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.

12.21.06 -- EDITORIAL: After dark in McIntosh

Last week, I was standing in the Civic Center parking lot when someone lobbed a rock through Howard Walkup's truck. We couldn't tell who, in part because the street lamp he was parked under worked only intermittenly.

Tonight, while I was shopping at the grocery store, a man was run down underneath another street lamp that was completely out. You can't tell from the photos I posted in the story because I used a tripod and a slow setting, but that part of the road is pretty dark without that light.

I stood there tonight watching people who didn't even live in McIntosh jump into the road to help direct traffic around the accident scene. I couldn't help thinking about the CRA -- or some of the ideas brought about by it. Maybe not the dubbing it all blighted. But I was thinking about the other parts that included fixing up the sidewalks, throwing down a crosswalk or two and installing some historic-style street lamps.

Shoot, after this last week, I'd settle for the street lamps we already had -- as long as they worked.

I follow council issues pretty closely, and I try pretty hard to get those out there in a way that allows most people to understand what's happening with their government. Maybe I succeed. Maybe I fail.

But I want to make this point crystal clear, before anyone motions to repeal or push forward another tree or historic ordinance, will someone please make sure that the street lamps in McIntosh work?

posted by Cher @ 10:20 PM, , links to this post

12.21.06 -- BREAKING NEWS: Pedestrian hit by car on U.S. 441



By CHER PHILLIPS

An unidentified** pedestrian was hit by a car this evening while crossing U.S. 441 after making a purchase at the McIntosh Grocery store.

About 6:00 p.m. tonight, a man witnesses say was in his 60's, was struck by a silver Toyota in front of Richard Shutterly's warehouse, almost directly under a nonfunctional streetlamp.

Gina McGehee, a nurse working for Shands in Gainesville, was one of the accident witnesses, who stayed with the victim until emergency personnel arrived.

"I bet he crosses here all the time and didn't realize it was darker than it usually is," McGehee said.

She said she saw the man crossing from the grocery to the west side of McIntosh as she was passing the grocery store. She said, in her opinion, he walked as if he had had a stroke in the past. A dark brown cane, as well as other items were left at the scene of the accident.

McGehee said she drove as far as Avenue E when she heard the Corolla, which had been going south, hit the man in the highway's southbound right lane.

The windshield of the car was heavily spidered and bore the impression of the person hitting the car. The driver, whose name is not known, remained in her vehicle.

McGehee said that she wasn't sure the driver, an older woman, could move because she was so shaken. The nurse said the driver moved only to hold her hand while she prayed with her. The driver asked McGehee and Carleton Bouette, another witness who is staying in Sportsman's Cove in McIntosh and works south of Reddick, to call her husband.

Marion County Fire Rescue arrived about 6:13 p.m. and took over where McGehee and other witnesses left off. At the scene, McGehee told emergency personnel on the phone that she thought the victim had compound leg fractures. His legs were secured in splints before he was transported to Shands in Gainesville.

None of the McIntosh residents at the scene knew the victim. Sue, who works at the McIntosh Grocery, said he had a wallet with him when he came in to purchase several packages of Advil. The victim's Krispy Kreme donuts, package of Oreos and his left tennis shoe remained at the scene.

Several locals jumped in to help out. Joey Ship, of Boardman, was just leaving the grocery when the accident happened. He said he works security for Shands and just wanted to help out. He and several other unknown people directed traffic until the Fire Rescue could finish attending to the victim.

Florida Highway Patrol arrived about 6:45 p.m. and at this time, their central office officially have no information about the accident at this time.

** I've been contacted with some information about the unidentified victim, but until we know that his family has been contacted, I'm not going to post his name.

Update: 12/22/06 - 8:36 a.m. FHP said that the victim was in critical condition last night. It is still unknown whether the family has been notified, but the victim was living in McIntosh and renting a home on the West side of town.

posted by Cher @ 8:03 PM, , links to this post

12.14.06 -- BREAKING NEWS: Rock thrown through councilman's window after meeting

By CHER PHILLIPS

Even after taking into account the McIntosh Town Council's tumultuous year, it was still a shock to council members and some residents when 2006 went out with a crash.

Only a few people remained in the parking area outside McIntosh Civic Center when a crash resounded as Councilman Howard Walkup climbed into his pickup truck and his window exploded.

Walkup had been showing off this handiwork with the tennis court lights only 10 minutes earlier. At least one small group still congregated near the Civic Center after the last monthly town council meeting of the calendar year arguing about the aging water system and the on-going discussion about the town's historic ordinance.

The crash sounded odd and out of context.

About 10:15 p.m., McIntosh is inky-dark. Even with holiday lights scattered through town, it was hard to make out who hit what from anywhere in the parking lot of the Civic Center. There were no headlights or screeching tires -- just the sound of a crash from Walkup's truck on the Avenue F side of the parking lot.

It seemed from where Councilman Lee Deaderick, Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan, resident Beverly Dodder were standing that Walkup had backed into something.

But that didn't make sense, since his truck was backed up to Avenue F between a street lamp that doesn't stay on and a tree. There was simply nothing Walkup could have hit.

Something had to have hit him.

Dodder was the first to head over to investigate. Others were waiting for the driver to get out.

"We'd better go find out what happened," she said.

As they walked over, Walkup climbed out of his truck, which was showered inside and out with chucks and slivers of glass that clung to the surfaces of his truck's interior. Walkup, himself, was unharmed -- without a scratch. But he stood there mystified as to why the back window of his cab just shattered.

He said he just got in and turned it on.

"Did you turn on the heat?" I asked. "Was there a temperature change? Anything?"

"No. Not at all." Walkup said.

Dodder, Walkup, Callahan, Deaderick and this reporter stood around the truck bed, as mystified as Walkup. Glass had shattered inside the cab but also back into the truck bed.

Deaderick, tall enough to see into the bed of Walkup's gunmetal gray, Ford 350, 1o-ton truck, reached in and pulled out a chuck of rock slightly smaller than a baseball and asked Walkup if he'd had asphalt in his truck.

It became clear, then, that someone had tossed a rock at his truck window.

The area behind where he was parked was dark. Squinting into the darkness, someone easily could have been hiding in the shadows. Yet, a half block away, Councilman Frank Ciotti was walking his dog, having just gotten home from the council meeting. It was business as usual on Avenue F.

"It could be any one of a hundred things," Walkup said.

He said they might not like his license plate, which says "choose life" or someone might not like his work on the council. He made the point that everything seemed quieter since the new council had taken over and that he felt they'd done what the residents charged them to do.

Walkup, who has served on the council more than 10 years, said that in all his years as a councilman in McIntosh, this was the first time anyone has thrown a rock through his window. He did not run last year but ran to fill the remaining term of former Councilman Jim Strange's seat when he resigned this August. Walkup's agenda in the last few meetings has been to undo some of the ordinances passed by the former council, which he says residents consider contentious.

Since no one saw anyone throw the rock, both Walkup and Callahan said it was impossible to tell what motive was behind shattering the window.

Walkup said almost as soon as Deaderick found the rock in his truck that it could have been either an act of vengeance or a kid playing around. He did say that whoever it was knew he was in the truck when they threw the rock.

Callahan said that it didn't matter who did it, it wasn't a nice thing to do.

"They waited until I started the crank," he said, "Just when it started, that thing exploded."

The Marion County Sheriff's department was called, but they could not immediately dispatch an officer since they only had one on duty at the time. A deputy attended the council meeting earlier that night but left before the incident.

Other residents in the area did not hear or see anything. One woman, who asked not to be named, said whoever did it was a coward and that if he had something to say, it should have been said at the meeting directly to the councilman.

*****


Coming up tomorrow: Report on the council meeting

Check out this weekend: Coverage of Light-up McIntosh

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

12.11.06 -- MEETING NOTICES-- Tree Committee and December Town Council Meeting


Tree Committee will meet Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m.

The McIntosh Town Council will meet Thursday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.

Tuesday is also the deadline to sign up your home or business in Holiday light competition with the Friends of McIntosh for Light-up McIntosh. Info is available outside the town office.





The new agenda is up -- thanks to Town Clerk Debbie Miller for cc'ing me so I can post it online here.


AGENDA

Town Council Meeting

December 14, 2006

Civic Center 7:00 P.M.



Anyone wishing to place a subject on the agenda may do so up to 72 hours before the meeting by notifying the town office.



Call to Order

Lord’s Prayer and pledge to the American Flag

Roll Call



Minutes of the Town Council Meeting of November 9, 2006



Financial Report for November and December, 2006



Guests:

Shirley Lane, Principal, and Stephanie Hodges, Area Specialist US Department of Agriculture – School

Lease



Citizen Board Committee Updates:

Tree Preservation Committee Ordinance No.: 06-155

Historic Ordinance No.: 151 – Discussion and vote to repeal



Message from the Clerk:

Christmas/New Year’s Holiday Town Office Closed Reminder

Paul Kelly’s yearly salary increase

Creation of a new Town of McIntosh sponsored website



Message from the Mayor:



Message from the Attorney:

Ordinance No. 2006-155 Proportionate Share Mitigation



Old Business:

Needham Enterprises proposal for repairs to tennis court lights and invoice from them for $147.50

Sale/Disposal of the Town owned fire truck

Review new office hours to determine if late night is needed

Return/store credit for the video equipment purchased in May, 2006

Committee terms and appointments

Historic Trust playground for the school

Grant for sidewalk

More efficient approach to taking minutes of the Town Council meetings by the Town Clerk



New Business:

A/C – Heating Unit at doctor/school office – repair or replace

Rewire well house pumps

Used cars for sale on 441



Message from the Council:



Citizen’s Comments:



Meeting Adjourned

***Notice to Board Meeting Attendees: As a courtesy to others, please ensure pager and cell phones are turned off during meeting***

Welcome to the Town of McIntosh Town Council meeting. All persons wishing to address the Town Council will be asked to limit their comments to the specific subject being addressed. However, in order to foster mutual respect between the Town Council and the public, it is requested that comments are directed at specific issues rather than personal comments directed toward Board members or staff.



Please note that if a person desires to appeal any decision made to any matter considered at the above meeting, that person may need to ensure that a verbatim record of the proceeding be made, which record includes the testimony and evidence which the appeal is to be based.

posted by Cher @ 8:00 PM, , links to this post

Bulletin Board Notice: Stray dogs need some help

Sheila Winters has posted in the bulletin board area about a family of dogs -- and now a kitten -- that she is concerned about with the freeze coming on tonight. Check out Sheila's post: Dogs and kitten

I think the general consensus is that folks are concerned that calling Animal Services would mean these animals might not be safe. Thoughts?

posted by Cher @ 3:36 PM, , links to this post

12.05.06 -- REPORT: School Board hosts a round table discussion with state Sunshine expert

By CHER PHILLIPS

Listen to the whole Sunshine Law Seminar: McIntosh Sunshine Law Seminar Dec. 5

A handful of McIntosh residents sat down Tuesday night with a Sunshine Law expert to learn more about Florida's open meetings laws.

Adria Harper, director of the First Amendment Foundation, spoke with and answered questions of residents who serve the town as board members, as employees and as the media. Most had concerns about how to negotiate the Sunshine law while serving on public boards in a town as small as McIntosh.

The seminar, paid for by the McIntosh Area School Board, competed for turnout with the local church event called David's Kitchen, a block away. Two school board members, two citizen board members, the town clerk, a councilman and this reporter showed up. Held in the town's Civic Center, the meeting followed the path similar to the council meetings, with Councilman Lee Deaderick taking the lead and playing his favorite role he calls devil's advocate, throwing in questions and commentary, going as far as to jokingly call the Sunshine Law a form of communism at one point. Deaderick did not hide his criticism of Florida's open record laws.

"As a public official, what's the best way to avoid the Sunshine so that you can do business in the rain?" Deaderick said.

Harper laughed and said, "That's such a bad question. Why are you such a party pooper about the Sunshine Law?"

Deaderick said that he felt that the Sunshine Law prevented the good old boy way of doing government but he felt like it got in the way of efficiency.

But Harper held her own and said that as an attorney she appreciated the devil's advocate role.
She laid out the basics of the Sunshine Law in regards to public meetings and explained that the core point of the law is to allow public participation in government. The law itself is based in Florida's statutes and access to the process is a constitutional right in Florida.

Gearing the seminar toward a board members point of view, she explained how people often just want access to the decision making part of the lawmaking process, even though it can be dull, or lengthy.

She broke down situations in which the Sunshine Law can be triggered -- the first being when two or more members of any public board discuss something that would come before that board in the future. Harper explained that the Sunshine Law could be triggered over a cup of coffee if two members of the same board are talking and something that would come before them is mentioned.

Deaderick asked how he could handle that kind of situation in a small town like McIntosh. His concern was how could he balance being a responsible councilman and finding out what his constituents want, while not stepping into any traps.

"It's virtually impossible not to have any contact," Deaderick said. "Anything we talk about can become the town's business. Are you supposed to wear a gag?"

After some discussion, Harper said that he can ask constituents for their opinions outside public meetings, he simply can't ask other council members.

She said one question she gets quite often is what is reasonable notice for a meeting. The Sunshine Law says that public meetings must be noticed. But the question is what is reasonable notice for each government? She said that the Sunshine law seems vague at times and that's purposeful. For instance reasonable notice for a public meeting means that the notice should be sufficient in regards to placement and timing. In McIntosh, meetings are noticed at the town hall. In larger cities, wider notice is required for it to be sufficient.

Harper also said that an agenda is not required per the law but it is a good idea so that people will know what will come before the board and not have to sit through meetings wondering if an issue they are concerned with will come up.

Another point of specific relevance to McIntosh was what minutes are required. Deaderick has been pushing for short, more abbreviated minutes that include just the votes. Harper said that minutes should be detailed enough so that people can read what went on.

Various board members asked questions to help figure out the fine line of when the Sunshine Law is triggered. Chris Rath, a code enforcement board member, asked if it was OK for her to ask another code enforcement board member what had happened at a meeting she'd missed. Harper said that discussing a recap would be OK but if she talked about what would happen in the next meeting, then that would trigger the Sunshine Law.

Town Clerk Debbie Miller asked specifically about retition periods for older public records, as well as the old audio tapes of the council meetings.

Another point Harper explained was that public meetings should be held in venues that can accomodate the number of people who might want to come to the meeting. She said she had a call recently in which a board's meeting locale did not accomodate handicapped and didn't have proper seating.

Walkup brought up the February workshop meeting the council held in the small Bible Study room off of the recreation hall of the Methodist Church. He asked if holding a public meeting in a church would exclude people who aren't Methodists. She said that as long as it wasn't a regularly held meeting noting an attorney general decision that determined that meetings purposely held in a place like a Christian school with the intent to keep certain groups out were not allowed. The lack of seating was a great issue in the February workshop.

Harper said another no-no for public officials was outside contact like notes being passed around, secret ballots, e-mails and actions taken to avoid doing business in a meeting. She said she gets phone calls on the FAF hotline from citizens saying they think they officials met in private because something that had not been resolved at the last meeting was suddenly resolved.

"Citizen are pretty savvy and they'll notice it," Harper said.

Harper explained that secret meetings that have consequences. She said that any action taken in a secret meeting could not be binding. Resolutions and hiring decisions make outside the Sunshine Law are treated like they never happened.

To the school board members present, Chip Bazemore and principal Shirley Lane, Harper spoke of some of the exemptions to public meetings that specifically speak to school boards like issues dealing with student confidentiality that apply to student records and how there are times when personnel information can become private when complaints are involved.

Harper also explained the options concerned citizens have. Residents who are concerned public officials aren't following the Sunshine Law have several options. First, they can go to their local state attorney. She said that though they are authorized to take action, they don't do it that often.

One good example of this that hits home involved a recent, formal complaint made by former code enforcement officer Art Davis to the state attorney's office in Ocala, in which Mayor Marsha Strange was cleared when the local state attorney declined to file an infraction against her. Davis' complaint was that Strange did not follow the Sunshine Law when she handed an open letter signed by about 100 residents back to the person who collected the signatures after she read it into the record in a council meeting in July. Davis was removed from office by the council during that meeting. In September, Assistant State's Attorney Mark A. Simpson found that Strange did not intend to break the law but thought she was returning the documents to the rightful owner - Casey Girardin. Documents from the state attorney's office say that Girardin provided a statement that she had destroyed the documents. Simpson wrote in his decision that he did not think the case had prosecutorial merit.

Harper said another route that can be taken is civil court but the drawback are hefty court costs. The final option she suggests residents take is mediation with the Florida Attorney General's office. She said the advantage of this is that it is free but the disadvantage is that it is voluntary. Not all parties are willing to sit down and work out an issue.

For public officials who knowingly break the law, a violation can mean a second degree misdemeanor, a jail term of up to 60 days and a fine of not more than $500. Harper said that only one person has gone to jail in Florida, though. An unintentional fine can be up to $500.

The FAF is a non-profit group based in Tallahassee who track any changes in the laws in the Florida legislature. They publish the "Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual" each year, which serves as the go-to text for understanding the the kinds of questions that came up at the Civic Center tonight, as well as the many exemptions in Florida's public records laws.

FAF Handouts: Click to enlarge



posted by Cher @ 8:44 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

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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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