Commission OKs grants

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

City commissioners approved moving forward with several grants at Monday night’s regular meeting.
The first grant up for discussion, approved unanimously,   was a matching grant from the Florida League of Cities for about $1,900 to help fence the perimeter of the Delma Locke Skate Park. The city will have to match the money offered by FLC, though City Manager Grady Hartzog said some of the money the city contributes will come in the form of in-kind payment, such as the value of city employees installing the fence.
Vice-Mayor Teresa Barron said, “I don’t like the idea of lockin’ it up.” But, she added, it may be necessary to deter the criminal element that has, on occasion, been a problem at the park.
Barron said the park will not be locked up at night, but explained that the fence, with only one entrance, will help “corral” would-be lawbreakers when law enforcement periodically shows up.
“Now, they just kind of scatter,” she said.
Mayor Teal Pomeroy asked Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas if he thought the fence would help with the situation. Douglas said it would.
Commissioners also agreed unanimously to accept another matching grant from FLC for about $1,000 to purchase LED lights for the sides of nine CPD vehicles.
Chiefland Police Lt. Al Graves told commissioners the lights were important for safety reasons.
“Right now, our vehicles have limited visibility from the side,” he said.
Barron asked where the $1,000 match from the city would come from. Douglas said the money would come out of the police department’s budget.
Furthermore, Chiefland Fire Rescue will be getting a new aluminum bed for the department’s brush truck thanks to a grant for $4,680 from the Florida Division of Forestry. Like the other grants, the city will have to match the money to pay for the $9,360 bed. Commissioners Voted 4-1 in favor of accepting the grant. Commissioner Frank Buie voted against it.
Harris said the bed is necessary to meet new weight requirements set by the Florida Department of Transportation. The brush truck’s current bed is about 300 pounds too heavy. Plus, Harris added, the new bed is safer and will be less of a liability in case of an accident. The commission is weighing several options for disposing of the old bed.
Commissioner Rollin Hudson asked how old the brush truck was. City Financial Coordinator Laurie Copeland said it was a 2005 model. Harris said it only has about 15,000 miles on it.
“I don’t want to be making any mistakes about buying equipment every five years,” Hudson said. He said he didn’t like the idea of “spending $4,600 on something that new.”
In other matters:
• Commissioners OK'd Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas getting estimates  on construction of  a new records storage building after Douglas said  he had secured an additional $10,000 from the Friends of the Chiefland Police Department for the project.
The issue of a new building was brought before the commission at an earlier meeting. Douglas, with a then-budget of about $17,000, presented them with plans for a metal storage facility located next to the police department. Commissioners tabled a decision out of concern the funds would be needed to offset the cost of the Levy County Sheriff’s Office’s new dispatch system
Mayor Teal Pomeroy did express interest in having a new building made out of concrete block, rather than metal. Douglas, at Monday’s meeting, said the extra $10,000 would now be enough to construct the 30-by-30-foot building out of block.
“It should be somewhere in the neighborhood of about $20,000,” Douglas said.

• Commission agreed that 10 city employees, commissioners included, would fork over $30 a piece to pay for a $300 sponsorship fee for the Levy County Schools Foundation’s annual bike ride.
School Board member Paige Brookins, a local business owner and representative of the foundation, said, “The money that we do raise … this is really for real hands-on special needs.” It will help pay for field trips, books and other educational tools that teachers need in their classrooms, she explained.
“I really want to help our schools. It really means a lot.”
    Brookins said the bike ride will be Saturday, April 16, 8–10 a.m. along the Nature Coast Trail. The entry fee is $25. Children of a parent that participates ride for free. There will be rest stops along the way, T-shirts, goodie bags and a lunch at the end of the event. For more information visit www.levyschoolsfoundation.org , call 352-486-3408, or email lcsf@levy.k12.fl.us.  

• Firefighter Gene Stockman, referring to a recent editorial in the Chiefland Citizen, told the commission he supports their recent 4-1 decision to give Fire Chief James Harris a $9,000 raise.
“I appreciate the fact that the commission felt the chief needed the raise,” Stockman said.                                         
The commission, out of budgetary concerns, voted unanimously last year to freeze pay raises for city employees.
The Citizen editorial did not object to the pay raise, instead citing that the commission took the action after it adjourned a special meeting and a regular meeting before discussing and approving the raise. The editorial said commissioners should take the vote again in a properly noticed public meeting.
Mayor Teal Pomeroy said, “I don’t think we should let the newspaper dictate what the commission does.” He said he did not appreciate comments from the public, who read the editorial, suggesting the commission had acted in an inappropriate manner.  He said it was clear they would meet after the regular meeting, but he did not say how it was made clear. Pomeroy said it’s not the commission’s responsibility to make sure reporters know the commission’s schedule.