to be the theme, on to the next stage where we still want to be informed, as a community, but a few people want some healing time from the conflict of the last few months. I DO think about those things and how to reflect them in the blog. After a meeting during the search for a new town clerk, one of the council members asked me if I would just not cover something if it was for the good of the town. That's a tricky question. My answer to him, and I stand by it today, is that I think having open access to a government is always in the town's best interest, for the good the town.

But I still needed to know what to do with the blog. Do I expand it? How do I make it better? Should I have advertising? Should a blog like this make money? Is it OK? Am I approaching journalism within a blog site the "right" way? In regards to my own future career, can I use this to help me get a job? Or should I be out there reporting and writing for clips in other papers?

Well, it turns out these are pretty hard questions, and I am not the only one asking them. But I am one of only a few. It seems that what we have here -- in this blog -- is citizen journalism. It has a name. Who knew? What we've been doing here is also not all that common, and it's a pretty special endeavor. I say we because you, as readers, residents, commenters, are part of "this blog."

I've been talking with a faculty member over at UF, Mindy McAdams. She e-mailed me after she heard about the blog and asked to talk to me. An expert in the area of online media and journalism, she keeps a blog of her own and featured McIntosh and this blog in her site this week.

Real true journalism on a very small scale

A very solo journalist

Today, a civic journalism expert, Leonard Witt from Kennesaw University in Georgia, mentioned the McIntosh Mirror. He posted a survey from the Institute of Interactive Journalism about blogs like this one. I encourage anyone who reads the McIntosh blog to participate in it. It takes about 15 minutes. In some ways, what we are doing in McIntosh is shaping a part of what journalism will be like in the future. You're a part of that. I don't think that's what any of us thought we were doing. I know that I didn't. I was just keeping you informed. And, I intend to keep doing it.

Teaching Online Journalim reviews McIntosh Mirror [sic]

Up next: The Town Council will meet Monday evening for the final interviews in the search for the new McIntosh Town clerk.

posted by Cher @ 1:48 PM, , links to this post

10.24.06 -- REPORT: Town clerk search narrows to 3 candidates

By CHER PHILLIPS

The Town Council held a special meeting tonight to screen candidates for the town clerk's position and narrowed down the search to three final candidates.

After interviewing five candidates, they council narrowed their search down to three candidates who they will ask back for an in-depth interview next Monday. One candidate withdrew his application because his current employer offered him a full-time position.

Over the next week, the council will have to make decisions about whether or not they want to offer health insurance to the new town clerk. One of the concerns is that they would like to offer the future clerk a salary package between $25,000 and $35,000 a year. Adding health insurance could feasibly cost the town as much as $50,000. The town does offer its full-time maintanence employees health insurance. Though the current town clerk declined to take the town's health insurance, previous town clerks have been provided this benefit by the town.

The council members also will be nailing down a list of job duties to offer the candidates when they interview next week, as well as new interview questions.

During the screening interviews, Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan asked a set of questions on a scorecard of each candidate. Councilman Frank M. Ciotti read through the a list of hiring criteria like the council may require drug testing and will require an FDLE background check. Councilman Lee Deaderick explained to each candidate that in the future the town hall hours will most likely be reduced but expanded to include a day when the office is open later for the commuters to have access to it.

The next search meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 30 at 7:15 p.m.

posted by Cher @ 9:25 PM, , links to this post

10.24.06 -- REPORT: Cliched Silence

By CHER PHILLIPS
It was the kind of silence for which clichés are written.

Too long to be a pregnant pause, the seconds that ticked by between the Land Planning Agency meeting and the beginning of the Board of Adjustment meeting couldn’t become minutes quickly enough.

The LPA meeting lasted only eight minutes. That was seven minutes shy of the fifteen LPA chairman Charlsie Stott had set aside to determine whether or not the LPA would hear two petitions from Sportsman’s Cove owner Casey Girardin’s as the Board of Adjustment. They opted to hear them wearing their BOA hats. Since they serve both roles, the only thing left to do was wait.

While the seven-minute wait was uncomfortable for most in the Civic Center, it was nothing to the more than six months that Girardin has been waiting for resolution on two separate issues. To her, it meant being able to expand her business and earn a reward on her business.

One thing it did mean for McIntosh was more trailers -- a contentious proposal at best.

The crowd gathered was small. Three of the five current council members showed up to watch. Councilman Howard Walkup took his favorite seat in the back of the room by Girardin. It's the one he sits in when he's playing a resident in the back row. Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan stringing beads on to a piece of tan thread. She sat next to Councilman Frank Ciotti.

Ciotti brought with him his code books and papers. He’s been researching government lately, watching the county commission meetings online. He is taking his role as council president seriously. He would say later Monday night that the one thing he wanted to see come of this meeting was for someone to finally approve or deny Girardin’s site plans. He got his wish.

Before the LPA meeting began and everyone had settled into their perspective, polarized corners, there’d been banter about whether or not Howard Walkup sold “pa`cans” or “pee-cans.”

It was only after the former councilman Joe Phillips, his wife Susan and June Glass arrived that a pall fell upon the room. Former code enforcement officer Art Davis sat next to Callahan, in front of the Phillips' and Glass. He was stern, staring forward.

As the minutes stretched out, tension made itself known. Most in the room wore stern expressions, even Fred DelRusso sitting off to the side in the back row. The tension was portrayed in the board members’ eyes shifting up to the clock and the audience members staring straight ahead. Silent. Waiting. From the closed faces in that audience, this wasn’t a happy town. Not entirely. Not yet.

A scan of the residents earned this reporter at least one hostile – nay, vicious – look from a resident.

Girardin’s first request involved a parcel of land known around town as the Hudson property.

Earlier this spring, when she’d been riddled with pop inspections from various county departments because someone in town had been anonymously calling in complaints against her, Girardin stood up in a meeting and addressed it. She asked why the council didn’t go after the Hudson property and the trailers on it, which were in disrepair. Former Councilwoman Danaya Wright met eyes with one or two of the council members and said they could do that.

The council has long wanted the Hudson property to be kept up. During the BOA meeting, both June Glass and Susan Phillips reminded Stott that when she was a council member, the council wanted to condemn the trailers on the Hudson property.

Even at the beginning of this year, the subject of the condition of this property came up in a Feb. 15 continuation meeting of the town council.

“We’ve got two or three trailers down there, that I know that Casey mentioned,” former Councilman Joe Phillips said in the meeting, “that are dilapidated, that are health hazards and hazards to the public and we need to write Steve Hudson over there and tell him to get those trailers over there out of there or we will.”

This fell under a discussion in which Wright said they wanted to hire a code enforcement officer that month, within a few weeks. Phillips told the council they could write letters themselves about other code enforcement issues -- like a septic tank -- and put residents with violations under warning. But that's not what they did with the Hudson property.

In fact, in February, the four trailers in question had been vacant for a full year and at that time became non-conforming.

But for all the talk of code enforcement, the council did nothing about citing these trailers until Girardin bought them herself, for $80,000 and began cleaning up the property.

One of the reasons Girardin asked for a petition before the BOA was that two weeks after she’d purchased the property and began cleaning and remodeling the trailers, former code enforcement officer Art Davis finally decided to put abandonment on the trailers pulling the water meters out of them and having Progress Energy cancel the electricity.

Charlsie Stott BOA member summed up the situation for the other board members.

“What happened was that Hudson, who owned them, didn’t fix them up,” Stott said. “Casey bought them with the intention of fixing them up. In the meantime, after she purchased them, the code enforcement officer put in abandonment.”

Davis contended that there was a complaint in the file from a neighbor Frank Capriotti against the Hudson property. He did not cite Girardin but went straight to declaring them abandoned. Stott said she'd spoken to the Capriottis and said the complaint was old when Davis followed it up in late April -- months after the council had done nothing to move forward on them.

“The abandonment was put on there after she purchased them and she had no way of knowing this was going to be declared,” Stott said.

There are four mobile homes on the Old Hudson property. Since the property is zoned R4 in McIntosh and is on 1 1/3 acres of land, unless these four trailers are grandfathered in, Girardin would only be allowed to have two trailers on this parcel of land instead of the four she purchased.

But she purchased what she thought was two conforming trailers and two non-conforming trailers – older ones that followed old McIntosh zoning.

When Davis put abandonment on the trailers, he wiped out her grandfathered status. She, effectively, lost two trailers.

The BOA unanimously voted to give Girardin a variance for these trailers. The BOA, effectively, gave them back to her. She said she intends to restore them, move into one herself, move her aging mother into another, reserve one for her park assistant and rent the fourth trailer.

“I move that we give her permission to fix them up, so that it won’t be such an undue hardship on her,” Stott said. “We can read the codes and reread the codes but I don’t think that would do us any good. To prevent her from undue hardship, I think we should grant her a variance and I put that in the form of a motion.”

Some disagreed with Stott and the rest of the BOA’s stance.

Council President Frank Ciotti asked the current code enforcement officer Phil Howell to interpret the code for him. Howell wrote a letter than Ciotti asked town clerk Julie Musselman to send to the BOA chairman John Sapp stating that in his opinion, granting this variance fell outside the BOA’s purview.

In a phone interview Monday, Howell said he was interpreting the code as he read it and was trying everything in his might to remain an objective interpreter of the town’s code.

Several of the audience members also took exception to the variance.

“If you give her this, you are essentially giving her quarter acre lots and if you do that for her, I want quarter acre,” June Glass, resident, said.


The other petition that came before the council regarded site permits for seven trailers that Girardin would like to move into her trailer park.

Bringing in more trailers was something of a sore spot with former council members and board members over the last year.

Ordinances were fought in council meetings as Girardin agrued would limit her bringing in trailers.

"She’s been attempting to obtain site plan approval since May, but meeting recordings that go back as far as February of this year mention Girardin asking the council how long site plan approval should take.

By the McIntosh Land Development Code and the comprehensive plan, Girardin is allowed 49 trailers in Sportsman’s Cove. She currently has 42 on her lots.

When Sapp read the number of site plans approvals Giradin was asking for, seven, one audience member, Susan Phillips, actually gasped.

Singlewide trailers are rarely sold anymore which created a problem for Girardin when she decided she wanted to fill the empty lots in the park and she was seeking a variance to the code in order to fit trailers in her empty lots.

The BOA unanimously approved a variance for the remaining lots, allowing Girardin to put metal stairs and AC units on the setbacks, as long as the trailers she brought in fit on the footprint, the trailer-spot on the lots. The variance clears the path for Howell to approve the majority of her site plans.

Girardin will still have battles to face in moving in trailers to her empty lots, as council members Ciotti and Callahan pointed out after the meeting. But those hurdles will no longer be with the town of McIntosh.

posted by Cher @ 9:05 PM, , links to this post

10.23.06 -- BRIEF: BOA approves petitions for trailers

The Board of Adjustment unanimously approved petitions from Casey Girardin for variance requests. One petition will allow her to make the trailers on the old Hudson property livable. The other variance deals with the setbacks for six empty lots so she could pursue site plans from the town and county add seven trailers to her trailer park.

Story and audio files to follow...

Tuesday night the town council will meet to continue the search for a town clerk.

posted by Cher @ 10:54 PM, , links to this post

10.18.06 -- EDITORIAL: Time to put on our company faces

By CHER PHILLIPS

I was driving through town this morning and saw the telltale signs of the festival: port-a-potties. Lots of them. The other clue was Charlsie Stott walking along the side of the road with wooden stakes. Usually she walks with the mayor.

I guess that means it's time to put on our "company's coming" faces so the rest of Florida recognizes us as the quaint, simple, quiet, charming, little, historic town that everyone who doesn't live here thinks we are. I've been thinking about how different that image is from some aspects of what living in McIntosh is really like. There's a divide there.

What I've come up with is that McIntosh's identity in the rest of the world's eyes is connected with the 1890's Days Historic Festival. Once a year the Gainesville Sun and the Ocala Star-Banner come to town and write a nice feature about how lovely McIntosh is. And McIntosh is quite lovely.

But no town is going to be lovely all the time.

Even a beautiful woman has a bad-hair day. McIntosh had more than a few bad-hair days this year. Instead of them just slipping by, being passed around the rumor-mill, we put them online here and we talk about them. There's not been a daily, public recording of the meetings in years. And that is where the disconnect in our identity comes in.

Someone pulled me aside one day in the grocery store to thank me for destroying the image that person had of McIntosh. No, I'm not saying who. But the point was that the McIntosh in the blog is a very different McIntosh than the one we see once a year in the city papers.

But that doesn't mean that image in those yearly features isn't McIntosh, too.

Since it's festival time, I'd like to hear some comments about everyone's favorite festival memory or what they are most looking forward to this year. I keep hearing about this ** to-die-for corn-on-the-cob. I'm a kettle-corn girl myself.


And my favorite festival memory was the year that Hap Hopwood took my aunt and I on a tour through the McIntosh Hotel and told us which rooms were haunted. (The upstairs bedrooms on the southwest side.)

Oh yeah, and don't be afraid to sign your names if you want.

(** I don't know who makes this corn. I've heard Howard and the Mason's. But both these are incorrect. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.)

posted by Cher @ 4:06 PM, , links to this post

10.24.06 -- ADVANCE: Town clerk search to begin Tuesday

By CHER PHILLIPS

The first round of town clerk interviews will take place next Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center.

Six candidates, who were selected from a pool of 12 resumes, will be contacted by Council President Frank Ciotti. He will arrange a 15-minute interview with each candidate, at which the council will ask a set of screening questions of each candidate to determine who they would like to invite back for a longer, in-depth interview.

posted by Cher @ 1:28 PM, , links to this post

10.17.06 -- REPORT: Council begins search for town clerk

By CHER PHILLIPS

Click to download an audio file: Oct. 17 Workshop meeting (windows media file, 30.7 mb)


The McIntosh Town Council met Tuesday night to discuss hiring practices and procedures for hiring a new town clerk.

During a two-hour workshop meeting, council members discussed the town clerk's job description, salary scale, as well a number of questions they intend to ask applicants in two rounds of interviews. Councilman Frank Ciotti prepared a list of duties of a town clerk to go with a list Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan had asked Town Clerk Julie Musselman to prepare. Callahan also brought a list of questions she'd like to see asked of the candidates.

The council members sifted through around 10 resumes selecting six candidates they would like to meet for a first interview. After a first interview, they will determine which candidates they will choose to interview for a final round. One of the strong characteristics the council looked for was experience in government work, and they veered away from "job hoppers" -- candidates who did not stay long in jobs.

Since attorneys Scott Walker and Alison Folino are unavailable this week, Councilman Howard Walkup will call the Ethics Committee to research proper search practices, in particular selection decisions the council can make during a search. After Walkup is able to nail down the proper procedures for the town's search for a new town clerk, Ciotti will contact the six candidates and arrange for an interview in what they except to be a council meeting.

One particular point in question Walkup is researching is whether future meetings will be subject to the Sunshine Law. The McIntosh town charter says that the council shall appoint a town clerk, and the council is a public board whose meetings are fully subject to the Sunshine Law.

While this reporter encouraged council to seek an official call on whether the town clerk search would be public, I also informed the council that I will require they provide me, and thereby McIntosh residents, with the statutory exemption should it be determined that future meetings regarding this search be closed.

posted by Cher @ 10:24 PM, , links to this post

10.15.06 -- EDITORIAL: Dress code enforcement and the dangers of keeping a kangaroo court

By CHER PHILLIPS

I probably shouldn't even attempt an edition of Darts and Laurels when I feel about as eloquent as toast but not doing something because I shouldn't has never stopped me before. Why start now?

First, we'll start with a DART to yours truly for taking so blasted long to post last week's meeting. No one yelled at anyone or called anybody names in this meeting. Believe it or not, it's easier to write when there's gavel whacking and chair rattling.

Next, we'll toss a LAUREL to Marsha Strange, the Council and the attorneys for jumping on the let's-figure-out-what-the-heck-to-do-with-the-citizen-boards bandwagon. Kudos to the idea of telling them what direction the council wants them to go in. I think one of the problems with the boards over the last year have been the perception in the community that there's been an agenda at work but no one really understood what it was.

We should also toss out a LAUREL to Lee Deaderick for his stellar attempt at curbing his love for filibustering council meetings. Aside from asking the county road engineers if they hired immigrants, he did a pretty good job with his questions this time around. We also all noticed that he was a sport and wore a button-down plaid and a nice pair of khakis. (Yes, the meeting before someone from the audience had the audacity to insist another public figure act as the "Dress Code Enforcement Officer" and call Deaderick to the carpet for wearing a hat and shorts to council.) For the record, Lee, I liked the hat and the shorts. We all know you work for a living and respect that the meeting started early. Shoot, I thought you looked comfortable. I say we make November "wear-your-hat-to-council" month.

And a six-pack set of LAURELS goes out to the "resigners," especially Barbara Fellman for accusing the council of breaking their own laws because it brings to light a question about our codes that warrants consideration. Fellman raised a point when she said, "The only recourse from the board of adjustment is court. Period." It reminded me of Bill Glass' statement in the September code enforcement meeting: “Since we do have home rule and since basically anything that two of us agree to is legal,” Glass said. “Whether it’s defensible or not is his issue at another court of law."

Isn't that an awful lot of power to give one group of people? Not just the board of adjustment but the code enforcement board, too. Both boards are residents' last stops before they have to pay lawyers, court costs and get into potentially lengthy, expensive litigation. We got in trouble this last year in McIntosh when the perception in town was that a small group of people held all the power positions and were working their own agenda, agendas, whatever. When that group came to power, it accentuated the flaws in our codes, in this system. Should we have citizen boards represent the last chance for residents before they have to go to court? I don't know have an answer to that. I do think the changing of the guard will relieve the pressures in town and things will get better. But the chink in our armor still exists in our code. That showed itself in the BOA charging Renee Wacha $7,000 it had no right to charge and then members coming back at the council for rescinding the fee. It showed itself in the code enforcement board meeting in September in spades.

What I saw in the code enforcement meeting was imbalanced and I don't see how anyone coming before that board would not walk away with fines and legal fees. Consider this: McIntosh is no longer sitting atop a fat savings account like it was in the 90's. Instead, we're tightening our purse strings. We're spending more to have water than we make from it. We're continuing to rollback property taxes. (In 1913, it was 6 mills and now it's .054 -- we're nearly out of mills, folks.) When someone has a problem with code enforcement, they end up before a quasi-judicial board that has the ability to act as the judge and the jury to fine them, even put a lien against their homes if the situation gets out of control like it did with Pedro Molinas. When the town has a tight budget, what chance does any resident have of coming before that board and walking away "not guilty?" Think about it. The town is paying the town's attorney to prosecute the case and an attorney to guide the board. It is in the best interest of the town and the Code Enforcement Board to find the resident guilty and fine him. How long before all of those people get together who've had to put up with being fined in McIntosh's kangaroo court and say, "Fine, you want us to go to court, we'll go to Marion County together with a class action lawsuit and wipe out McIntosh's tiny little pile of reserves and then some?"

So, I guess that means I'm tossing a DART to the code book. Again, I don't claim to have the answers here, only the questions. I realize that tossing a dart at the revered codes is dangerous business. But the Land Development Code is not the Bill of Rights. Laws and rules serve us. We don't serve them. Before you condemn the questions, go back and read the code enforcement board meeting stories and put yourself in Pedro Molinas' or the Smith-Henderson's place. Would you want to be judged under that system?

posted by Cher @ 10:59 PM, , links to this post

10.15.06 -- REPORT: Council to discuss staffing, boards in future workshops

By CHER PHILLIPS

Download the Audio File at: Oct. 12, 2006 -- McIntosh Town Council Meeting (WMA 35.5 MB)

The McIntosh Town Council will meet Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. to discuss hiring a new clerk for a special workshop and other town business.

At the monthly meeting last Thursday, Mayor Marsha Strange’s suggested the council hold a workshop meeting for both the purpose of determining how to move forward with hiring a new clerk and talk about the citizen boards.

“I think we appoint people to our boards but we don’t educate and inform them what we want from them,” Strange said.

The main focus of Tuesday's workshop will be hiring a town clerk but the citizen boards will remain an issue.

Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan pointed out that the council probably would need more than one meeting to cover the issues before them. She also said the council would need to come up with a set of questions they would ask applicants before they decide which candidates they’d like to interview from the resumes submitted after an ad ran in the Ocala Star Banner.

Councilman Lee Deaderick said he didn’t understand the manner in which Town Clerk Julie Musselman retired. The town clerk said at the end of the last meeting that she would be retiring and ran an ad in the paper for a new clerk.

“I didn’t even know we had an ad in the paper,” Deaderick said. “All the sudden I’ve got applications in front of me and we didn’t even have a council meeting to talk about how we were going to go about hiring a new clerk.”

The council approved renewal of the McIntosh Area School's lease and Withlacoochee's regional planning contract. In fact, Thursday’s council meeting ran much like a workshop with attorneys present.

Citizen Boards

Other issues that will come up at the Tuesday workshop or later workshops will deal with the remainder of the terms for the citizen boards. Attorneys Scott Walker and Alison Folino prepared a resolution for the council. Somewhere along the line, citizen board members have been named to boards without ending dates for their terms.

“It’s more difficult than anticipated," Walker said. “It’s hard for use to discern from the records we have right now who was appointed to a one-year term, which person was in a two-year term and which person was in a three-year term and when do those terms end.”

In addition to the resolutions he gave the councils determining terms, Walker said he plans to bring back resolutions throughout the next year to make clear who has what term and how long those terms last.

The council will consider the information in the current resolution and talk about in an upcoming workshop meetings.

The council packets contained a a resignation letter from Bill Glass dated Sept. 20 resigning from the code enforcement board that was not read into the record.

Board of Adjustment

This was not the first resignation that was not read into the record in recent months. Deaderick brought up the resignations of Barbara Fellman and David Polson from the Board of Adjustment from September. Both members resigned stating that the council broke the law by reexamining Renee Wacha’s permit issue from September.

Wacha went to the BOA for site plan approval earlier this year. In February, the town council was acting at the BOA but decided that it might not be legal for them to serve in this capacity. Later, they appointed the Land Planning Agency to serve as the BOA since McIntosh’s Land Development Code allows for it.

Wacha’s case was complicated. When her case came before the BOA for site plan approval, they approved it with an extra $7,000 impact fee for a road to the second property.

She came before the council in September with a resolution to have the $7,000 fee removed. The council passed removing it and also agreed to return sealed blueprints that had been submitted but were not used. In May, former Councilman Jim Strange said the town would continue to hold these blueprints until Wacha sent a written apology to the town clerk for a verbal dispute.

But Fellman and Polson, members of the BOA said the council did not have any right to repeal a decision made by the BOA.

Fellman's resignation said she was resigning because the council violated the code.

Deaderick defended his role and said he did not intend to do anything illegal and took the town’s attorney to task for allegedly allowing him to break the law.

"Scott, I'm looking to you for legal advice and if I'm doing something illegal, please stop me because that's not my intent," Deaderick said.

Deaderick told Fellman that he did not understand why Wacha had been sent to the BOA to begin with since what she was asking for in site plan approval was not an exception. He also told her it was not his intent to violate any codes.

"Lee, I know it wasn't your intent to break the rules," Fellman said. "But the only recourse from the board of adjustment is court. Period."

Fellman apologized to Walker for part of her letter calling it a knee-jerk reaction. She said she'd read further case law and it was proper for Wacha's lawyer to address the council but alluded that she did not know about it in advance.

"What Scott did was correct, by having the plaintiff's lawyer present what you people had to sign for," Felllman said.

Fellman said she didn't understand the process and if she had, she would not have interfered. She still contended, though, that the council broke the law in making this decision. "But, indeed, you did violate your own codes," Fellman said to the council Thursday night.

Walker, however, did not agree with Fellman's interpretation of the council's action.

Walker said that the developer's agreement was prepared and was something that the town council, or officials, had to approve. He said he thought that Fellman ultimately meant that the decision should have come back to the BOA for approval and he disagreed with opinion.

"I think you have the authority and ability to approve developer's agreements. I don't believe, and you can crtiticize me, and I am criticized all day, it doesn't hurt my feelings at all," Walker said. "My opinion is, as the town attorney, is that you have the authority to say no, we aren't going to charge the $7,000, we're going to strike that from the agreement and we moved on."

Then, Council President Frank Ciotti brought up the upcoming BOA meeting.

"It's been brought to my attention by several citizen phone calls that the Land Planning Agency/Board of Adjustment on October 23 for Casey's request for a special exemption and ... trying to be procedurally correct, can an individual request a special exemption when we have litigation pending when we have not approved or denied her request?" Ciotti asked.

Walker said he was not aware of litigation pending, although Casey Girardin was represented by an attorney. He said he thought her request to the BOA was an attempt to get her applications moving along.

Walker explained there were two reasons people went before the BOA, if a resident is aggrieved by his administration official or if he needs relief from the hardship a the zoning code creates for him.

"What I don't understand, excuse me, " BOA member Charlsie Stott said, "is why it is coming before the council when a committee calls for a meeting."

"We were supplied with the paperwork which any citizen can do, and if it's alleged that there's an error in a form, then on any order or decision to take care of the code, it can go before the board of adjustement," Stott said. "I don't understand why this is coming before the council."

"Because I'm a novice," Ciotti said. "Because I wanted to get council advice."

***

Engineers from Marion County also presented the One Cent Sale Tax Referendum that will be on the ballot come Election day next month. If passed, the initiative could bring $600,000 - $800,000 to McIntosh for road improvement over the next 7 years and raise $398 million for Marion County road improvement.

The iniative would increase sales taxes in Marion County by one penny from January 2007 through December 2013. The income generated is earmarked for road improvement throughout the county. None the roads in the current county plan are near McIntosh but the town would still benefit by receiving money earmarked for road improvements.

If passed, county engineers said that McIntosh should see $30,000 - $50,000 payments for the first few years of the program and then payments closer to $100,000 per year.

posted by Cher @ 8:52 PM, , links to this post

10.11.06 -- ADMIN NOTE: Site issues

I've corrected an issue with the blog. The white background could not be seen in Internet Explorer due to a code conflict. I didn't realize it was an issue because I use Firefox. Thanks to Lacey for pointing it out. If you have any problems with blog, don't hestitate to e-mail me.

posted by Cher @ 7:35 PM, , links to this post

10.10.06 -- ADVANCE: Town Council Meeting Thursday

The McIntosh Town Council will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

Marion County Engineer Mounir Bourounces and project manager Frank VanPlelt will speak about the One Cent Sales Tax.

The McIntosh Area School's lease will come up, as well as a resolution which will assign terms to the members of the citizen boards.

Old business that will come up will fall under the areas of the Sheriff's contract. In August, the town decided not to continue to pay $46,000-$51,000 per year for service from the Marion County Sheriff since the county sheriff was required to provide service regardless of a contract with the town.

Town clerk applications will be discussed since the town clerk Julie Musselman will be leaving at the end of the October and retiring in December.

The Withacoochee Regional Planning Council's yearly contract will also come up for renewal and discussion.

New issues to come before the council will be town clerk applications and security involving town keys.

The council will also address appointments and dismissals of citizen board members. Council member Howard Walkup was advised by Attorney Scott Walker at the Special Call meeting in late September if the council wanted to remove citizen board members, they should wait until it was properly noticed on the agenda. The subject of board member removals came up following a town code enforcement meeting that broke down into arguments, swearing and eventually cussing and name-calling in September.

***

The Board of Adjustment will also meet Oct. 23 to hear two issues involving Casey Girardin's properties. One variance issue involves non-conforming trailers on what was formerly Steve Hudson's property and rentals that have been unoccupied for an extended amount of time. This property adjoins Sportsman's Cove, also owned by Girardin. She will be seeking permits to bring trailers onto empty sites in her mobile home park.

The Hudson's property has been an ongoing, unsettled issue before McIntosh's Code Enforcement board.

posted by Cher @ 9:52 PM, , links to this post

10.09.06 -- PUBLIC RECORD: Revised copy of Charter

Click to view: McIntosh Town Charter

I'm attaching a link to an interim copy of the revised McIntosh Town Charter made available by Alison Folino, one of the attorneys working for the town. Town Clerk Julie Musselman went through and checked this version last week. One change detailing the town's property lines will be forthcoming. I will post it as soon as I obtain it.

Due to a paperwork error, two copies of the town charter were floating around among council and residents. Several differences between the two charters would have given the mayor the power to break a tied council vote and limited council members' abilities to call special meetings.

Council President Frank Ciotti, Council Member Lee Deaderick and this reporter had been working from the incorrect charter.

posted by Cher @ 8:06 PM, , links to this post

10.08.06 -- Editor's Note: Community Bulletin Board and local ads

I'd gotten an e-mail about taking local ads. I set up a local rate card and then started to look around to resolve some of the issues involved with taking money for creating and posting ads. I would end up paying more in licenses and other filings than I would make for selling several $5 ads per year. But I figure nobody can stop me from giving the service away. Right?

So I created a bulletin board with a link at the bottom part of the blue header above. I'll make a new one every month that connects to the above link. If you want to buy a bike, sell a scooter, trade your bike for his scooter, give away both, do someone's yard work, ask someone to do your yardwork, announce your yard sale, plant sale, what-have-you, commenting on the bulletin board is the way to do it.

Think of this as kind of like a virtual version of the bulletin board by the post office, only no one can rip down your sign.

posted by Cher @ 3:53 PM, , links to this post

10.06.06 -- EDITOR'S NOTE: Ads on the blog

No, I haven't sold out.

I've been thinking about adding ads to the blog since I drove down to Ocala on one of my days off and spent $11.50 for copies of former council member Jim Strange's lawsuit. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Look at what his lawsuit cost the town.

But little things come up now and then that cost money. This weekend it was 75 cents at the library for copies from the Sun archives. (Counting the quarter the microfiche machine ate, it was a whole dollar.) Batteries for the digital recorder cost money now and then. I anticipate having to find server space in the future to accomodate the growing audio file archive.

So, I added some Google ads to the blog to offset the minor costs that come up. The ads don't cost you, the reader, anything. If you see an ad that catches your eye, click away. You pay the blog by clicking on ads you think are interesting. The blog is paid a small amount based by the number of ads you click.

Like the volunteers on the council and the citizen boards, I don't do this for the money. I think everyone knows this. But since what I do is in a blog format and the methods exist to easily make back a little of the money I spend doing it, we now have ads. I thought I would take a few minutes to explain my reasons behind the ads. This is also part of the reason I redesigned the blog so many times. I was trying to find a design that would accomodate the forum, ads and still look like a web site. If anyone experiences any problems, let me know. If you hate the idea, talk to me.

And oh yeah, I paid the $5.25 to the town for a permit... I know someone somewhere would eventually be wondering about that.

posted by Cher @ 11:06 PM, , links to this post

10.06.06 -- Report: LPA's first meeting retraces old steps, hopes to move forward

LPA's first meeting retraces old steps, hope to move forward

McIntosh -- New members of the Land Planning agency held an organizational meeting last night electing chairmen and vice chairmen to both the LPA and the Board of Adjustment. Discussed were issues they'd like to tackle in the future, as well as grievances for how matters had been handled in the past on the board and in the town.

Board member Jim Walkup elected Charlsie Stott as board member of the LPA. The board then elected Randy Brown as vice chairman elect. Brown absence from Thursday's meeting was unexplained and a surprise to some members. Walkup said Brown had teased him at church about making sure he was there Thursday. Walkup and board member John Sapp both mentioned Brown's background with the LPA from years ago accounted for their electing him to a leadership role in his absence. Stott has a long history with LPA, as well, and was part of shaping the town's current comprehensive plan. John Sapp will serve as secretary for the LPA.

The LPA also serves as the Board of Adjustment. Last night the board nominated John Sapp as chairman and board member Joe Shea as vice chairman of the BOA. The BOA hears cases that deal with residents who would like to have something approved that goes beyond the land development codes. Often, this baord is the last chance some residents have to work out an issue with the town before they have to take the issue to court.

While Walkup and Shea are returning members of the LPA from earlier this year, they were as much in the dark as the new members as to where the LPA should be going and what had passed.

For instance, the minutes left to the LPA from the Aug. 14 meeting did not seem complete to Shea -- the only member in attendance this month who'd been to the meeting. The board had little choice but to approve them. Stott said that she did not think the minutes left for them could have represented all that was said in an hour and a half. Shea said a number of the questions asked of him during that meeting were not included in the minutes. He also said a tape made by former LPA Chairman Barbara Fellman had not been made available to the public upon request. Fellman was a public official when she made the tape. Shea's wife, Sue, was present at the August meeting recalls Fellman recording it. Shea remembers councilman Frank Ciotti explaining to her how to turn the tape over.

Shea said this was a heated meeting and ended in Fellman's resignation -- a resignation in which she read into the record inferring one LPA member acted inethically. Fellman also resigned from the BOA writing in her resignation that the council acted inethically when they rescinded a decision of the BOA under her tenure.

Walkup had another issue with how the LPA had been run in the past. He said that the town council charged the LPA to act as the BOA. But then issues came before the BOA, Fellman would not allow Walkup to vote on the BOA saying he was not approved to do so by the council.

Walkup also said he'd like to see the new LPA go through some of the ordinances generated in the last few months. One was the historic ordinance that the council passed in July under the protest of many people in town. Walkup pointed out that the council did not even read them when they passed them the first time. They passed them under a second reading dispite protests from residents. Sapp said that the council passed those ordinances and then a few weeks later 90 percent of the town showed up at the polls for a special election to vote against expansion of the historic district. He said that going back and looking at the ordinances might be a move toward healing in town.

Stott said they would have to ask the council about looking into these ordinances, as well as ask them what they'd like the LPA to accomplish. One issue she and Sapp agreed on was that the LPA did not need to rework the land development code for the sake of reworking it.

They said that first on their agendas will be to try to gather up the town's corrected charter and split up the minutes from the last year to determine if anything from the last year needs to be looked at, again. Another concern for the members were how closely they would be watched by some people in town who might want to catch them making mistakes. Stott counseled the members several times that what they would be doing would be gone over with "a fine tooth comb."

posted by Cher @ 1:41 PM, , links to this post

Editor

Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

About This Blog

The primary purpose of this blog is to accurately reflect what happens in town public meetings and dispel rumors. I record the meetings and make them available for download. One of the goals of this blog is to offer residents a place to voice opinions. The comments, views and opinions expressed there are not necessarily those of the editor.

 
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"A Popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, 1822

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The news blog covers McIntosh, Fla. We strive to be accurate in our reporting. If you believe you something is inaccurate, please e-mail Cher Phillips at philicher@aol.com.

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