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Concerned Citizens of
Franklin County, Inc.
PO Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida32328
(850) 653-5571
info@ABetterFranklin.com

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Let’s start off with an act of love I observed that typifies many of my experiences throughout the county. Last Thursday I had a meeting that took me through Apalachicola around dinnertime. I stopped at the Burger King for a “healthy” meal. I witnessed an elderly man that appeared to be memory challenged come in and order some food. An individual that I believe was the Manager gently told the man he’d been there just an hour before and had purchased food and had also been there even earlier in the day purchasing food at that time as well. The Manger kindly said “Mr. X you were in here just an hour ago and I don’t think you have any more money to buy some more. The gentleman still desired to eat and had a dollar or two and I saw the Manager use her own money to help the man pay for his meal. This is not the first time I’ve seen grace in Franklin County and it won’t be the last time I expect either. Thank you Madame, whoever you are for just being yourself. I know there are many more just like you. 

A not-so-loving attack which was made by the Clerk against the fact-finding veracity of the CCFC and myself and was published in a recent Apalachicola Times Newspaper Letter to the Editor. We have the facts behind all our charges and have put the proof of some our public information on our website at http://abetterfranklin.com/index.php/franklin-facts. You can see for yourself that Franklin County is number three in the State for per capita taxes. We are NOT among the lowest in the nation as the clerk misstated. Our accurate information is provided by the Florida Association of Counties itself and is the most recent available on their public website

All the public statements the CCFC made in reference to Ms. Brown are derived from conversations with and witness statements by Willie Meggs, State Attorney or his office. All of our allegations pertaining to the Clerk’s Office and our push for a State Operational Audit stem from these public documents. It is these statements, taken under oath or in one case as a personal written statement by a Judge that the CCFC relied upon and no personal innuendo should be construed. 

Information for your action and ours: this Tuesday (August 18) at the Courthouse Annex at 1:30 a public workshop will be held with the Franklin County Commission and the Hospital Board. The discussion will center on Weems Hospital and the proposed construction program. After careful review of the hospital’s own budget and fiscal findings, this potential construction and forthcoming costs are of great fiscal concern to the CCFC.

While county-wide health care is of vital importance to any potential economic development, as well as to those who need immediate quality medical services, we believe there are viable and successful alternatives to this unnecessary construction plan. 

We plan to be in attendance at this important presentation and hope you consider coming as well. 

The CCFC believes there are hundreds of Mobile Homes owned by and lived in by their property owners which according to Florida Department of Revenue regulations must be assessed and taxed as real property and are not on the tax rolls. We have been working with the Property Appraiser for months on this issue at the request of other citizens who made us aware of this practice and provided documentation to support their claim. Frankly, the PA has not responded to written requests we have made, claiming time constraints or simply not addressing the specific issues in our letter. We will put the past letter and the current Open Records Act request on our website for you to view yourself. Legal action to force the issue may ultimately be necessary. The net effect of not assessing property is easy to understand. Franklin County has an understated tax digest which forces the millage rate for the County and School District to be higher than it otherwise needs to be. People who play by the rules pay more and those that don’t pay less. At least one currently elected official has not declared their Mobile Home for more than 10 years.

The CCFC has also submitted an Open Records Request to the School System to better understand the strain on the system due to declining enrollment and low graduation rates. The CCFC only recently submitted the Open Records Request to the School System and we expect a full and complete answer shortly. We will report back to you after we receive the requested information and analyze it. 

Good news from the Franklin County Commission. At the Budget Workshop which I and several CCFC members attended, the Commission set the millage rate for the next fiscal year at the rollback rate. This means that the County will take in no more ad valorem money than they took in the current year. There are two Budget Adoption Hearings in September that could ostensibly lower the millage rate further, but I don’t expect that to happen. Frankly, it was a bit harder to get information from the county in advance this year and I do have some concerns that we were sandbagged and that there was more money available than needed which could and should have resulted in an actual tax cut. We are not finished with this yet. We appreciate everyone’s support who came out and sat with us or spoke to the Commission at the workshop.

Thank you for continuing support as the CCFC attempts to bring greater transparency, fiscal responsibility and accountability on behalf of Franklin County officials and voters. 

Sincerely,


Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
AllanF@DEC-International.com

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I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July. We’ve been busy behind the scenes keeping up and influencing issues that affect your wallet and continuing to represent your interests with public officials. Here’s a summary of what’s going on this month:

1.    July 16th Town Hall Meeting at the Eastpoint Firehouse—our topic for the evening will be Eastpoint Water and Sewer. Meeting starts at 6:30.

2.    July 23rd Franklin County Budget Workshop at the Courthouse Annex. Workshop begins at 9:00

3.    Weems Hospital Renovation/New Construction

4.    Continued efforts to have the Clerk of Court’s Office undergo an external Operational Audit

Several individuals are concerned that Eastpoint Water and Sewer District has become unresponsive to the needs of its users. The CCFC was contacted to facilitate a meeting to help EPWSD users to develop a plan to address their local concerns. The CCFC has not expressed an opinion on the issues and will only function as a facilitator for those wishing to move forward in an organized and cohesive manner. Everyone is invited to participate.

This year’s tax digest is flat once again. Unfortunately, the Board of County Commissioners left the door open for County Departments and Constitutional Officers to ask for increased funding over last year. The Department of Health is asking for an additional $210,000 alone. With flat valuations on properties anticipated in the county, there will be a push to increase the millage rate yet again. Anyone interested in helping the CCFC on Thursday the 23rd is invited to contact the undersigned. There is strength in numbers…believe it!

The USDA approved an approximate $10 million loan for Weems Hospital. The BOCC has approved the loan documents but is under no obligation to move forward and in fact, voted at the last BOCC meeting not to spend additional funds on the new hospital until after a workshop is undertaken to better understand the process, facts and issues associated with moving forward. Let me make this crystal clear for CCFC members; management of the Weems Hospital System, including the Hospital Board is the best since we began following the ongoing problems and issues. Our problem is that we believe that given the lack of profitability of Weems, its heavy reliance on local and ever declining federal dollars to keep the doors open and with a small population to draw from, that Weems Hospital as currently configured and planned is not economically viable and will continue to be a significant drain on the community while providing an ever smaller percentage of care within the community. This is the discussion that has never been held.

This Tuesday, July 7th the BOCC will receive its annual audited financial statement. The CCFC believes that due to issues related to internal controls within the Clerk’s Office that the release of the audit was extensively delayed. The CCFC believes that the audit will not replace the need for an independent outside operational audit to address multiple issues including missing funds, failure of internal controls and other issues that do not lend confidence to the ongoing fair, open and transparent operation of the Clerk’s Office. The CCFC has reason to believe there are other issues beyond the theft by the Clerk’s niece of in excess of $225,000 (and perhaps as much as $325,000) that scream for an independent set of eyes, that at this time, the Clerk has refused. I hope you will attend Tuesday’s BOCC meeting if at all possible so you can witness what happens when and if this issue comes up. It is worth noting that the Clerk has not attended a BOCC meeting since February.

It always seems that there is drama in Franklin County. Let me say that Franklin County has so very much to recommend it. We may be no more corrupt or inefficient at times than other counties. However, Franklin County is our county and we focus on what we see and know about. The very fact that we are so small has led to a system rife with nepotism and self-interested relationships. Please stand with us as we protect your wallet and best interests for open, affordable, efficient and responsive county government in one of the highest taxing counties in the State.

Sincerely,

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
AllanF@DEC-International.com

ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

“The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. serves as a citizens’ advocate to ensure that our Franklin County governments are more open, affordable, efficient, and responsive to our citizens. The organization seeks to hold public officials accountable for their actions in the administration of their duties and in their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

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