Sid Riley

Sid Riley

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Fire Protection Tax Moves Closer to Implementation in Marianna

At Monday’s special meeting of the Marianna City Commission, the implementation of a new revenue generating “Fire Assessment Fee” for city residents moved a step closer to becoming a required expenditure for Marianna’s citizens and businesses. The measure is being installed in order to enable the City to increase the wages of city firemen and policemen. The budget for fire department wages and operations is anticipated to grow to $1.2 million within a few years. The increase is justified by the commissioners as being necessary in order to remain competitive with the wages of the County firemen, who recently enjoyed a large pay increase.

This new fee will initially offset 25% of this cost to the city. It will be increased in coming years. At this meeting the Commission passed a resolution which authorizes the city to levy such a charge. The panel also passed a second resolution which set the initial rate schedule. A public hearing on this matter must be held prior to final implementation. Concerned residents should watch for notices regarding scheduling of this rate table.

For residences the fee will initially be $4.00 per month, ($48 /yr). This will be increased by $2 per year until the rate reaches $10.00 per home, ($120 / yr.) For business facilities the fee will be based on a square footage basis, and will be approximately four times the residential rates.

It should be noted that the County is also in the process of adding these fees for county residences and businesses. Also, it should be remembered that Florida Public Utilities will implement a 8% rate increase in January, 2015. All of these new living costs create the greatest burden on the elderly and those in poverty, who do not realize income increases when their costs are increased.

County Commission Nixes Fire Assessment Fee

At Tuesday evening’s meeting of the County Commission the Board failed to pass the proposed ordinance that would have established fire assessment fees for county residences and businesses. In the public hearing that preceded the vote, they heard opinions against the passage of the fee, which would have the same impact as an additional ad valorem burden for property owners. They were reminded that this is an economically depressed area, and all tax assessments increase hardships for many. The proposed fee schedule would begin at $50 per year for each residence, and increase to $120 per year. This new revenue source would have generated approximately $688,000 in revenues for the County.

After the hearing , Commissioner Stephens made a motion to enact the ordinance and thus install the fees. The motion died for lack of a second. The county thus refused to follow the action taken on Monday evening by the Marianna City Commission. The panel members thus honored previous commitments to not raise property taxes.

Chipola Overlook Bridge Cancelled

On Monday Marianna City Manager, Jim Dean, announced the cancellation of the planned “Overlook Platform” which was to be built as part of the new “Gateway” funding for the new park, picnic area, and canoe launching ramp on the West bank of the Chipola River, just south of the Highway 90 bridge. If visitors want to get a good look at the river they will now have to view the area from the Highway 90 bridge, or rent a boat.

The somewhat controversial bridge design was added to the park plans developed by Melvin Engineering at the onset of the grant submission process. Some felt that the uniquely designed platform would attract tourist attention to the river and the overlook. They felt it might become a symbol for the “Gateway” system.

Others, who were against the extra $100,000 expenditure for the overlook felt it was an unjustified, extravagant expenditure. Some called it “The Bridge to Nowhere”. Those “naysayers” won this argument.

Dean stated that the Department of Transportation, which is the funding agency for the park, denied the inclusion of the overlook platform. They stated that their program was for beautification and public parks in gateway areas, and did not include structures such as the bridge-like platform.

Dean states that they will now proceed with building an attractive, functional, park with a parking area, picnic area, landscaped lawn, and canoe launch ramp. “It will give local residents another park for their enjoyment, and will transform an area at the bridge which has been an eyesore for many years,” Dean remarked. “We look forward to its speedy conclusion.”

Welcome To Marianna, Elks Club

At Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Marianna City Commission, one of the most anticipated agenda items was the second reading and the vote on the ordinance to annex the Elks Club property into the City of Marianna. This measure involved several considerations.

First, it was the first occasion of the City annexing property on Highway 90, east of the Chipola River. There had previously been an unwritten rule that the City avoided crossing the river as it expands its limits. One of the main reasons for this reluctance was a fear of harming relationships with the County Commission by changing jurisdiction and taxation of these lands.

The second issue was the fact that the future of the ELKS club might depend on passage of the annexation. This step will enable the private club to obtain a beer and wine license, and will enable the club to possibly hook up to the City sewage, water, and gas systems.

In an earlier meeting before the County Commission the Elks Club had attempted to have the Commissioners approve modification of the 2500 foot separation ordinance which exists throughout the county. Some feel this large separation requirement is extreme, and is making commercial frontage property in high usage areas more difficult to sell or lease.

Many of these concerns were abated when Dr. Will Daniels, Pastor of the Deliverance Baptist Church and leader of the Chipola Baptist Association spoke to the large crowd present because of their involvement in this issue. “I want to announce to everyone that I and the membership of Deliverance Baptist Church do not want to restrict any commercial activities, or interfere in the activities of the Elks Club, so we are formally withdrawing all opposition to the Elks Club being annexed into the City and continuing to function in our community”. His statement was greeted by applause from much of the assembled attendees.

With this opposition removed, the City Commissioners felt free to proceed with voting positively on the ordinance. The Elks Club, BPOE 1516 is now part of the City of Marianna.

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