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.

05.31.07 -- School seeks council's help for a new building

By CHER PHILLIPS

Listen to the May 31, 2007 Town Council workshop:
(Internet Explorer users may need to click the start arrow twice)









(Editor's note: The sound quality on this file is a little wobbly due to a microphone setting.)





The McIntosh Town Council wants to know if residents would like to make a long-term commitment to the McIntosh Area Charter Elementary School by taking measures to help school officials build a new school.

The council met tonight in a public workshop attended by about 18 residents to discuss ideas about partnering with McIntosh School to build a new school building that would be K-5 with two rooms per class.

Local school officials hit a wall in their efforts to obtain a USDA loan when they discovered the USDA required them to own the land on which the new school building would be built.

The school stands on land where McIntosh School originally stood until the 70's when it was taken apart and the bricks moved off as salvage. In 1958, the town's old school closed. The county school board gave the land to the town, and eventually, the building caved in on itself due to neglect.

Now, some residents want to rebuild the school.

McIntosh Area School is a charter school, operating in town for about five years now. Henry Nelson said the school has saved about $100,000 to date. But they would need an estimated $1.2 million for the school they are hoping to build.

The council met with town residents to toss around options. No decisions were made. Though several options were discussed as potential ways to aid the school in its growth.

Option one: Giving back the land

The first option is that the town give the land back to the school.

If the town council decided to take this path, then the school would own the land. If the school was not able to finish paying the back its building loan, then the buildings and the land would be forfeited. The town would not get the land back.

Some town officials had concerns about giving the land away, questioning its legality as well as what the will of the people might be. Mayor Marsha Strange and Council Vice President Howard Walkup, who recently benefited from the council rezoning their individual properties, both objected to the officials giving away town property.

Marion County Property Appraiser's Website gives the current value of the property including buildings at $512,692, but the land itself is valued at $148,290. The appraiser's site also shows that since 2004, the property value has nearly doubled with the school on site. The bulk of the increased value to the town is not in the land, but in the buildings and miscellaneous improvements.

Council response was mixed but not negative.

Council President Frank Ciotti said he wanted to know what the constituents thought about the town council committing finances to the school.

Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan said she supported helping the school build. She said that since she moved to McIntosh five years ago, two businesses have closed. But more than two businesses have left town. The gas station closed in the last year, and the grocery store closed earlier this week. The town also has gone through two restaurants in the cafe building in the last five years, and Ursula's Beauty Shop closed when she sold her building.

Callahan said that the school might help keep the town from drying up.

"You have to support what you have to keep the town going," she said. "I think the school should be there."

Councilwoman Eunice Smith, who's been on the council or the town clerk, for the last 28 years, said she thought the town should hold on to the land.

Walkup was not in favor of giving the land to the school and said he did not think it was legal. Like Strange, he said he was charged with protecting the town's assets.

"I don't want to give the assets of the town away," Walkup said. "The day's coming when the town's going to need property. Where's it going to get it, if it gives that away?"

When the other council members asked him what the town would need it for, he said a recreation center or a town hall.

Walkup also asked why someone with the school had inquired how much he was selling his land for when the options before the council tonight included the town financially supporting the school.

"How come you came to me and asked to buy my land if you don't have the money to buy it?" Walkup said.

Nelson explained that the school officials were just weighing every options. Later, Jody Smith said to Walkup that he'd appreciated the support the council had always given the school.

"I don’t want the council to think we’re not getting cooperation. We hope we have the support further on. As a parent, I live up there by the school, we have no bigger asset," Smith said.

One of the reasons the land south of town where the school and the doctor's office currently stands is such an attractive location is that it is already zoned governmental. Seeking rezoning other land in McIntosh would mean about a two year wait period for the school.

Councilman Lee Deaderick introduced the idea, hedging it with a plan to have a new town hall built alongside the school, pitching it as a place where the town could provide a proper ADA facility for voting.

Strange said she always hoped the 6.3 acres of land on where the school would like to build on be used for a town hall or government center.

But some residents present did not agree with this idea.

Henry Nelson said that if the town had wanted to build a new town hall, they would have done it before now, since it has the power to increase taxes.

Other residents were unsure of the logistics of having a town office in the same area as a school. June Glass said she was not comfortable with the idea since many schools have closed campuses. Strange agreed with her.

But Deaderick said he thought the town could find a way to separate the buildings to have a town office.

Option Two: Taking on the loan

The next option would be for the town to take out the USDA loan.

School officials learned that a municipality would have a much better chance of acquiring a loan. This scenario would mean the town would take out the low-interest loan at 4 percent interest and pay it back over 20 years. The school would pay the town about $60,000 a year from their capital outlay until the loan was paid off.

The advantage to this option would be if the school closed and could not finish paying the loan, the town would not lose the land or the building. It would have to finish paying off the loan. But the land would not revert back to Marion County School Board, as it would in the first scenario if the town gave the school the land.

The disadvantage is that McIntosh is simply not as financially stable as it used to be.

In the 90's, McIntosh had well over a $1 million in its coffers. But after years of tax rollbacks and a lack of water rate increases, the town's savings is down to the $500,000 range.

The current council has tossed around the idea of building a new town office when their rent was increased this year. They'd always had a handshake deal of a couple hundred dollars a month for their office space. But the current building's owner, Murray Musselman, raised the rent because he said he needed the building to break even and eventually make a profit if he was going to keep it.


Option three: Doing nothing

The third option would be that the town and the school go on as they have in the past, leasing the land to the school.

But school officials said they have capital outlay money. While they don't have a deadline for making a decision, Nelson said he saw no reason to wait to begin the process of building a school.

Residents spoke in favor of the school, telling the council that they thought the town would be an asset to the community.

"I would have given my eyeteeth to send my children there," Linda McCollum said. "You have to experience it to appreciate it."

Principal Shirley Lane said last year the school had 80 students, but they expect 100 next year. She said about 19 of them have McIntosh addresses.

Walkup was among the critics of the plan. He pointed out that there were not many McIntosh students who went to the McIntosh Area School.

Deaderick pointed out that one way to look at the number of students was that McIntosh was providing an education to students from the surrounding communities and McIntosh children were benefiting from the $4,700 the school gets per child, enabling the school to operate.

The next step in the process will be fact finding. Deaderick, Strange and Henry will meet to hash out what the council's options are for the school. Other council members said they want to hear from individual community members. Do residents want the town to make a financial commitment to school? If so, do residents want the council to give the school the land (if this is legally possible) or would they like to see the town partner with the school by obtaining a loan.

Another consideration is that the town does not have a hurricane shelter that would safely withstand more than a Category Three hurricane.

Glass said that if the school got a loan from FEMA to build the auditorium, they might be able to build one that could serve as a shelter against strong storms.

Harris Fellman suggested the town have a community meeting to toss around options, fact find and answer questions.

"All this council has to determine is do we go all in with them, or do we not? What best serves the people of McIntosh?" Deaderick said. "Tonight we’re talking about concepts, which needed talking about."

posted by Cher @ 9:54 PM, , links to this post

05.31.07 -- Water Quality Report

I'm posting a link to a hard copy of the water quality report.

2006 Water Quality Report

posted by Cher @ 8:44 AM, , links to this post

05.22.07 -- Editor's Note: Blog logs 10,000th visitor

By CHER PHILLIPS

The McIntosh Mirror logged visitor number 10,000 yesterday.

I started the blog last May but didn't begin counting visitors until July 1. According to Site Meter, the blog logged its 10,000 official visitor. I think this is accurate. Site Meter went down earlier this spring. But when it came back online, the logged visits caught back up.

The Mirror uses three different counters. I used Activemeter to back up Site meter when it failed this spring. Together, all three tell me information about the visitors, the length of their visits and how many pages viewed.

According to Google Analytics, 20 percent of the visitors to the blog in the last six months have been new, or first time users. This means that the bulk of the readers here are those who come back again and again.

One report shows that 20 percent of the Mirror's visitors in the last year only logged onto the blog once. These often are readers who click in from other blogs on Google Blogger or those who find the blog through a search engine, the most popular referring search engine for the blog is Google and then AOL. The majority of the blog readers regularly check in -- 28 percent have logged on between 26-100 times in last six months. And 27 percent of the blog's visitors check back more than 100 times in the past few months.

One of the questions I get fairly often is, "Do you know who wrote that comment?" No, I really don't -- unless people sign their names. On one report, I can see partial IP address and which Internet service providers or networks people use when they log onto the blog. But this doesn't tell me who they are or if they made comments. In fact, it tells be very little about the individuals but more about from where people are reading the blog. The top three networks that log onto the blog are AOL, Alltel and Windstream. This tells me that the bulk of the blog readers are local, which makes sense given this is a hyperlocal site.

But, we do get readers from all over the world. About 50 logged in from Europe in the last six months and another 50 from Asia.

Some IP addresses have company names on them. For instance, in December, someone from the Chicago Tribune checked the blog several times one week. I also see visitors from papers like the New York Times every so often, as well as the local mainstream media. This is consistent with some of the points I've seen in reading about blogging and the media. Blogs can be a source for story ideas for reporters.

Most people who read the Mirror click on about two pages per visit. We've never had a day in which no one checks the blog. Sometimes, the visitors have dipped down to 10, but other times they've hit as many as 60 in a day. It just depends on what's going on in town. Ironically, the traffic on the blog increases the most when an issue is being discussed in the forums, or comment sections.

I thought everyone might enjoy hearing some of the stats that made up those 10,000 visits.

posted by Cher @ 1:14 AM, , links to this post

05.12.07 -- REPORT: McIntosh Grocery Store to close last of May

By CHER PHILLIPS

The McIntosh Grocery Store will close its doors May 30 due to a rent hike of almost 50 percent.

The store's owner of six years, Mack Burris, will be forced to close his business because he and the building's owner, Fred Wilson, can not come to an agreement on a rent hike.

Burris, who is known as "Mack" to the residents of McIntosh, Boardman and other neighboring towns, said the raise in rent would have increased his rent $700 plus tax, coming to $742 extra a month beyond what he'd already been paying.

In a phone interview Saturday, property owner Fred Wilson would not confirm the amount he wanted to raise the rent.

"Mack can stay as long as he wants on a month-to-month basis," Wilson said.

He said that Mack's 7-year lease was up, but Wilson would not confirm how much he would be expecting in rent from the business owner if he did stay month-to-month.

"That's just where we're at," Wilson said. "If he wants to say, he'll stay."

However, Mack explained that the costs of staying mounted against him.

He said his electricity goes up anywhere from $800 to $1,000 a month during the warmer months, especially after the 2004 hurricanes and the rising gas prices. He said he just can't afford the amount his landlord was asking.

Mack said he attempted to negotiate with Wilson in April, but he said Wilson wouldn't bend.

"He and I couldn't come to an agreement on the lease," Mack said. "It upset me. We wanted to stay."

Wilson said that he would have liked to negotiate a price, too. He said he doesn't have plans to move another tenant in, despite rumors circulating around town that some Indian renters may be leasing the town's only grocery from Wilson next.

Mack said he and his wife determined in April if a more reasonable rental rate couldn't be negotiated, they would have to close their doors or face bankruptcy.

He said he has been a **conscientious** tenant over the six years he's rented the grocery in McIntosh.

"I've never missed a month's rent or bounced a check," Mack said.

Mack has also been financially responsible for all the repairs and upkeep on the building, including fixing the doors.

"The only thing he had to fix was the roof after the hurricanes," Mack said.

Mack has worked in restaurants all his life, working in a grocery for the first time when he was a teen.

He said he opened the McIntosh Grocery store because it was something he always wanted to do. The store is open every day, including all holidays except Christmas.

Although, Mac only just started closing the store on Christmas Day in 2006.

"Mack works the holidays himself so we can be home with our families," McIntosh Grocery Store employee Lori Digaicomo said.

Mack, like his three employees who face losing their jobs when the store closes, doesn't know what he'll do next.

He said the thing he enjoyed most and would miss about McIntosh are its people.

When asked what the people of McIntosh could do to help him through closing his store, Mack said, "Buy everything."

He said his lease ends on June 1 and he will have to be out. Since he is not selling his business, he will need to sell his stock and expects to have a sale later in May.

** CORRECTION: The correct word here was conscientious and not contentious. Thanks to Susan C. for the head's up on this. I am sorry for any confusion this might have caused.

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posted by Cher @ 1:16 PM, , links to this post

05.11.07 -- REPORT: Council introduces water maintenance fee

By CHER PHILLIPS

The McIntosh Town Council voted 3-2 to introduce a water maintenance fee of $96 a year for every household in McIntosh to pay for pending repairs. The proposed fee would mean every business and household would pay $8 month for a year beginning in July for water fees.

Word first started to filter into the public arena in an offhand comment made by Council President Frank Ciotti in the April meeting that the town of McIntosh can not account for all of its water.

This month, the council spoke openly about the issue.

Town Clerk Debbie Miller reported to the council members that the town was losing 15,600 gallons of water on a daily basis for the month of April.

Miller said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection requires that the town record the number of gallons pumped and compare them to the number of gallons billed.

She said the town's maintenance staff thought the problem was due to the meter on the first of the town's two pumps not accurately recording the number of gallons pumped, based on the conclusion pump number one pumped 900 gallons in a two-hour period, while pump number two pumped 30,000 gallons.

The cost to replace the meter could be anywhere from $800 - $1,200.

The council voted to spend $3,500 to automate the pump system in an emergency meeting in April. When that work was done, the town was advised that pump number one, a 25-horse pump that's at least 15 years old will not last much longer.

"Pump number one is not going to last forever," Miller said. "It could last a month, it could last nine months, it could last a year. We don't know."

Miller suggested the council start allocating money for repair and guessed that a new pump would be as much as $10,000.

Councilman Lee Deaderick thought they might need anywhere from $10,000 t0 $25,000 and introduced fee to build an enterprise account for repairing the water plant.

He suggested the fees be increased based on each individual customer in the town, as opposed to a charge per gallons. Last year, Deaderick voted against a water rate increase. He said this method was a way of kick-starting a water fund. He said he was against the water rate increase proposed a year ago because it was for no reason and preferred a fee that lasted a fixed amount of time. After the first year, the town could then adjust the water rate to meet the expenses for upkeep on the water plant.

Initially Deaderick introduced a fee of $20 per customer for a year. After discussion the motion passed with a rate hike of $8 per commercial user or household for a period of one year.

Ciotti said he liked the idea of building a reserve, but thought that $20 was steep. He voted against the fee because he said he was not sure how it would work.

One of the unknowns discussed was how to charge households like those living in mobile home parks and residents with more than one water meter who may not be directly billed by the town for their water. Bill Glass, owner of a mobile home park on the north end of town, said at the meeting that he had a previous agreement with the town, as did others.

Councilwoman Eunice Smith was the other dissenting vote. Smith has a record of voting against water rate increases, over her 29 years on the council or as town clerk.

Next month, the council will have to vote again on the issue, after hearing how the fee would impact those with special agreements with the town.

***

Mayor Marsha Strange announced that there will be a Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker posted on U.S. 441 on the south end of McIntosh on May 30 at 10 a.m.

"The marker is a tribute to the armed forces that have defended the United States of America," Strange said. "It should be a lovely marker."

McIntosh's Garden Club applied for the marker.

She also announced that Bobby Hatchett passed away.

***

The council tabled an ordinance introduced by town attorney Scott Walker that would prohibit sexual predators and offenders from living within 2,500-foot radius of areas where children congregate.

The ordinance would limit sexual predators living in McIntosh to living in two small corners in town, where there is no housing. One is near the Leytem's land and the other area in the furthest corner of Robert's Acres.

The state has a law already limited offenders from living 1,000 feet from areas where children congregate and is proposing a similar 2,500-foot radius.

Since the state already has a law, the council voted to table the ordinance until another time when they are proposing a number of ordinances.


****


Listen to the May 10, 2007 Town Council Meeting:
(Internet Explorer users may need to click the start arrow twice)

Part 1:












Part 2:








(Editor's Note: I am working with a new microphone and the sound quality might be funky while I work out the kinks. I digitally amplified the sound on part one.)

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posted by Cher @ 10:35 PM, , links to this post

AGENDA: May Town Council meeting

AGENDA
Town Council Meeting
May 10, 2007
Civic Center
Immediately following Public Hearing Starting at 7:00 pm

Anyone wishing to place a subject on the agenda may do so up to 72 hours before the meeting by notifying the Town Office.
I) Call to Order, Lord’s Prayer, and Pledge to the American Flag

II) Roll Call

III) Consent Agenda:
All matters listed within the Consent Agenda have been distributed to each member of the McIntosh Town Council for reading and study, are considered to be routine, and will be enacted by one motion of the Council with no separate discussion. If separate discussion is desired, that item may be removed from the Consent Agenda and placed on the Regular Agenda by request. Please call 591-1047 for questions on Consent Agenda items prior to the Council meeting.
1) Minutes of the Town Council Public Hearing of April 12, 2007, Town Council Meeting of April 12, 2007, and Workshop of May 1, 2007
2) Financial Report for April 2007
3) Code Enforcement Board Minutes – April 5, 2007
4) Historic Preservation Committee Minutes – May 2, 2007
5) Audit report presented by Richard Powell, of Powell & Jones, CPA for the year ended September 30, 2006
6) Successful completion of probationary period and salary increase of $1,000/year for Debbie Miller, Town Clerk

IV) Guests:

V) Citizen Board Committee Updates:

VI) Message from the Clerk:

VII) Message from the Mayor:

VIII) Message from the Attorney:
A) Citizen Board Administration Ordinance No.: 2007-159 – First Reading
B) Sexual Predator and Sexual Offender Residency Restrictions Ordinance No.: 2007-160 – First Reading
C) Musselman Office Lease/Town Office future plans
D) Leytem Code Enforcement Violation Issue Status

IX) Old Business:
A) 50’ Traffic Triangle and other LDC non-controversial change issues
B) Citizen Complaint Procedure
C) Traffic Speed Control Measures

X) New Business:

XI) Message from the Council:

XII) 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.



***************************************

Click here to read the 2006 audit.

posted by Cher @ 11:08 AM, , links to this post

05.01.07 -- AUDIO FILES: Tree and Historic Ordinance Workshop

Listen to the May 1, 2007 Town Council Workshop:
(Internet Explorer users may need to click the start arrow twice)


Tree Ordinance


0:02:55
Deaderick pitches expanding tree committee powers 0:06:32
Deaderick pitches tree district, tree tax
0:26:02
Walkup to ask for closed tree committee meetings 1:16:00






Historic Ordinance


1:36:26
Clerk questions fairness in government
2:01:26
Council concensus that repeal of 151 will go through 2:21:30










posted by Cher @ 9:47 PM, , links to this post

05.01.07 -- Workshop tonight

By CHER PHILLIPS

The McIntosh Town Council will hold a workshop tonight to discuss the historic ordinance and the tree ordinance.

In the April monthly meeting, the council decided they would hold a workshop to discuss changes to these two ordinances.

The Historic Ordinance is currently in a repeal process. The Land Planning Agency, a citizen board, recommended that the historic ordinance 151 that was passed last year be repealed and the old ordinance dating back to the 1990's be returned to law.

The council voted to have the LPA and the Historic Preservation Board meet together to hammer out an ordinance both parties could live with, but the joint meeting did not take place. Part of the reason was a lack of appropriate communication and sufficient notice.

The other ordinance under revision will be the Tree Ordinance. The Tree Committee has been trying to pass an updated ordinance for more than a year now. Last month, the ordinance was picked apart line by line in an LPA meeting. This revision was just another in a long series of revisions spurred by council members and citizen boards.

posted by Cher @ 3:33 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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