Bo McMullian

Bo McMullian

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Legislators attend groundbreaking

After a year of planning, the Jackson County Commission has picked the site for a new county fire/rescue station.  It’s located in Bob and Katherine Pforte’s Commercial Park subdivision. Pforte confirmed to the TIMES on Friday that he’s donating the two-acre parcel. Commercial Park has plenty of room in the southwest corner and it will provide fire coverage for a rapidly growing area, the civic leader said. 

County commissioners held a somewhat early ceremonial groundbreaking for the fire station Tuesday afternoon.  It’s early because commissioners have not yet decided how big the fire station will be or when construction would start.  They set up the groundbreaking to take advantage of a visit to Marianna from state Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), a legislator who was instrumental in the 2016 Legislative appropriation of $600,000 for Jackson County for the purpose of a new fire station. Southern Strategy, the county’s new lobbying firm, also was instrumental in the appropriation.

The general location of Commercial Park, at the intersection of US Hwy 90 East and State Road 71 South, was named as the most needed and best site for an additional county fire/rescue station in a 2013 consultant’s study.  The consultants also recommended that the county possibly enact a fire assessment fee from property owners; commissioners rejected any additional fees to property owners but pursued the idea of the fire station, especially in 2015 when Pforte offered to supply the land at no cost to the county. 

The county commission has a couple of options in the building of the new fire station, according to plans completed in 2015 by Donofro Architects of Marianna.  Fire/Rescue Chief Scott Birge is urging the county to go with the three-bay deluxe version “to handle future growth in the area,” he said.  This would cost about $800,000 or more, according to Donofro. The deluxe version could include Fire/Rescue administrative office. A smaller two-bay facility might cost $600,000 or less.  Birge also is advocating the county build a west Jackson County station to the same specifications as the Commercial Park facility.  The county purchased a site last month near Jacob City for the #2 station that is to replace the current #2 station in Campbellton.  

A county commissioner told the TIMES on Monday that the $600,000 from the Legislature, due in July, could be used to build one of the stations alone, or that the county commission could decide to contribute the $600,000 or so it was planning on spending before the grant and build both stations at a total cost of $1.2 million—if not more. 

However, after the groundbreaking, interim county administrator Pam Pichard said the county has made a decision to go with the medium level fire station in Commercial Park.  It would be constructed for the $600,000 from the Legislature and consist of 5,500 to 6,000 square feet. Administrative offices would not be included; they will remain at the Panhandle Road complex. The new station will utilize one ambulance and one rescue/fire truck, Pichard said. The station to be constructed in west Jackson County would be built with separate funds that have not been yet determined, Pichard explained.


Chipola Quick Care 

groundbreaking set for June 22

Jackson Hospital will be holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the new $3 million Chipola Quick Care and Wound Healing Center on Wednesday, June 22 at 10 a.m., Public Relations Director Rosie Smith said Monday. The public is invited to attend, she added. The location is across US Hwy 90 from Hopkins Cars and the State Road 71 intersection.  This is almost directly across the street from the Commercial Park subdivision which is the site of the county’s new fire station.  

The building permit for the $3 million facility was issued by the county on April 7.  Part of the 9,000 square foot building will include a walk-in clinic for the treatment of non-emergency but urgent medical care and the other part will include a state-of-the-art wound healing clinic for the care of chronic wounds.  Hyperbaric chambers for the enhanced healing of chronic wounds will be included, according to future clinic Director Margaret Breland. The urgent care will provide patients with a less expensive alternative to the emergency room.

Breland explained in April that a hospital-commissioned study showed that 100,000 people live within a 30-mile radius of Marianna and the potential was there for “in excess of 4,165 wound care” or urgent care patients.  

The development of Marianna’s east side, specifically the Commercial Park area that is a few miles east of the city limits, is greatly enhanced by Hwy 90’s four lanes running through it as well as the very busy State Road 71 south intersection and corridor leading to the Wal-Mart Supercenter and Interstate 10.  Marianna’s west side also has four lanes on 90 and the Dothan cutoff, State Road 73 North.  But where the available west end frontage on 90 can be measured in feet, the east end footage can be measured in miles.  Ricky Miller of Rahal-Miller Chevrolet has announced plans to build a brand new Nissan dealership to replace the current facility in west end.  After the new Nissan building is constructed across 90 from the Eastside Baptist Church, Miller said he will expand the Chevrolet service area into the old Nissan building.  


Indian Springs sewer line project

All the growth on the east side calls for increased water and sewage services.  And they are coming as well, both to the Chipola Quick Care center and the Indian Springs subdivision located about a mile east of the Quick Care site. 

Jackson County has been selected as the recipient of a $1.4 million to $1.9 million grant from the Northwest Florida Water Management District and Alday-Howell Engineers of Marianna has been given the go ahead to advertise for bids for the construction of almost four miles of sewage lines and lift stations for the first 125 homes in the Indian Springs subdivision.  Melvin Engineering of Marianna has applied, on behalf of the county commission, for a $600,000 CDBG grant that would help with sewer, water and natural gas connections to the Chipola Quick Care clinic.  

When the “Phase 1” Indian Springs sewer line project is complete in 2018, as plans indicate, the county could be in line for another $2 million for “Phase 2.” Alday-Howell already has prepared the plans and estimates.  Phase 2 could make sewer lines available to the remaining 125 or 150 homes in the subdivision.  It’s estimated that Indian Springs, which has an 18-hole golf course but no potable water system or sewer lines, contains about 350 homes and about 500 residents.  The Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation are making funds available for the protection of the Jackson Blue Spring/Merritt’s Millpond, a First Magnitude Florida Springs designation. The state wants to help as many residents with homes along the Millpond abandon their septic tanks, which the state maintains adds to the nitrate and algae problems in the waters.

Veterans and First Responders honored at 3rd Annual CCC “Appreciation Day”

The addition of the Riverside Elementary Choir for the Chipola Civic Club’s 3rd Annual Appreciation event really brought out the crowd last Thursday (May 26). More than 100 turned out at Marianna’s Madison Park for the “Annual Veterans and First Responders Appreciation Day.”  Director Flora Davis led the 40-plus member choir through several songs including the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “I’m Proud to be an American” and a medley of patriotic songs and marches. 

“I want to welcome everyone to this pre-Memorial Day event,” CCC Secretary Rex Wimberly told the crowd. “We’re going to serve all you veterans after the musical program so keep your seats, and the Marianna Women’s Club will serve dessert.”

One of the highlights at noon Thursday was the recognition of six individual policemen or other law enforcement and fire/rescue personnel.  At the earlier request of the Civic Club, several different agencies each selected a first responder of the year, just for this event.  The winners each were given a plaque by Club member Ronnie Austin, the committee chairperson for the First Responder Awards.

Marianna Fire&Rescue chose Capt. Brent Carraway as First Responder of the Year.  Jackson County Fire&Rescue chose Capt. Josh Williams.  The Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) chose Keith Baber. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office chose Deputy Jessica Weathersby who was absent so Lt. Kevin Arnold accepted the award for her.  The Civic Club gave a special sixth award this year to Thomas Grice of Jackson County Fire&Rescue.  The Club gives the awards to active first responders, Austin explained, but at the request of JCF&R, retired Capt. Grice was recognized this year for his volunteer actions at the March 16 bus crashes in Grand Ridge. More than 70 students were transported to area hospitals that day after a semi-truck struck one bus from behind, causing that bus to slam into the rear of another.  As existing services were strained, volunteers like Grice helped save the day.

The event ended at 1 p.m. with an official and ceremonial American flag disposal.  “Our flag is now at rest,” said VFW Post #12046 President Wallace Wester as he and veteran Joe Jolly and Buffalo Soldier Leon Kelly assisted in the burning of the flag.  The Appreciation Day was organized three years ago as Chipola Civic Club members searched for a way to recognize veterans on Memorial Day week, Wimberly said. Two years ago, the recognition of first responders was added which coincides with National Law Enforcement Week. 

Agencies that had representatives at the event Thursday included the Veterans Health Administration.  Outreach Program Specialist Jesse Clark of Tallahassee explained that he specialized in “providing readjustment” assistance for veterans returning from war.   Funded through VA, his program was established in 1979, Clark said.

Some of the many military veterans who attended were Ken Anderson, who served two years active duty in the US Army and 28 years in the Reserves, and Vietnam Veteran Al Adcock.  Anderson explained that Marianna residents Charlie Brown and Jack Brown served with him in active duty. “I was in Munich, Germany, while Charlie Brown was at Dachau,” Anderson said.


When the Cold War got hot:

George Sweeney, USAF  

Helping the event go smoothly Thursday afternoon was CCC member and USAF veteran George Sweeney.  George took some time after the event to visit the TIMES offices and talk about his service.

Sweeney, now 75, served his country during the Cold War, joining the Air Force in 1959.  He was stationed in Puerto Rico during the Cuban Missile Crisis, often called the Missiles of October, 1962.  Cuba had downed one of the US spy planes that was taking photos of their Russian nuclear missiles and the world held its breath to see if the Russians would call President Kennedy’s hand and violate the Naval blockade.  

“The first time I realized I was not immortal was when I was in Puerto Rico,” Sweeney said. He was a jet engine mechanic and worked on the Strategic Air Command’s B52 bombers.  “They had placed all the bombers on alert.  They came to our barracks and put me on one of the ‘mobility crews.’  The job of the mobility crews was to fly to remote locations and repair, refit and rearm what was left of any damaged bombers after a nuclear strike.”  Indeed, as anyone over 60 who remembers the “Duck and Cover,” films knows, the US was preparing for not only a nuclear strike but a “nuclear exchange” with Russia.  

“We understood that ours may be a one-way trip,” Sweeney said.  “But it turned out that Russia didn’t call our bluff.  After a very tense showdown, the Russian ships headed to Cuba turned around and their nuclear missiles were removed from the Communist country.”  The public didn’t find out for decades, but as part of the deal, Kennedy had agreed to remove certain US nuclear missiles from Eastern Europe.

Sweeney was born and raised in Bainbridge, Ga. But by the time he had been discharged (in August 1963—three months before the Kennedy assassination), him mom Statira Rawls Sweeney, formerly of Sneads, had moved to Jackson County and become a public health nurse.  So George went to then-Chipola Jr. College and on to Florida State University for his degree in social science. He returned to Jackson County, became a state employee and married Marilyn Knouse in 1967.  They have one daughter, Jennifer Sweeney of Tallahassee. George eventually retired from the Department of Corrections and has been a member of the Chipola Civic Club for three years.

County commission gives $10,000 for towns’ Fourth of July celebrations

Thanks to the Jackson County Commission, the July 3rd City of Marianna’s fireworks show is paid for.  Commission staff presented Main Street Marianna’s Charlotte Brunner with a check Friday morning for $4,208, the city’s share of a $10,000 county commission appropriation for all 11 of Jackson County’s municipalities.  

The county’s generosity was prompted by the comments from Commissioner Willie Spires as the commission deliberated a request from Marianna for help with its annual Fourth of July fireworks display. Things got “complicated” quickly, Commissioner Chuck Lockey said and therefore, he cast the lone dissenting vote for the $10,000 donations, which passed 4-1.

On behalf of the City of Marianna, Brunner had sent out a letter to dozens of individuals and businesses several weeks ago asking for donations for the annual fireworks show, the biggest in Jackson County and the one that attracts most visitors to the county and downtown Marianna.  One of the letters was sent to the county commission, although Brunner had raised more than $5,000 and the city agreed May 3 to make up any difference required for a $11,000 show.  The city commission voted on May 3 to go with a medium level show and have it on Sunday night, July 3, to save money and usher in the Fourth of July holiday on its eve instead.

The county commission took up the city’s request at its Tuesday, May 24 meeting shortly after commissioners had turned down the city’s request, by City Manager Jim Dean, for a right of way permission that would have allowed the city to proceed with a $4 million Water Management District grant and extend sewer line services to homes on the west side of Merritt’s Millpond all the way north to the Blue Springs Recreation Area, lands that are outside the city limits and fall into the jurisdiction of the county commission. (See Jackson County TIMES May 26 issue).

The $10,000 fund is to be given to municipalities for the Fourth of July celebrations only and based on their respective populations.  Since Marianna has a population of about 9,000, the greatest share was allocated to the county seat--$4,208.  The city with the next highest population is Graceville with 2,236, according to the 2013 Census, followed by Sneads with 1,790.  The remaining municipalities have less than 1,000 residents.  Grand Ridge and Cottondale have about 900, followed by Greenwood with 675, Malone with 628, Alford with 500, then Campbellton and Jacob City which each have about 250 and lastly, Bascom with 124.  

Towns that don’t have fireworks displays, Spires explained, may use the money for other celebrations or as “seed money” for the future. Here is the way the money was given out by the county commission to the municipalities:  Alford, $349; Bascom, $86; Campbellton, $157; Cottondale, $627; Graceville, $1,529; Grand Ridge, $638; Greenwood, $468; Jacob City, $175; Malone, $435; Marianna, and Sneads, $1,328.

New courses include daytime law enforcement classes Police/fire/corrections programs expanding at Chipola College

When it comes to the public services instruction center at Chipola College, it’s “those that do—teach.”  New Director of Public Service Jamie McAllister, new firefighter coordinator Phil Oxendine and Steven Stewart, the law enforcement coordinator since 2012, bring decades of practical, hands on experience in their fields.  All three only gradually became involved in education after training recruits at their respective police and fire departments. 

The public service programs at Chipola are growing in leaps and bounds.  Some 50 adjunct (part time) teachers train up to 250 law enforcement officers from out of state annually who would like to be certified in Florida. About 75 law enforcement and corrections trainees each year receive their required 770 hours in law enforcement, 420 hours in corrections or 397 hours in firefighting courses.

Law enforcement officers from all over the United States come to Chipola for their Florida certification, Stewart said in an interview on campus Tuesday morning.  Chipola is at the top in Florida for the volume of what’s called EOT, equivalency of training. “We will be offering the first daytime law enforcement academy classes in eight years, beginning July 11 and ending in December,” McAllister said Tuesday morning. Night classes, which most students attend due to the work schedules of the instructors and themselves, resume on July 25.  

McAllister came in as Director of Public Service on April 15 after the retirement of Steven Anderson, who had been director for three years.  Like Stewart and Oxendine, he was motivated for public service “by a need to help someone,” he explained Tuesday morning.  After getting a degree from UWF on the Chipola campus in 2006, the 1994 Marianna High School Class member worked as a LEO for the Department of Transportation and was there when his department merged with the Florida Highway Patrol—all DOT officers are now FHP troopers.  McAllister became a corrections officer back in 1996, so his experience combined helped with his successful application to become an adjunct instructor at Chipola in 2011 and later go fulltime as corrections coordinator in July 2013.  He is married to Leah McAllister who is a former officer with the Marianna Police Department and current part time officer with the Cottondale Police Department.  She was with MPD when they were married in 1996, Jamie said.  

Both McAllister and Stewart maintain their certification and are reserve deputies with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.  Stewart reports that the law enforcement program at Chipola has a “100 percent” pass rate on state board examinations. “We’ve made real advances in the last four years,” he explained. “We have revitalized the programs.  I supported Jamie in his selection as director as he has helped make that happen.  Why look outside when you have someone already here?  He also received the administrative support of President Jason Hurst, who himself was once a police officer in Alabama.” Steven, the son of Steve and the late Sandra Odom Stewart, started with the Marianna Police Department soon after graduating from Marianna High School in 1989 and later worked for the Leon County and Jackson County sheriff’s departments.  His interest in teaching began after he became a field training officer with JCSO.

“You start seeing you can make a difference in young people’s lives,” Stewart explained.  “When they really see what you are trying to teach them, that’s when that light comes on and you know you have made a difference—that’s when you’ve done your job. You also see them make the decision to put aside their desires to hang out or party like they did in the past.” After getting an AS degree, he started teaching in 2009, becoming the law enforcement coordinator at Chipola in 2012.

Oxendine agreed that the light comes on for students when they learn something.  “You start to see them taking it more seriously,” he said. The next firefighting classes, firefighting 1 & 2, begin on Aug. 22 and end on Nov. 9, Phil said.  Phil is from Jacksonville where he graduated high school in 1971 and says that yes, he remembers the basketball coach named Leonard Skinner, the namesake of the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.  He actually was more of a laid back Eagles fan, however, but not too laid back to join the Lake Worth Fire Department in 1978.  He retired in 2005 but it was when he started working again as a field training officer that he got the teaching bug.  The position was vacant for a short while but Oxendine’s application was chosen and he started at Chipola two weeks ago, he explained. 

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