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County: Open for business

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

The Levy County Commission has a message for citizens: “We are Open for Business.”

During it’s 35-minute meeting Tuesday morning the three commissioners left no question that the county will continue normal operations despite the suspensions of two county commissioners facing federal trials on bribery charges.

“We do have a quorum and the people’s business will be conducted as it has always been,” said Commissioner Nancy Bell of Chiefland, who moved up from vice chair to chair of the commission.

To her left were the two empty chairs once occupied by Chairman Sammy Yearty and Tony Parker. Both were indicted on Oct. 20 by a federal grand jury on charges of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. In addition, Yearty was also charged with making false statements.

The first order of business was the swearing in of Commissioner Danny Stevens, who easily won re-election on Nov. 4.

County Judge Joseph E. Smith, who wore a garnet colored tie, joked that he wished Stevens, who had on a Florida Gators blue shirt, had instead worn a garnet shirt for the occasion.

Immediately after Stevens was elected vice chairman for the remainder of the year.

The three commissioners, including Lillie Rooks of Cedar Key, got down to work approving an application for a federal grant for the sheriff’s office.

The grant from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would provide $2,793 to purchase four mobile data software packages that would allow patrol deputies to run records checks on laptops outfitted with wireless cards in the patrol car rather than having to go through dispatchers.

The application notes the county has had a rapid rise in population, which has doubled radio traffic, and budget constraints are limiting the number of dispatchers the sheriff’s office can hire.

The software will help cut down on the radio traffic to dispatchers, the application notes.

In other business, the commission approved:

• Two interlocal agreements with the Levy County School Board, the city of Fanning Springs, and Gilchrist County allowing the collection of impact fees for the educational system, emergency medical services, parks and recreation, and roads by Gilchrist County and paid to Levy. County.

• Applying for a Community Libraries in Caring grant for $6,000 to purchase computers for the Bronson Public Library.

• Two contracts with County Probation Services, Inc., to provide probation services for misdemeanor offenses for five years and to collect jail and other fees from criminal defendants. The second contract allows CPSI to tack on up to a 40 percent fee on the fees owed under state law, however, County Attorney Anne Bast Brown said CPSI does not collect that full amount instead earning its costs from interest on the fees.

Clerk of Court Danny Shipp, who has a similar contract with CPSI for collection of fees, noted, “She’s (CPSI owner M. Jann Underwood) entitled to 40 percent.”

“There’s quite a bit of dollars out there to be collected,” Shipp said. “If someone’s incarcerated the fee is $50 a day.”

The money collected for the judgments goes into the general fund, with some of the jail fund money going to the sheriff’s office and the clerk’s fees going to the state.

“We aren’t paying her a dime,” Shipp said.

He told Bell the money collected above what was owed to the county and state funded CSPI.

On the commission’s agenda is:

A workshop on county water utilities at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 8 after the regular commission meeting at 9 a.m.

Legislative Day where state legislative and congressional staffers will receive requests is at 2:30 December 12.

A hearing at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 16 on the State Department of Community Affairs Evaluation and Appraisal Report, including its objections, recommendations and comments, on the Levy County Comprehensive Plan. The hearing follows a regular commission meeting at 9 a.m.