Water—The Coming Fight and the Mouse

on Thursday, 05 May 2022.

Dear Readers:

Last month, the Florida Legislature did something remarkable. It punished ostensibly family-friendly Disney for its stridently Woke policies This is not a straightforward issue either. My wife and I just got back from a trip to Mouse Land. We saw some of the issues that could cause rancor with many conservative Franklin County residents. The word “Diversity” slipped out in way too many attractions. Yes, we heard the term “birthing parents” used at one attraction at the park, the flying of Gay Flags, and climate change predictions that would scare any 4-year-old to his/her core. This is not the main story today though. It’s the aftermath of the Governor and then the Legislature’s actions that have swept up Eastpoint Water and Sewer into controversy. Five other taxing districts are also set to expire along with Disney’s Reedy Creek District. Let’s talk about Eastpoint Water and Sewer District for a moment (EPWS).

Right off the bat, I want to state that I have not studied EPWS for several years. I have read their current year budget which seems to comport with past budgets and financial statements I’ve read in the past. With the information I have at the moment; EPWS is financially shaky. Its stated financial reserve is $1,000. Meaning that if everything goes perfectly, they can pay their bills and break even. If not....? Let’s compare that to the much smaller Alligator Point Water Resource District with a reserve of over $1.3 million, or Carrabelle Water and Sewer with more than $2 million. Think there might be problems?

Now, here’s the real issue. The county has had a hankering for at least the last 10 years to create a regional water and sewer authority to replace all the existing agencies and even privately held Water Management Services on SGI that provides water to the Island. The attempt to appoint a Water Czar previously was not successful mostly due to a lack of consensus by the BOCC and many detractors. However, among the several possibilities for a threatened EPWS is a plan, now just in the consideration stage of resurrecting that old plan and ultimately replacing the existing providers.

What are the pros and cons? To the good, centralized policies, billing, pricing, and perhaps universal access could be good things. To the bad, a loss of local control and accountability that exists at present, higher cost of service would be likely, and the big one...this could lead to universal sewer. Environmentalists love universal sewer as protection for our beaches. Developers love sewers to justify housing densification to achieve greater profits. Now let me share another scary topic.

At the final meeting of the County Commission in April, there was a discussion by the Commission to change the current land use policy of 1 house per acre on land which is not presently platted for higher densities. The discussion also included allowing a reduction in the size of houses from the current county minimum of 1,000 sq ft to 750 sq ft; ostensibly to allow for so-called ‘affordable’ homes. As a former builder, I can state with reasonable assurance that the cost difference for dropping 250 sq ft, all other things being equal, i.e., number of bedrooms and baths being the same, would be about $6,250 +- When wrapped up into a mortgage, that changes the cost to the borrower about $40 a month. Not a material change to my mind for a significant loss of privacy and resale value.

Well, what about the land, you might ask? High-Density lots generally cost more per sq ft of land area due to it what it takes to increase density. Additional costs like sewer tap fees, fences, additional engineering and approvals, and other development costs all add up. The net effect is that lower-cost sewer-served rural land like we have here does not materially reduce delivered home costs.

So, who wins and who loses with smaller houses and higher densities? The Developer does. There is a direct link between denser land development and the cost to develop a project. Over the long-term, sewer and public policy will inevitably create smaller lots with maxed-out home sizes if this change comes to pass. So, the problem of affordability is not fixed while we could lose that special place that Franklin County is.

The availability of sewer on Alligator Point and St George Island will result in long-term harm. Here on Alligator Point, there was a proposal for one new development to put in an oversized AWWT (Advanced Waste Water Treatment) sewer plant that could allow for the “hooking on” of area properties. Some of these property owners even jumped the gun, asking for variances to allow them to split their lots ahead of any official zoning change. This action disclosed a picture of the future, allowing for a head’s up of what was to come if sewer became available. That AWWT project thankfully never came to fruition.

Politicians love crises. It gives them the ability to do things that ordinarily they’d never be able to do. With the above two crises on the table, we predict that Franklin County may find it too irresistible not to reach for the golden ring. How the perception of largely good but unschooled (in city planning and urban development) Commissioners might think this is a good thing for Franklin County is understandable. While in reality, this is how places like Panama City, and Destin got off the ground. Sewer extension is the enemy, especially for barrier islands. For Franklin County as a whole, it will be the death of childhood memories and a major change to the current draw that brings so many people here who seek a glimpse of Old Florida that still lives on as the “Forgotten Coast” like nowhere else in Florida.

It's your turn! I’d love to hear your opinion.

If you have any questions or concerns, or we can help you in any way in pursuit of our established goals, please reach out to us! And please help support the CCFC as it continues the battle for a better, more representative, and transparent government. Donations, which are not tax-deductible, may be sent to the address below.

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

Please feel free to redistribute this email to your friends!

To a Better Franklin County

on Friday, 01 April 2022.

Dear Readers:

I want to tell you a tale today of why you must continue to be suspicious of government. This is true, be it Franklin County, our School System, State or Federal government. I know I am not alone in this thinking. The demands for ever more money will almost always outstrip any increase in your income. The first part of today’s message is some history. Then I’ll get more specific.

The US government spends money it does not have like a drunken sailor on its first liberty in six months. Whether hearing numbers expressed in the millions, billions or trillions, the numbers are too large for most of us to comprehend. Large numbers of people tune out as they can’t understand those incredibly large numbers continually being thrown around. The problem is it's just not our national government, but every level of government is spending money beyond their means. This runs the gamut from inflated county budgets to over-the-top state budgets, to finally, the United States budget itself. This later, is no longer a budget at all, just a make-believe set of numbers that is supposed to comfort us that somewhere, somehow, the green-eyeshade people are keeping the numbers in check and balancing the budget.

No such luck.

The problem we are confronting is that government runs its own Ponzi scheme. Al Capone would see through the scam right away. He’d see the various transfer of monies from the Mob (US Government) to Judges, Police Departments, and Politicians (state and local governments) as nothing more than the price of doing business to achieve a certain level of protection through association. It wasn’t always this way. Something happened along the way that made all of this sleight-of-hand possible.

I believe it was four things:

  • The absence of term limits
  • The 17th Amendment
  • Federal Revenue Sharing
  • The lack of a Balanced Budget Amendment

I go into much more detail on the above in my weekly blogs at www.1plus1equals2.com if you are interested. But, back to Franklin County.

Like many things in life, there are governing principles that help you understand the how and why of all the moving pieces that at first are just baffling. But, if it is, understand that government exists principally for those who have jobs and political positions within those entities and that the term ‘Public Servant’ largely no longer applies, then things start to make sense. It must be said that many people working in Franklin County government want to believe they are real Public Servants and work hard in their vital roles. But they are sucked up, like so much dust in a whirlwind into a system that promotes internal loyalty to each other –even more than to their constituents- and onto a path that can lead to higher levels of comfort and security, not available to the majority of the citizens who live here.

Strong words. Let me put some meat on the bone so you can decide if my assertions are nothing more than hyperbole:

  1. Weems Hospital. The definition of a hospital is:

    • “An institution which is managed, staffed and equipped for providing healthcare services, including inpatient care, surgery, emergent, and urgent care, and has facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of disease.”

    • Weems provides basic emergency services utilizing a contracted Emergency Medical company that also acts on occasion as the hospitalist. Most of these Doctors, if not all are just General Practitioners, not Emergency Medical specialists. Weems performs no regular surgery, has no specialists like a Radiologist on staff or providers for any other services expected at real hospitals. Weems loses millions of operating dollars a year and depends on sales tax money and many, many undependable grants to fill in their extensive financial gaps, while still providing only minimal services to patients. That economic fact that has not changed in the past year is that high-priced Alliant consulting has been involved. We believe your chances of dying at Weems under many life- threatening scenarios are much greater than at other full-service hospitals.

    • Why does it exist then? Weems averages less than one inpatient per day, by their own statistics. The facility has become a very expensive county jobs program for well over a hundred people. Commissioners have traded a jobs program vs. better healthcare and positive outcomes in Franklin County. Don’t let them fool you on that point and the even bigger lie that a long-promised new hospital will turn anything around. That will just cost more.

  2. County Pay

    • The average county employee received a 10-20 percent raise this year on average with built-in increases coming next year and the year after to reach “parity” with other similar counties. At least that’s the story. Franklin County employees, especially Constitutionals are in some cases, overstaffed and overpaid for the number of hours worked and the benefits packages they receive. Plus, for many, their jobs are essentially lifetime employment.

    • It’s great if you can get it, but what have we done? Everyone can’t work for the county or the similarly highly paid failing school system. The average pay of a County employee is well over $40,000 a year, plus a benefits package equal to another $10-$15 thousand a year on top of that. In a supposedly poor county

  3. Transparency:

    • This is the drum that the CCFC bangs loudly and continually. Three of our Commissioners strongly frustrate Open Government. Frankly, I believe they should call their Public Engagement Policy the ‘Allan Feifer Disengagement Policy’ instead since it was designed to effectively silence appropriate public discourse. The county commission often pursues anti-constituent policies and decisions that don’t make sense or may even have a whiff of corruption. Yet now, hardly anyone speaks at county commission meetings. Compare and contrast that to Gulf and Wakulla counties that frequently have 10-20 speakers during their Public Comments section of a meeting vs. the typical 0-3 at ours. This Franklin County's Public Engagement policy stinks and all of us are losing out when the county conducts business with minimal citizen input or oversight. It is evident that the Florida Attorney General’s policy on public access is not being followed here, at least in spirit.

    • “Every meeting of any board, commission, agency or authority of a municipality should be a marketplace of ideas, so that the governmental agency may have sufficient input from the citizens who are going to be affected by the subsequent action of the municipality.” 10-910_JurisIni_ada PDF

I could go on, but space does not allow it. The Franklin County budget now stands at over $77 million a year. Franklin County's finances are no longer quite so poor and stretched thin as it once was. And yet, Poverty in Franklin County is on display for all to see. Just drive a street or two off of 98 and prepare to be shocked if you haven’t already.

I have been head of this Association for more than 20 years. There have been real improvements in some policies thanks to a couple of good hires recently. What has not changed is that our county is still run inefficiently, with too strong a dependence on the personalities of sitting Commissioners and Constitutional Officers who run their own fiefdoms instead of doing what is right for all county citizens and taxpayers.

A firm example; with all the rhetoric commissioners spout about Alligator Point being such a drain on the county, would you believe that the reality is the county has not paved a single road with organic county gas tax money in over 45 years? Similar problems exist on St. George Island and other less politically powerful, but high taxpaying areas of the county. SGI, Alligator Point, and a couple of other areas where “outsiders” sometimes live, provide the vast majority of tax revenues to Franklin county. Isn’t it time that the county willingly spends some of the incoming Ad Valorem money in A manner fairer to taxpayers?

I often state we get the government we deserve. I hope you will take the time to become more involved. Support good government and good candidates. From Franklin County to the world at large, the evidence of our disengagement stares us in the face.

We must do better!

If you have any questions, concerns, or we can help you in any way, please reach out to us! And please help support the CCFC as it continues the battle for a better, more representative, and transparent government

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

Please feel free to redistribute this email to your friends!

Government is a Necessary Evil

on Saturday, 29 January 2022.

Dear Readers:

Both Franklin County Board of Commissioners and the Franklin County School Board ostensibly function for the good of the people. Government, in general, is a necessary evil; good government is a blessing. Like most things in life, there’s good and bad in Franklin county’s two government agencies. Perfect, they are not. Bureaucratic, they are. All government agencies inevitably prioritize their own self-interest vs. their stated purpose of being public servants. It happens here, in Tallahassee and Washington. Every government entity has conflicts aligned along three opposing axes:

  1. Leadership—how good or how bad?
  2. Organizational Challenges—every government agency eventually starts to think it exists for their own needs and desires
  3. The needs of the people—are their needs being met and do they trust the government they have?

Working in government is very much like working in a for-profit company, except they’re not the same. Government employees don’t get laid off, don’t necessarily have to be as productive to keep their positions, and frequently make more than the people they serve measured in pay and benefits. That’s just a fact of life; get over it if you think differently. This takes nothing away from some really great people I’ve met working for the County and the School District.

I’ve been stirred up over the dialysis clinic issue that’s recently been discussed by the Commission. I’ll share with you an edited Letter to the Editor that I wrote for the Apalachicola Times and then share some additional thoughts with you


End-Stage Renal Disease. Sounds bad, and it is. More than a dozen Franklin County residents (at least 8 of them who are indigent) suffer the effects of requiring thrice- weekly kidney dialysis. All will likely require dialysis for the rest of their lives. With the closure last year of the dialysis clinic located on the Sacred Heart campus, the nearest dialysis clinic is either in Tallahassee or Panama City. That is a grueling long day, three times a week for each patient. I watched my father struggle with dialysis for the last couple of years of his life. It was hard.

These individuals were thrown a rare lifeline by neighboring Gulf County when they voted to subsidize the start-up costs for a new clinic, now to be run by Fresenius Medical Center. Jim McKnight, director of the Gulf County Economic Development Coalition received unanimous support from the Gulf County Commission for an annual subsidy of $100,000 for five years to defray start-up expenses that will likely be over a million dollars. Gulf County Chairman Sandy Quinn reached out to Franklin County to chip in a maximum of $25,000 a year for five years in support of those dialysis patients.

At the Franklin County Commission meeting on the 18th, of January, I watched a very sad discussion unfold. It started with a discussion of the next big pot of Covid money Franklin County is expecting. Salivating at the prospect of more free money from the next installment of the American Rescue Plan, Commissioner Lockley broke in to ask the consultant who was briefing Commissioners if he could get some of that relief money for himself personally! That set the tone for what followed.

When the Agenda item for the dialysis discussion came up, it became apparent early on that Commissioners had all kinds of ideas for taking care of the problem and not chipping in with Gulf County. Lockley stated, “This is not something we should do this year...we got no money.” Commissioner Boldt, not to be outdone, had a lightbulb moment when he suggested that Weems should start up its own Kidney Dialysis Clinic since Weems Hospital was "The Mecca of healthcare in Franklin County!" He actually said that. Unstated was where Weems would get the million dollars plus to create the clinic or how it could financially survive by splitting the small number of Franklin County dialysis patients with Gulf who might choose Weems. What was he smoking?

Weems made it clear they don’t want to chip in using Healthcare Trust Fund money. And, they gave the impression that they were so cash strapped that $25,000 a year would bankrupt them. County attorney Shuler stated the Healthcare Trust Fund can’t spend money that is going out of the County. Well, that’s funny. Don’t we spend thousands of dollars each month with Alliant; our hospital management company which is out of county? There are myriad other healthcare dollars that go “out of county” all the time. Why is this different?

The reality of the situation is simple. Franklin County spends thousands of dollars every year to transport frail dialysis patients on hundreds of distant trips. We could slash that expense by partnering with Gulf. We likely would save money overall. And, oh by the way, not inconsequentially, maybe one or two lives a year in the process. People miss their dialysis appointments all the time because of the stress involved in those long commutes and the very real fear of contracting Covid on one of those long commutes to very busy and crowded dialysis centers. One more thing. Gulf County voted to go it alone and then asked Franklin if they wanted to chip in. How do you think we would look if we snub them? Pretty much like dog doo. Another shining example of shooting yourself in the foot.

Come on Commissioners. This is a true no-brainer. Find the money and help the most unfortunate among us. After all, you might be the next one needing dialysis. I wonder what Lockley would have said if he was the one who needed dialysis?

Here’s the point ladies and gentlemen. At least with the Franklin County Commission, the distinction of being a representative of the people vs. being Kings and Queens have started to blur. When a commissioner asks questions publicly on how they can tap public money for their own purposes or another commissioner tries to figure out how to undertake unneeded projects for his political advantage, that might not be illegal, but it stinks to high heaven. The people’s business should never be entangled with the personal goals or aspirations of any commissioner. Frankly, this is old news. Commissioners all too often put their personal needs in front of the needs of their constituents. Commissioners must be honest and open when they communicate to the public. There can be no compromise on this issue.


I’ve gotten the impression that Commissioners don’t want to deal with issues with either the VFDs or water systems inside the county. Lanark Village VFD is the latest problem that has been brought to the Commission for a much-needed resolution.

Here’s a link to the so-called “Audit” of the Lanark Village VFD. https://abetterfranklin.com/images/PDFs/LanarkVillage-CPA.pdf As you can plainly see, it was not an audit. The CPA firm Roberson titled the short document “Report on Accounting Services.” From what I can see, this was basically a made-as-instructed inexpensive document designed to tamp down on high public concern and to make it look like the commission is on top of things. They aren’t. The CCFC is not passing judgment on the underlying issue, though there are obvious problems that must be addressed. We are focusing here on the dissemination and accompanying statements that had the effect of misleading the public. That’s our paramount concern on this issue, at this time.


Weems Hospital. We have mentioned before our concern that the Commission’s wholly- owned Weems Hospital may have illegally received over $900,000 in forgiven PPP loans. The CCFC has requested documents and tried to corroborate statements in support of the Franklin County Commission requesting and receiving Payroll Protection Plan proceeds. We have been blocked in our endeavor. The CCFC just received from Weems CEO an email that states in part “Our legal counsel has advised us to not meet with you.” I think you would agree with me that’s the opposite of transparency. The penalties for making false statements can be harsh, whether overtly or inadvertently:

“Making false statements to the Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal criminal offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1014. The statute imposes penalties for anyone who, “knowingly makes any false statement or report . . . for the purpose of influencing in any way the action of the . . . Small Business Administration.” This verbiage is broad enough to include statements made on companies’ PPP loan applications (including their Borrower Application Forms), as well as companies’ certifications for loan forgiveness.”

We ask once again that Weems Hospital provide the supporting statements that would have allowed for the legal acquisition of PPP loans and subsequent forgiveness. Why is this even an issue? I sincerely hope that this has just been an oversight and bureaucratic inertia at its worst is on display.

Three issues demonstrate essentially the same hubris and attitudes. Our relationships with our government at multiple levels have been strained as of late. It does no one any good when we feel as if we cannot trust our governments to tell us the straight truth and do not display a willingness to fix mistakes. Love’em or hate’em, we need the government to work and achieve our shared societal and practical living needs. Come on Franklin, make peace with your detractors and those that rightfully prod you to do better.

Finally, the CCFC is finishing up its 2022 fundraising campaign. If you have already written your check to support us, many thanks. If you have not, or are sitting on the fence, please support the only organization in Franklin County devoted to representing your interests! Please write your non-tax deductive check to the address below.

Regards,

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
ABetterFranklin.com
(850) 653-5571

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

Please feel free to redistribute this email to your friends!

Why Aren't More People Engaged

on Thursday, 16 December 2021.

Why More Citizens Aren’t Engaged

Dear Readers:

My job with the CCFC is to point out what’s wrong with county government, not necessarily what’s right. Commissioners publicly pat themselves on the back too often. They want you to believe they’re behind you, even if the reality is they are not. Recently I spoke at a Wakulla County regular Board Meeting on a subject of interest to me. Let me compare and contrast the difference in process difference between Wakulla and Franklin counties:

  1. The meeting was held at 5:00 (as most are) so that citizens who work could attend.
  2. The Chairman spent at least two minutes describing ways citizens could participate in the meeting by filling out a speaker’s card to speak to commissioners.
    • At the beginning of the meeting
    • At the end of the meeting
    • On any Agenda item they may wish to speak to as the meeting developed.
  3. Commissioners smiled at constituents and did not make any snide comments as they frequently do at Franklin County meetings.
  4. They made sure to engage with speakers to the extent necessary to understand the concern expressed. (Franklin has a strict written policy against commissioner engagement)
  5. More than 50 citizens were in the audience (many more watching on live television), and many people spoke to their issue of concern. In Franklin County, the unwelcoming environment results in fewer than 3 people typically speaking and sometimes none since the newest Public Engagement policy commenced.

Why is it so hard for Franklin County Commissioners to understand and accept that citizens not only have the right to speak but that it is disrespectful to constituents to run meetings as they do? It is anti-constituent in design and implementation. Franklin County meetings run in this manner do not meet the spirit, if not the law for minimum State Standards for public access as set by the Florida Attorney General.

Next, the issue of how the Commission handled the recent SGI Incorporation issue bothers us immensely. The CCFC takes no position on the issue and in fact, some real challenges and hurdles would likely need to be overcome. However, the manner that all five Commissioners discarded out of hand, the option to allow a non-binding counting of the noses at zero cost to taxpayers was heavy-handed and wrong. The Chairman was clear on the issue, that this was his district and he knew what the people wanted. That was the end of the issue as far as he was concerned.

Stifling debate is what the Commission seems to do best. This is not something to be proud of and proves to the public that our Commission needs serious coaching on the subject of being public servants. I could write a book on the inappropriate manner that people have been treated that A. Do not have 10 generations of relatives here. B. Are not 100% supportive of wild oyster harvesting and the importance of the seafood industry in general. C. Disagree with Commissioners publicly or privately. D. Threaten their standing and continuation of a lifetime job as Commissioner.

God help you if you voted against a commissioner. Somehow, they seem to know how you voted. That’s small-town politics I suppose, but it is still wrong for Commissioners to hold a grudge after an election that makes them opposed to anything a non-supporter wants or needs from the County. I have witnessed this numerous times.

On another subject, Weems Hospital has seemingly dropped out of public view. The recipient of about $3 million in special Covid assistance has masked continuing major monthly losses at the hospital. Commissioners used to get monthly reports, then reports every other month and now I can’t remember the last time finances were presented or discussed. Recently, Weems stated its desire to seek $7 million in state funds to combine with Capital funds on hand to build a new hospital. Their strategy this time is to keep it very quiet until they are successful. According to Weems statistics reported, Weems averages less than one in-patient a night.

A year with a contracted consulting company has not improved the numbers much at all. This is all the more shocking since Covid should have been a major revenue producer but was not. We don’t know if any of the ventilators purchased at great expense were even used and have no idea if the huge amount of money spent on Covid testing equipment did much better. A weak Board and weak oversight, in general, has not made a material difference in Weems's finances. An even weaker County Commission seemingly has dawned rose-colored glasses and is just thankful that someone else dropped millions into Weems coffers instead of them.

Weems applied for and received about a million dollars for the Paycheck Protection Program that was reserved for private companies. Weems is wholly owned by the Franklin County Commission and is just another government agency. Concerned Citizens back in September requested records that may prove that the money was taken illegally and as a consequence might have to be paid back with subsequent penalties. We have not received the documents that will allow our professional staff to judge the legality of what the Weems Board did, ostensibly without Commission approval. Supposedly, these documents were mailed to us more than a week ago. We are still waiting.

Our last subject today will be Code Enforcement. Code Enforcement protects lives and property values. I think it is likely that the Commission will move forward with Code Enforcement. Commissioners correctly engaged a third-party organization to conduct workshops all over the county to collect information and ideas. Here’s the problem as we see it. Commissioners have put the cart before the horse. Poorly written Ordinances or no Ordinances at all, covering a multitude of issues have resulted in both private property loss and injuries to people including the loss of human life. How ordinances would be enforced is the most critical issue facing us. Commissioners protect their power. Unlike almost every other Florida County, Franklin has no County Manager. You don’t want a Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) beholden to the commissioners for their job, it’s a natural conflict. When a commissioner leans on the CEO over this or that issue, we’ll have the same problem that currently exists at the county department level and Weems today. Start with a professional County Manager and then create a set of interlocking ordinances (largely copied from other successful counties) to enforce them and only then hire an independent CEO to enforce said ordinances. Doesn’t that make sense? Leave it to Franklin County to do it ass-backward for the sole purpose of protecting their power. Want a great example? Paving funds are not distributed by need, but equally to each Commissioner. Why not rank Franklin County roads by need and fix the worst roads first? I guess that just makes too much sense.

Lest I not say something positive, not all commissioners are predatory. It’s just difficult not to “go with the flow” at times as one commissioner explained to me. It is important to note, that while leadership may be lacking, county staff and most Constitutional Offices do great work serving the interests of Franklin County.

Oh, one more thing. We are currently running our annual fundraiser. Please support the CCFC by mailing your dues check today; while it’s top of mind. (Address is below) Not a member? Please consider joining today. Dues are not tax-deductible. We are the only Association that looks out for your interests all year long to keep the county honest. Think about that when you are deciding whether to support us or not. If not us, then who? Read about us at ABetterFranklin.com

Happy Holidays to everyone from myself and the rest of the crew here that supports us and makes the CCFC possible.

Once again, thank you for reading and sustaining better government.

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

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A Special Message to Franklin County Property Owners

on Saturday, 30 October 2021.

A Special Message to Franklin County Property Owners:

On the 28th of September, in five minutes and with nary a comment, Franklin County passed the largest budget in its history at $77 million for this tiny vestige of Old Florida. That is approximately $7,300 for each non-incarcerated resident. Per Citizen—not taxpayer! For almost 20 years, Concerned Citizens of Franklin County have quietly and persistently attempted to save YOU, the taxpayers, from wasteful spending, lack of transparency, and policies and practices that are anti-constituent which continue year after year by our county leadership.

The Property Appraiser Tax Role shows 18,858 individual property Parcels in the county. Of these, roughly 8,000 are individual homes, condos, and/or apartments. Of those about 3,100 are homesteaded. Many county residents pay little or nothing in taxes due to various exemptions they have been granted. This makes it easy for commissioners to vote for higher taxes on everybody else. It’s legal but not ultimately fair. Aren’t Commissioners supposed to keep things fair? We, at the CCFC, believe they are not.

When county commissioners passed this year's budget, they spent about $1 million more than last year. They also handed out significant raises, some, way overdue while others were unconscionable increases, patting themselves on the back at how fiscally astute they were. This is a major sleight of hand. Deceit is created by highlighting a homesteaded property valued at $150,000 that will pay slightly less in county taxes than last year. That’s a minority situation of about 3,100 homes; allow me to explain:

The majority of properties in Franklin County are not homesteaded and consequently don’t receive the protections of Save our Home (SOH), the Florida Constitutional Amendment that slows down the growth of property taxes for homesteaded individuals but does not eliminate it. MOST non-residents have no such protection.

So, a more correct statement should have been that For the Sixth Straight Year, county taxes will be rising an average of 6% for the majority of property owners in the county. And, that while SOH Homestead Cap will slow down the increase for those affected, everyone’s will eventually go up to meet actual taxes assessed, only delayed, on unsuspecting property owners who are encouraged to believe falsely that they won again on their tax bills.

The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County presented at least 22 comments and suggestions to Commissioners this year that, if seriously studied and implemented, would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars this budget year. Few, if any, commissioners can answer detailed questions concerning the budgets they annually assess on taxpayers. The budgets presented by Constitutional Officers and Department Heads are rarely questioned or seriously challenged. An additional one million dollars is being spent this year. Commissioners refuse to even consider the financially responsible idea of Zero-Based Budgeting.

Nothing will change in Franklin County until and unless the citizens demand it. We have a country today that is so much in turmoil that trivial things like your taxes don’t seem to rise to the level of concerned study or action. On behalf of myself and the CCFC, I am truly sorry.

The CCFC published our comments on its website. You can view the comments by clicking Here

This budget letter was made available to county staff and commissioners earlier this summer in time for the 2021-2022 budget Cycle. It is too late to do anything more this year. But when next year's budget cycle begins starting now, there should be an entirely new approach to next year’s budgeting cycle.

Let me share with you some of this year’s CCFC efforts made to achieve transparency, seek fiscally responsible, fair and accountable government for Franklin County.

Let me share with you some of this year’s CCFC efforts made to achieve transparency, seek fiscally responsible, fair and accountable government for Franklin County.

  1. Our most important function is to answer questions from members. We receive and appreciate taxpayer feedback from the many people who call, write or just spread our words on behalf of good government
  2. We have attended all online County Commission Meetings in 2021. When appropriate (under unreasonably restrictive Public Comment rules) we speak up with facts, concerns and alternatives to matters we believe to be important.
  3. We have asked that some meetings be held in the evenings and return to some being held in Carrabelle.
  4. We attend Hospital Board Meetings to hear reports and budget facts as presented. We push for accountability and logic in the expenditures for Hospital operations. Weems is, at best a very basic Emergency Room, not a hospital equipped or staffed for serious illnesses like Covid. Weems Doctors frequently have had past legal issues and are not Board Certified in Emergency Care. Just in: Franklin County is requesting $6 million from the State to construct a new hospital. Weems just hired its fourth CFO in the last 3-4 years. No reliable financial information.
  5. The CCFC constantly researches best business practices, freely sharing them with appropriate officials.
  6. We expect (sadly not always successfully) that public meetings be held with decorum and respect toward the citizenry. We ask that the public again be heard before a vote is held on each agenda item which was the rule as recently as 2017. Now, a three-minute limit for each public comment is only permitted at the beginning of each meeting and to speak for one minute for items on agenda items. Worse, you must file a Virtual Speakers Request Card before the meeting commences. And, sadly, Commissioners sit in stony silence completely disengaged with the very few people who actually come forward. Typically, zero to three people will run the gauntlet to speak.
  7. We reach out through emails and messages to the Apalachicola Times on a frequent basis.
  8. We engage professionals (lawyers, investigators, additional accountants) to help advise in our efforts toward good, honest, representative government for Franklin County.
  9. CCFC built, maintains and operates an independent website (ABetterFranklin.com). In addition, we incur mailing and other expenses to bring taxpayers the news, behaviors, decisions and actions of local leadership, including County Commissioners, elected Constitutional officers and others. Also, visit our Facebook page and “Like” us and/or “Follow” us to always be in the know!

Please feel free to share this letter with your friends; encourage them to learn more about the work of the Concerned Citizens and to join the CCFC as new members. It is your strength of numbers and financial support that ensures our continuing oversight.

Annually, we reach out to the community for help in meeting the financial challenges of continuing our work.

Please support the CCFC with your membership dues to help ensure our continued success. Please invest $25, $50, $100 or more in our Watchdog Association to allow our work to continue. Only through your help and support will we continue to ensure that good government in Franklin County can and will become a reality.

Make your check payable to the CCFC and mail it to P.O. Box 990, Eastpoint Florida 32328.(Dues are not tax deductible)

Please include your email address on your check to ensure you receive our communications and updates.

Thank you for your generous support.

Sincerely,
Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.

The Budget That Was Not

on Monday, 04 October 2021.

The Budget Scrutiny That Wasn’t

Dear Readers:

Last Tuesday, the 28 th of September, in five minutes and with nary a comment, Franklin County passed the largest budget in its history at $77 million for this tiny vestige of Old Florida. That is approximately $7,300 for each non-incarcerated resident. Per Citizen— not taxpayer! For almost 20 years, Concerned Citizens of Franklin County have quietly and persistently attempted to save YOU, the taxpayers, from wasteful spending, lack of transparency, and policies and practices that are anti-constituent which continue year after year by our county leadership.

The newest Property Appraiser Tax Role shows 18,858 individual property Parcels in the county. Of these, roughly 8,000 are individual homes, condos, and/or apartments. Of those 8,000, approximately 3,100 are homesteaded. Many county residents pay little or nothing in taxes due to various exemptions they have been granted. This makes it easy for commissioners to vote for higher taxes on everybody else. It’s legal but not ultimately fair. Aren’t Commissioners supposed to keep things fair? We, at the CCFC, believe they are not.

When county commissioners passed this year's budget, they spent about $1 million more than last year. They also handed out significant raises, some, way overdue while others were unconscionable increases, all while patting themselves on the back at how fiscally astute they were by not raising the millage rate. This is a major sleight of hand. Deceit is created by publicly highlighting a homesteaded property valued at $150,000 that will pay slightly less in county taxes than last year. That is a minority situation of about 3,100 homes; allow me to explain:

The majority of properties in Franklin County are not homesteaded and consequently don’t receive the protections of Save our Home, the Florida Constitutional Amendment that slows down the growth of property taxes for homesteaded individuals but does not eliminate it. MOST non-residents, some residents, and all commercial properties have no such protection.

So, a more correct statement should have been that For the Sixth Straight Year, county taxes will be rising an average of 6% for the majority of property owners in the county. And, that while The Save our Homes Homestead Cap will slow down the increase for those affected, everyone’s will eventually go up to meet the actual taxes assessed, only delayed, on unsuspecting property owners who are encouraged to believe falsely that they won again on their tax bills.

The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County presented at least 22 comments and suggestions to Commissioners this year that, if seriously studied and implemented, would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars this coming budget year. What’s clear to us is that Commissioners want little controversy and/or do little or no actual work to understand the large budgets they approve. Few, if any, commissioners can answer detailed questions concerning the budgets they annually assess on taxpayers. The budgets presented by Constitutional Officers and Department Heads are rarely questioned or seriously challenged. An additional one million dollars is being assessed this year. Commissioners refuse to even consider the financially responsible idea of Zero-Based Budgeting.

Nothing will change in Franklin County until and unless the citizens demand it. We have a country today that is so much in turmoil that trivial things like your taxes don’t seem to rise to the level of concerned study or action. On behalf of myself and the CCFC, I am truly sorry.

The CCFC published our comments on its website at:

https://abetterfranklin.com/images/PDFs/2021_2022CCFCBudgetWorkshopNotes.pdf

This budget letter was made available to county staff and commissioners earlier this
summer in time for the 2021-2022 budget Cycle. It is too late to do anything more this
year. But when next year's budget cycle begins starting in October of this year, there
should be an entirely new approach to next year’s budgeting cycle.

Thank you for reading and supporting us.

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O. Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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 their fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Contacts:
Commissioner Bert Boldt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> 519-4966
Commissioner Smokey Parrish<This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>653-8790
Commissioner Ricky Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>653-8861
Chairman Noah Lockley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>653-4452
Commissioner Jessica Ward < This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> 653-9783

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CCFC: Franklin County Budget To Be Set

on Thursday, 19 August 2021.

Transparency-Not Pablum

In the August 5th issue of the Apalachicola Times, there is a front-page article titled “County to lower millage, boost pay”. Headlines tell you a lot about the story below. The title will either invite you to read further or inform you that all is well, nothing to read, move on. This Headline, very similar to last year, masks a problem that deserves public scrutiny. We see three problems:

A better headline might have been “COUNTY TAXES TO RISE FOR 7TH STRAIGHT YEAR”

Millage is unimportant to taxpayers. Only the amount of their tax bill is.

The example cited used a hypothetical $150,000 homesteaded home which includes a $50,000 tax exemption. Therefore, the house is being taxed on $100,000 in value. When paired with the Save Our Homes property tax restriction, that home could have a net decrease in taxes of about $20. But the thousands of non-homesteaded homes homesteaded homes over $150,000 of assessed value, new homes, land, and commercial properties will face big increases!

An alternate headline should have been:

“NEW COUNTY BUDGET TO SPEND ADDITIONAL ONE MILLION DOLLARS OVER LAST YEAR”

I attended the Budget Workshop with its rapid-fire budget approvals. The people who put the budget together do what they are told. Some departments have well-founded salary demands, some don’t. But a good cost accountant could take a million dollars out of the budget with no sacrifice of service. Without passing judgment on anyone's individual budget decision, we state that Commissioners fail miserably by not requiring a zero-based budget process that would require overall budget rigor. We see each Constitutional Officers and Department heads being asked what they need and then getting it without challenge. For example, a department asked for and was granted the funds for a new vehicle or piece of equipment in one year. In the next year, their budget remains at the same level with the funds for the vehicle/equipment still included. Compounded each year this happens; a department’s budget becomes padded with extra taxpayer dollars. Multiply this by several departments and Constitutional Officers and you can see how truly bloated the county’s budget has become.

The County has a secret they don’t want you to know about. The county has many other funding sources in addition to your collected AD Valorem taxes. Those additional funds are growing exponentially and help to explain why Commissioners again feel empowered to add record numbers of new employees, vehicles, and equipment in this latest new budget.

Because we have carefully watched the budget process for almost 20 years, we want to remind everyone of the cyclical nature of the county’s economy. This year, we are seeing a rise in property assessments of nearly 8%. But this could reverse itself, as has happened in the past. One hurricane, a contraction of the national economy, or Washington turning off the money spigot can quickly create a budget shortfall.

Commissioners, we implore you to not raise taxes for anyone this year and return to the rollback rate. When will you learn to live off what you bring in and not kill the golden goose as you have in the past? Franklin remains one of the 10 highest Property Taxing entities (per capita) in the State. Stop the self-serving expansion of County government.

Only taxpayers can and must inform their commissioners that property tax increases are not acceptable and that zero-based budgets should become this county’s operating standard. Write a letter, attend a meeting, pick up the phone and contact your commissioner. It’s up to you.

Two Budget Adoption hearings are required to pass the proposed budget. They are scheduled for September 7th and 21st, both at 5:15. I hope you will consider attending and making your voice heard.

God Bless America and all of you, with a special prayer for those trapped in Afghanistan!

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

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CCFC-Budget Workshop this Thursday

on Monday, 26 July 2021.

Hello Friends:

This Thursday, July 29th at 9:00 a.m. I will be attending this year’s budget discussion. In summary, while the tax base grew a lot, Commissioners are still likely to raise taxes significantly. It is our judgment that there is not a good reason to raise taxes or to change the millage rate above the roll-back rate which would bring in the same amount of money as the current year. Commissioners play games, telling them that they have been great stewards of the Public Trust and have lowered the millage rate. It’s only later when you get an increased tax bill that you realize that you’ve been had.

I just got my copy of the proposed budget and here’s a few topline details for you to know:

  1. The Proposed Budget is slated to rise from $62 million to $77 million. But that number is likely to rise as a new Compensation plan was introduced at the last Commission meeting calling for a $1.2 million increase over four years to replace the annual bonusing system now in place. There will be other items talked about and likely added that will increase the final budget.
  2. For the first time in many years, we see several new positions added. Last year the County received a lot of extra money from Covid-19 funds and spending went through the roof. Without that money this year, new tax money is needed to keep up the spending level.
  3. We have never seen Capital Spending at this pace. Roughly 20 pieces of equipment and vehicles are being requested; well above past budgets.
  4. The Sheriff is asking for a 5% increase that reflects an 8% increase in personnel costs. We have not spoken to the Sheriff, but certain items just jump out at you like $32,000 a year for emails. We have a lot of respect for the Sheriff, but we always must keep in mind that he advocates for his people as he should. Commissioners need to scrutinize all Constitutionals and not take their word as final fact. It is a Constitutional Responsibility of Commissioners to approve Constitutional Officers’ budgets. I regret to inform you, that they largely avoid the responsibility to do a deep dive into their budgets.
  5. The Property Appraiser’s budget request is puzzling. There is no increase in budget but a $120,000 increase in Regular Class RET employees. Why? Why are computer hosting costs so high at $8,000 a year? The Franklin County Property Appraiser cost is the highest per capital in our area by far. Why?
  6. Large increase in Travel, Postage, Freight, Repairs and Maintenance in many budgets.
  7. I know that the staff that puts these budgets together are fantastic. However, I question whether anyone does what we do and look at budget requests afterwards and does a sanity check. There are obvious areas of concern and its not beyond one or more individuals to pad their budgets. We believe some submitted budgets could use a thorough scrubbing to eliminate waste, unequal pay requests and in one or two cases, too large a headcount.
  8. To our knowledge, no one looks at actual spending in the current year to compare against new budget requests and asks for justification. New budgets just build on old budgets.
  9. Parks and Recreation is requesting a 6.75% increase. 14% increase in Regular Class Employees. Almost a tripling of costs for Youth Support Activities. We worry that in supporting youth activities and spending on trips, dinners and travel without requiring the kids and their parents to do any fundraising sends the wrong message that everything should be free. 40% increase in Operating Supplies, 25% increase in Operating Expense. Not exactly belt tightening!
  10. Building Department Operating supplies increased by 80%.
  11. Auditor request a 3.5% increase this year. We believe that a Request for Proposal should go out anytime someone increases their annual fee. In regards to this Auditor, there have been too many issues over the years that in our opinion that were missed. One or two became criminal issues later. We’d like to see a new Auditor look at the County with fresh eyes.
  12. This will be a touchy subject. Employee Health Insurance. Study whether our policy and copays by employees is above or below other counties. We suspect that there might not be enough cost sharing by employees. The county is proposing $1.6 million for health insurance this year. It needs to be looked at.

In the final analysis, it is citizens like you that either rubberstamp county spending and policies by assuming someone else will look after your interests or you decide to participate in some form of fashion. The CCFC is only effective if backed by you. Call or write your representative and let them know you are taxed enough (for your convenience, below my signature is their contact information). Franklin County is always in the top five list of county taxing per capita. I expect this year to be the same.

Please let me have your comments and hope to see you Thursday.


God Bless America and all of you!

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

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Political Suppression in Franklin County

on Friday, 04 June 2021.

Political Suppression by the Commissioners Court

Hello Friends:

Is Franklin County more or less the same as most other counties? Specifically, do most county leaders check their ethics at the door when they get elected? Or, do they just look at things differently than if they were looking in from the outside? I wonder. After viewing and interacting with all kinds of politicians over the years, few share the traits of being open, inviting, honest but also are competent. Yes, there are always exceptions to the rules and the degree to which some will put their own needs ahead of the people they are sworn to serve.

We have two issues to put before you today. One, the continued inability to access our leaders in a traditional forum. And two, the problem with attracting enough competent and reliable County Board Members. Let’s begin.

If it’s the first or third Tuesday of the month, I’ve blocked that day to attend the County Commission meeting. Finally, after more than a year, you can attend in person…with conditions I find difficult to swallow. I was looking forward to finally getting back. In the last 17 years I’ve attended over 320 meetings. I do a write-up of each meeting for the CCFC Board. For the last year, I’ve watched, sometimes unsuccessfully virtual meetings. I’ve watched Commissioners go about the County business in the sterile atmosphere of a yellow and black taped room that reeks of fear. I’ve seen Politician’s wear masks on camera, and when the cameras are off, so are the masks. It seems Virtue Signaling has invaded Franklin County as well. If I find it difficult to return to the new “sanitized” Commission Chambers, I suspect others might as well.

A free people have the right to seek to redress their grievances to their leaders.

Wikipedia States:

A free people have the right to petition is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which specifically prohibits Congress from abridging "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".

Although often overlooked in favor of other more famous freedoms, and sometimes taken for granted, many other civil liberties are enforceable against the government only by exercising this basic right first."

This applies to the Franklin County Commission and their Boards as well. There has been an ominous change in Franklin County over the past several years. Commissioners by and through their actions have decreased access to public meetings using various excuses, Covid-19 being only the most recent one.

Wakulla County, amongst the many other Florida Counties that does get it right should be the model for Franklin County.

Here’s the differences between Wakulla and Franklin County:

General Look and Feel

Franklin: Closed off (sit here, not there) and public not really encouraged to attend.

Wakulla: Encouraged to attend, sit anywhere you want.

Scheduled Meetings

Franklin: Only held in one place during the work day. Not centralized for easy access for all.

Wakulla: Held at the end of the work day, thereby encouraging participation

Addressing the Commission

Franklin: Must fill out a virtual speaker card prior to the meeting

Wakulla: Fill out a speaker card before or during the meeting

Time available to speak

Franklin: 3 minutes for general public during public comments and 1 minute if addressing an item on the agenda, or less at the discretion of the Chair

Wakulla: 3 minutes whenever addressing the Commission

Handouts and Documents for the Commissioners

Franklin: Must be turned in by the previous Thursday

Wakulla: Before or during the Commission Meeting

Number of Citizens Speaking

Franklin: Typically, less than three and mostly zero, one or two.

Wakulla: Typically, 15-25

Open to All

Franklin: Capacity limited to a few

Wakulla: Yes

The above policies serve to build a wall between the people and the government they have elected. It helps to tamp down criticism and empowers the Commission to believe they have widespread support when they may not. It allows profligate spending in a virtual darkness. It does the opposite of encouraging citizen participation and, if you have been listening, you can see the number of actual citizens speaking is typically from zero to three. Hardly a reason for such draconian rules.

We are a frequent writer in support of an open and inviting government which fully embraces the concept that citizens often have good ideas to contribute on behalf of their communities. As we get past Covid, it’s also time to get past policies that shield commission leaders from public scrutiny. Prove your legitimacy by defending your positions and policies. Debate between citizens and their leaders is healthy! Encourage the return to Open Government we are guaranteed under law. Be available to explain and defend positions and policies in full view of the public voters and constituents.


The County has four citizen advisory boards: Hospital, Tourist Development, Planning & Zoning and Board of Adjustment and until recently, an Airport Advisory Board as well. I know a few on each board. Competency is very uneven with novices to excellent. We see there being several problems that prevent good people from applying for these positions of responsibility and leadership.

  1. Politics. Killing the Airport Advisory Board was not unanimous and was orchestrated by one Commissioner who did not like the professional advice given. The other Boards are similarly worried about offending their “Bosses.”
  2. Commissioners pick someone from their own Districts instead of picking the most competent and professional citizens available. This dissuades the best and brightest from seriously considering volunteering for any board spot.
  3. It’s a thankless job. Not only do you not get paid, you know that you will have a target painted on your back if you don’t do your Commissioner’s bidding too often. There’s no reward offered in any form.

We would suggest the following to reform all four County Boards:

  1. Take the politics out and restart the Airport Advisory Board. If you don’t like the direction the APAB is going, have Staff write Policies and create Vision Statements that set the boundaries for the Board. Note: Must be public and transparent to ensure that no special interests are being served.
  2. Reward Board Members publicly. Pay a stipend, offer insurance, buy them a meal or have an Awards Banquet once a year at a minimum.
  3. Back your competent Board Members publicly by sticking to Staff and Board recommendations almost every time.
  4. Open Board positions to all Franklin County citizens instead of selecting by District. Give a preference for District representation but appoint the man/woman most likely to be professional and who will show up.
  5. Establish rules for Board Members. Miss three unexcused meetings a year and you’re off the Board.

Too often, the obvious does not happen in an environment where mediocrity is rewarded over competence. Franklin County needs competency over the “This is the way we’ve always done it” mentality.

We can do better!

God Bless America and all of you!

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

Please feel free to redistribute this email to your friends!

This and That

on Saturday, 20 March 2021.

Hello Friends:

Community Service is its own reward. When I started as President of Concerned Citizens many years ago, I had no idea what we could or would achieve. It’s a somewhat different county than it was a few years ago. Still very reluctant to make changes that favor normal citizen, the rank and file of Franklin County and still largely run as Commissioner’s personal fiefdoms. Only you can change that. And here’s my pitch for today:

We need you to help us keep up the fight. We need more of everything. We need more Board Members, specialists in legal, accounting, medical professionals, school policy and more. If you have ever thought of volunteering and have specific skills, I’d like to hear from you personally. We are in particular need of a research assistant for yours truly! Hours will never be long and the rewards will be few, but collectively we make a difference.


Our discussion today:

Five “Must Haves” that Helps Local Government Excel

The amount of training that a Commissioner receives should be a conscientious obligation of each Commissioner. Some choose to take educational classes offered by county and statewide organizations, but some take only the minimum. Classes can make a good elected official excellent, but the beginning foundation must be a good one. Good government leadership is never perfect nor even always definable.

Look at these five pillars. Use them when speaking to your own Commissioner.

  1. Leadership: We have a representative form of government. We should try and elect individuals smarter than ourselves who can articulate a positive vision of leadership throughout our county agencies and personnel. We study how leaders plan to strive for positive changes that will help to enact their vision. Such elected leadership should NOT be about 5-0 unanimous decisions that simply pick the lowest common denominator. 5-0 decisions frequently are the worst solutions. Popularity risks may need to be taken. If getting along with everyone is your litmus test, you have already failed the leadership test.
  2. Economics: Leaders must have and develop further knowledge together with the ability to process it all. Such knowledge must be made understandable, relating to the county they lead. Why is Franklin County one of the highest spending counties in the State (per capita) when we are one of the “poorest” according to what everyone says? Wakulla County’s budget is about $84 million for 34,000 people ($2,470.59 per capita) Gulf County’s is $56 million for about 13,600 ($4,117.65) while Franklin County’s budget of $62 million for the 12,100residents and taxpayers’ totals ($5,123.97). Proportionality, Franklin County is always higher per capita for a variety of factors. One such factors is the amount of money Franklin County controls due to its exceptional success obtaining Grant Money as well as the designation by the State as “Fiscally Constrained.” This designation permits us to pay less of a “share” for projects that most other counties pay. On the surface, this may seem good for the citizens of Franklin County, but that has not held true. County population is not growing and our financial prospects have not matched the least optimistic economic development hopes. Do you agree?
  3. Planning: None of our current or recent past Commissioners have created a through, carefully thought out and vetted plan to raise the economic standing of the county. Taxes on wealthier areas of the county continue to increase without positive changes being made. What do you see that, in fact, raises any hope of a totally new tomorrow within our boundaries? Has a vigorous, aggressive, imaginative five, ten- or twenty-year plan been created? Excellent public resources are available through state agencies, the regional planning group or even respected private consultants, even the CCFC. We see an opportunity lost.
  4. People: The greatest resource of all can be our people! Constituents of our five commissioners may hatch some of the best new idea for our county’s future development. Such future-thinking ideas certainly don’t revolve around defending the long-beleaguered hospital or building yet another ball field. What fresh, new and positive outreach ideas are being bought forth? Why do Commissioners consistently deprecate national CEO’s, developers with national reputations and highly successful entrepreneurs including locals? Why only support the traditional ways of making a living here engendering hostility to change in general. Some Commissioners have been rude, humiliating, degrading, condescending and even offensive to constituents. As a recent example, the reformation of an Airport Advisory Committee (proposed of local hands-on users and experts) was quashed in a powerplay very evident to anyone listening to the exchange. Throwing away the combined, cost-free 60 years of aviation management offered into the gutter was irresponsible and unconscionable. Commissioners, please accommodate and even encourage citizen involvement whenever you can. That is a good thing, not something to be feared, avoided, unheard or even unsolicited.
  5. Representation: Understanding whom and what you represent should be the first responsibility of Commissioners as well as county leaders and employees. There’s no magic to running a small county. A good staff with a star or two already exists. But some adjusting is needed at the margins. Citizens must demand better future outcomes of elected officials who ultimately oversee all county operations. Shouldn’t the real report card be how well our county moved forward successfully into the future before you are returned to office? We do not believe that the family card should play a role in our county’s future.

Property values are likely to be higher this year. Will Commissioners still continue to increase demands on taxpayers again this year, the sixth year in a row? There has been no public accounting of how much public Covid money the County received. We have reason to believe it was substantial, perhaps in the millions???

The CCFC would like to see a reduction of spending for the next budget cycle rather the increases we have had for the last five years. There continue to be far too many properties sold on the courthouse steps because people can no longer afford constantly rising taxes. Whether a tax bill is $150 a year or $40,000, as one person told me, “It matters.”

Commissioners, will you reach out and join hands with your citizenry and other experts this year, or just ignore, dismiss, reject, disregard, insult, discount, snub us all? You have been elected to oversee the operations of our county in all aspects of success or failure. We want you to succeed, but you don’t have to do it alone, or “the way we’ve always done it,” It’s your call.

Lastly, we are at the end of our 2021 Membership Campaign. Please, please consider joining and send us your dues payment today, while you are still thinking about it. Remember to add your email address with your check to the address below. Your numbers and financial support are vital to the CCFC continuing being your county watchdog. Dues are not tax deductible. Let us fight for you and your quiet enjoyment!

God bless America and all of you!

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

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CCFC-A New Year, New Priorities

on Saturday, 09 January 2021.

Hello Friends:

With the commencement of a New Year, we believe there are certain challenges and opportunities that present themselves on behalf of our County and School System. Few good things happen by happenstance. Instead, an Agenda must be created to identify and address the issues we believe matter the most to you and us. We’d like to share with you our Top 10 list of priorities we believe deserve a focus on change for our County. Listed from easiest to hardest:

  1. End smoking on any county or school owned property. Just because a few county leaders smoke, they demonstrate themselves as terrible role models by doing so, it’s inappropriate to allow smoking on any County or School property.
  2. Identify and end the waste of time of County and School computers by employees using Facebook, eBay, Amazon and other such sites when they are easily blocked. Several years ago, the CCFC made a request to understand if this was a problem or not. Computer logs showed these three sites exceeded 30% of County bandwidth at that time. We suspect that personal use of computers and employee time wasted has only increased over time.
  3. Arrange greater accessibility to meetings. The BOCC has demonstrated it is stubbornly OPPOSED to meeting at night, and also meeting in outlying locations periodically. It is a slap in the face to the public that their accommodation is not considered when arranging meetings to better engage with the citizenry.
  4. We have new leadership in the School System. While it may take some time to turn the Educational System of Franklin County around, let’s not be like someone on a diet that refuses to look at a scale until he/she thinks they have lost a few pounds first. Let’s be honest with the public; establish where we are and what success looks like. Real metrics must be created and made public to keep the public engaged. Citizens and even the School Board must be able to compare and contrast ongoing progress or failure if that’s what has happened on a quarterly basis. It’s about being intellectually honest.
  5. Recently, Erin Griffith was appointed to a number of titled positions that essentially made her the County’s Chief Financial Officer. It is the CCFC’s position that there is insufficient oversight of Departmental and Constitutional purchases. Some purchases approach $1 million. We’d like to suggest that Ms. Griffith must counter sign county purchases that will exceed $10,000.
  6. There has never been(to our knowledge) an internal audit of accessible/spendable miscellaneous funds being held with an easy-to-understand explanation of the purpose of this or that Fund or bank account and why it is maintained. Having been involved with the budget process for years, we can attest that there is no introspection of those funds and usually they are never mentioned.We know of at least one large six figure fund that has not changed or been accessed in years.Why?
  7. It is long past time for us to professionalize the Economic Development function and give that responsibility to a single individual and make them accountable. The fact that we have a fragile three-legged economics tool, relying on tourism, aa fickle seafood industry and construction to support our workers. Alone these industries cannot offer the proper long-term financial opportunities we must have.
  8. In recent years we have increased the County millage rate above the Rollback. The county gives written instruction each year to their Departments and Constitutionals to turn in a budget without raises nor increased budgets and then talks about those additional budget requests at each year’s Budget Workshop. Then pay increases are added at the very end of the Budgeting process. We who watch the county budget process carefully see that County department employees are underfunded compared to Constitutional Departments who frequently take additional bonuses and raises on top of county increase. This creates animosity and a general sense of unfairness throughout the county ranks. Zero based budgeting should be standard to make sure each department does not become its own fiefdom as some have. The budgeting process is broken
  9. Weems Hospital needs to come clean. Recently, an individual with COVID came to Weems but was not allowed to enter. Apparently, a Doctor went outside, gave that person a Steroid shot,then sent them home. Weems took millions of dollars for COVID Stimulus and doesn’t actually do anything to support COVID patients. The fraud that Weems is a full-service hospital must no longer be advertised to the public by County Commissioners who also have stopped reporting Weems finances publicly. Weems is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each month. Commissioners need to honestly understand that sometime in the next year ortwo, Weems will run out of money. The new County Budget Director Erin Griffith needs to be given honest monthly numbers and trend analysis so that she can provide reliable numbers and metrics to Commissioners for information and future action as required. We are prepared to help in that analysis.
  10. Every five years, every department and constitutional office should have a forensic audit to look at efficiency, best practice compliance and to make sure that they are complying with state rules and audit procedures. This is much more important and invasive than the existing required audit procedures. Such Forensic Audits are regularly done by many other counties.

We could write another 25 bullets,but just these ten, if actually discussed and implemented would go a long way towards reduction of taxes to our citizens and serve to improve public confidence.

WE are in the middle of our 2021 Membership Campaign. Please, please consider joining CCFC and send us your dues payment today, while you are still thinking about how our county behaves. Remember to add your email address with your check AND SEND to the address below. Dues are not tax deductible; our membership numbers and your financial support are vital to the CCFC continuing being your county watchdog.

God bless America and all of you!

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

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CCFC-Somebody’s Got to Say It

on Monday, 14 September 2020.

Good Morning Friends:

Quality local government leadership and opportunities for participation have never been as challenged as they are today.

We want to be very specific in our comments and avoid politics. We have terrible problems with our schools that predate the current COVID crisis and are reflected in some of the highest spending per pupil in the state and have the worst results. Our ABC School is excluded from this criticism. It’s a fact that cannot be glossed over. Undertake all the excuse making you can, the results are in the grades and financial numbers. The worst numbers are those of young people that lost opportunities through school neglect and/or lack of parental support. We need quality, child centered leaders.

Our county government has completely failed us on economic development, honesty in government, transparency and our pet favorite… access to our commissioners. Ask your Commissioner this simple question: Why is the County Government budget being raised by $4 million this year? Bet you won’t get an easy to understand, straight forward answer to your question. The criticism we have also extends to some Constitutional Offices that received way too much funding. But I don’t blame them as much as the Commissioners since the Florida Constitution charges Commissioners with determining the correctness of submitted budgets. They don’t.

The Attorney General of Florida determined that citizens have a Constitutional Right to access and address, to have two-way discussions with our leaders. Yet, in 2018 Commissioners changed the existing Policy of allowing citizens to talk to their leaders at the beginning of each Meeting and Workshop and to again address Commissioners in a dialogue before each and every vote is taken. The best way to understand what existed then and what does not exist today is that we had participatory government through 2018 before existing commissioners decided to ask the County Attorney to craft a new policy to limit citizen participation to the strictest legal interpretation possible. Why? The CCFC provided leaders with the policies of all counties neighboring us and beyond, who by and large continue to this day the ability of citizens to participate in government. We give Franklin County Government an F in openness.

The lack of professionalism in how decisions are made, the dearth of citizen input, important polices waived whenever commissioners like and the chutzpah of individual Commissioners has led to:

  • Unfair labor policies that reward people not for the work they do, but whether they are Constitutional employees or work for the Commissioners who have let the gap in pay become unconscionable.
  • Running a hospital that loses money each and every month over available subsidies and can be a death trap for those brought there inappropriately. Ask why Weems is not allowed to admit COVID patients after receiving over $3 million in Cares Act Funding but wants you to believe it’s in the fight.
  • An investment community in North Florida that shuns our county for inconsistent and detrimental county leadership decisions.
  • Nepotism at every level of government. Some of those very same relatives convicted of crimes in their old county jobs and then rehired to another position.
  • A basic disregard for how something looks. Hiring the wife of a Commissioner into the Election Office while running for his seat again. It just looks bad, or worse.
  • The oh so collegial Board of County Commissioners who recently allowed spot paving projects in Commissioners Districts that were up for election this year. There is a policy of saving up Gas Tax money for several years to have countywide projects and bidding them for best value. Not this year.
  • Interference in Zoning decisions that have resulted in multiple ongoing lawsuits costing the county hundreds of thousands of dollars so far and potentially millions more to come. Reducing the number of citizens on P & Z Boards has the effect of reducing citizen input. And has the potential to allow one aspect of membership to influence or dictate county policies, with little or no regard for existing carefully constructed historical land use regulations.
  • An utter and complete lack of creating and acting on Vision statements that could lift Franklin County citizens out of poverty.
  • Paying lip service to the drug problem here in Franklin County and fighting anything that would really address the issue or offer a hand up to its victims. Think drug rehab.
  • Paying homage to the wild caught seafood industry while writing letters trying to have the State of Florida cease issuing leases to the rapidly growing Aquaculture industry here and all around us that could create jobs and real, permanent incomes for our citizens.
  • Another over the top nod to inappropriate election behavior was one Commissioner up for election who broke a red line rule. Individuals on a private road are getting help from the Road Department for the first time ever. The County has steadfastly denied every other request for the last 20 years that we know of. The vote was 5-0 in favor of helping their fellow Commissioner gain an advantage. Let’s see what happens after the election when the next person(s) ask for the same treatment.
  • We’ve heard from several people on the Tourist Development Board that they feel either intimidated or restricted by a rigid system of Management that silences them and they question the need to double the Tourist Development Tax when there are essentially no other beds to sell and limited area amenities are busy.Just another multi-million-dollar pot of money for some to divvy up?

Fellow Franklin County Citizens. We have an election in just a few short weeks. Our local election is just as important as the national elections and will be pivotal as to the road we take going forward. Remember, ultimately all elections are local, this is your only opportunity to make your voice count.

The CCFC believes it’s time to start over. There is systemic corruption in Franklin County. Ask the FBI, Justice Department or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who have had Franklin County on their radar for years. No one who is elected to government should think they own that seat. For a lot of reasons, people are silent too much of the time. Maybe because Commissioners won’t have evening meetings or have ended the occasional one in Carrabelle so they might participate.

Whatever the reason, we encourage you to go vote in person and vote your conscience and elect individuals that are smart, active, humble and forward looking. The county is changing. Has been changing for at least 30 years. It’s time to look at that change and make it work for each and every Franklin County citizen. It’s money in your pocket or out of it. You decide who to vote for that most closely fits your thoughts on county and school government.

As always, if you have any questions, or, want deeper or supportive information or just want to talk, we are here. We are your Concerned Citizens of Franklin County and we look out for your best interests Financially and Ethically

Stay tuned for an announcement as to the CCFC’s annual meeting!

God bless America and all of you!

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Please feel free to redistribute this email to your friends!

Franklin County Tax Increase—CCFC Guidance

on Friday, 31 July 2020.

Good Morning Friends:

This Morning at 9:00 a.m. in a closed courtroom, Franklin County Commissioners will hold their annual Budget Workshop once again. It will be devoid of contrary voices and Commissioners expect to blast through the budgeting process without the constraints of public scrutiny.

We are not happy. That very same courtroom is open for business for everything except County Commission business. This is a further demonstration of the low regard your Commissioners hold you to.

We have submitted the following comments both on process and budget substance and have made them available to Commissioners and Staff. We also are asking for a 3% reduction in the taxes you will be forced to pay this year. We hope you read our comments and thinking below. If you are in agreement that it’s time to make a change, you have the chance to vote starting next week. In addition, you can reach out to your Commissioner and let him know, you demand a 3% reduction, even if it means no bonuses or some other minor belt tightening.

Go to this link https://www.franklincountyflorida.com/county-government/board-of-commissioners/ and contact your Commissioner. Only if they hear from you will there be any chance of a rate reduction instead of an almost baked in increase.


2020/2021 Franklin County Budget

Franklin County should strive to provide necessary services at the lowest cost to citizens. Franklin County Leadership consistently fails to meet that standard. The 2020 -2021 Franklin County budget is 400-plus pages long. We have reviewed each page and category. I fear that the Commissioners, who are in charge of spending your monies, have not done the same.

Long before a Budget Workshop deadline, staff should employ Strategic Thinking for their budgets. Rigorous oversight of constantly changing priorities, intra-year funding and unexpected changes should be factored in, but are not. Public workshops often ignore or dismiss public input, and too often reflect the status quo without challenging staff to do more with less.

A $1,200 bonus is proposed for all employees! But County employees enjoy full employment. Some receive substantial overtime or even raises in the proposed budget while also receiving stimulus checks from the Federal Government. A bonus is unnecessary and a bit tone deaf.

The continuing divide between county employees and Constitutional Officers widens further: County employees receive an average salary of $32,000 while the salary of Constitutional employees is 19% higher, averaging $40,000 What justifies that? When will we take this disparity in earnings seriously? Why not forego the proposed bonus for Constitutionals this year, thus allowing salaries of Department Employees to close the earnings gap?

We believe such inconsistencies demonstrate the failure of conscientious budget oversight by Commissioners.

Here are some additional budget specifics I ask you to review:

  1. Per capita, Franklin’s budget exceeds that of most counties in the State. This would be the fifth consecutive year of net tax increases. Proposed Budget dismisses the lower rollback rate proposing a 1.48 percent increase in taxes. The proposed budget is a 7% budget increase from $58 million to $62 million.
  2. Franklin County has received millions in grants for Hurricane Michael and COVID-19, yet monies disbursed to different departments were not factored in to this budget.
  3. Budget preparation follows the “We’ve Always Done It This Way” pattern. But with careful analysis, programs could obtain substantial cost reductions without service reductions. New spending initiatives like hiring a Code Enforcement Officer or Economic Development professional can’t find the financial Oxygen without creative thinking.
  4. Without appropriate financial oversight, budgets inflated for specific purposes one year often automatically include that same amount the next year. Commence zero-based budget protocols to save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
  5. Limit fourth quarter spending. Unspent monies at the end of the year are creatively spent rat than turning the excess back in. Create a County policy to address this failure of leadership
  6. Sheriff’s Budget shows a slight decrease; average pay rises to $37,777. Operating Expense shows a large decline from $1.667 million to $1.408 million but contractual Services shows a major increase from 237k to $360k. Why?
  7. Property Appraiser’s budget has a much higher cost per parcel than neighboring counties. Eight employees receive the highest average pay in the county; proposed salaries are increased from $42,353 to $44,503.
  8. Tax Collector’s budget is flat. Average pay is $37,966.
  9. Road Departments budget is flat. Average employee makes $33,211.
  10. There has been a substantial increase in Capital Equipment purchases in the last two years with this year being the most numerous in memory. Proposed Capital Spending approaches $2 1/2 million for new tractors, excavator, multiple road vehicles, knuckle boom truck and a very expensive ($892,500) Tub Grinder. I saw no competitive pricing estimates nor any added fuel or maintenance costs to support the 1,000 H.P. Tub.
  11. Solid Waste shows no budget increase with an average salary of $33,943. I believe Solid Waste costs could be greatly reduced with County-Wide garbage pickup. Single payer could reduce service costs and savings could be returned to the public
  12. Parks and Recreation proposes a 2.01% increase and has an average salary of $29,551. Increased spending on Youth Sports and Property Insurance bears scrutiny. What happened to the money budgeted this year for sports that never happened due to Covid?
  13. No information was given on Weems raises, whether awarded or not. This demonstrates poor accountability and transparency.
  14. TDC budget continues to expand – bed tax likely to be raised to 4% after vote to schedule a Public Workshop. With long-term occupancy high and many public accommodations closed, why the need for an increase? Because they can?
  15. Health Insurance costs and better rates need to be investigated. A 10% rate increase was budgeted, although final rates are not available. With Health Insurance costs of $1.7 million, such a huge increase needs justification. Cost sharing is done by other businesses and governments to help reduce health care costs. Finance should research this and admit we have been overly generous.
  16. The county normally receives approximately $5 million in fee and sales tax revenue. Is there planning for the negative impact expected from Covid-19?
  17. Unbudgeted, and unanticipated revenue, often totaling hundreds of thousands, even millions may be received. How is that folded into budget planning so as not to raise taxes unnecessarily?
  18. The County has almost $14 million Cash Carried Forward dollars. Better management of this money could positively impact taxpayers.
  19. The County holds more than $2 million in contingency money in multiple accounts.
  20. Fine and Forfeiture Funds contains large amounts of unspent cash including a phantom $600,000 reserve. Why?

These are YOUR monies in this budget. Please pay attention! County Leadership has a Constitutional Responsibility to do a better job than they have in the past. Ask your Commissioner a question on the budget; they’ll likely not know the history, need or future of this or that specific topic. If we can read and analyze the proposed budget, shouldn’t you expect your Commissioner to do the same? They must do more than give lip service to this most important duty of their office.

Let your Commissioner know you want reductions, not increase in your taxes. Always remember, we get the government we deserve.

Allan J. Feifer
President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.

Weems Audit-CCFC Letter to Membership

on Thursday, 11 June 2020.

Lies and Damn Lies and the Scoundrels in Our Midst

Hello Friends:

Our County is reopening, but you wouldn’t know it if you tried to come to attend a County Commission meeting to address your Commissioners. The doors are still locked and frankly, I think they like it that way. Two years ago, Commissioners greatly restricted access by the public by creating a written policy severing your ability to actually speak and get a reply from your Commissioners at public meetings. Now, they can hide behind Covid-19 restrictions that they put on to exclude the public. Now, every utterance goes unchallenged, no matter how wrong the statement. We now have our very own Star Chamber in Franklin County.

If you know me, you know I stew about a lot of things I feel are unjust or misleading. At a recent BOCC meeting the CPA that just conducted the Hospital Audit appeared to give a glowing report on Weems. Naturally, none of the Commissioners read it or they would have certainly asked questions that would have revealed the lack of forthrightness. Taken from the actual report, I give you the truth. We have uploaded the report to our web site. You can view the actual statements at:

http://abetterfranklin.com/images/PDFs/WeemsAuditorsStatement-2019.pdf

Read for yourself how you often can’t trust what’s said by your Commissioners:

Page 2—Prior Period Restatement was massive

Page 2—In Other Matters, Management elected to not have the required Management Discussion. This is a big deal…Why?

Page 3—Patient accounts receivables is severely written down from internal financial provided to the public throughout the year.

Page 3—Current Assets down quite a bit. That is cash and cash equivalents.

Page 3—Note the Construction in Progress of $2,575,437—that’s how much they have spent on studies, architects and other things to build a new hospital they can’t afford.

Page 3—Accounts Payable rose to $908k

Page 3—Total Liabilities decreased only slightly in spite of a nearly $700k write off of a loan forgiven by the current Board of Commissioners. Net affect was nearly a wash

Page 4—Total Operating Expenses up 10% after being up a similar amount the Page 5—Cash and Cash Equivalents dropped by ½ million Dollars as mentioned earlier previous year

Page 5—Cash and Cash Equivalents dropped by ½ million Dollars as mentioned earlier

Page 7—Prior Period Restatements totaling $1.25 million has little explanation but was a negative change to the statement. This alone should be reason to fire the CFO, but wait, there is more.

Page 18—Medicare patients dropped from 40% to 38% which is especially troublesome since only Medicare receives the Critical Care Access subsidy, not any other form of payment like Medicaid or self-pay. More worrisome is that Medicaid grew by 3% which the hospital loses money on every time.

Page 23—Medical Malpractice Insurance notes that Weems is not accruing liability like it should which would affect the bottom line in a negative manner. In addition, it was unreported that Weems is significantly underinsured, relying on the financial strength of the County to pay claims exceeding the liability limits of its woefully low insurance limit of about $250,000.

Page 27—Internal Controls Over Financial Reporting continue to be weak.

Page 29—Accrual Basis Accounting is done ineffectively requiring many adjustments or reclassifications. This is a Repeat Item. The effect as stated is that there is “Material misstatement of the financial statements.” This is your big reason for firing the CFO.

Page 30—Accounting and Finance Staffing is called out again this year and the report clearly states that “Processes and controls in place in fiscal 2019 were not sufficient to maintain effective internal control over financial reporting which resulted in the other findings described within this schedule.” CFO issue again.

Page 31—Account Receivable is overstated. “Reducing net AR by a material amount.”

Page32—Recording of Audit Adjustments were not properly performed from the previous year’s audit.

This cursory reading of the Audit Reports should set off alarm bells all over the county in a normal situation. Commissioners and Hospital Management have been clearly warned of the issues at Weems. Watch that $3.2 million Corona Virus “gift” disappear over the next two years if things continue the way they are with current losses of a quarter million dollars a month. Any independent professional would have to view the repeated issues with financial controls and reports as likely/potentially deliberate and designed to allow Hospital Management and the Board to make claims of progress that are just not true. A copy of this email and the report should be sent to the Auditor General for further review.

Let’s not forget that we had the largest Nonprofit Health System offer us millions of dollars and a virtual end to risk until last month when the BOCC decided to continue Lockley’s Folly. $23 million in taxes collected so far and counting!

God bless America and all of you!

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Please feel free to redistribute this email to your friends!

A Message of Hope and Action

on Monday, 06 April 2020.

A Crazy World

Hello Friends:

In the last six days, Franklin County counted its first two Coronavirus infections with one at Alligator Point and one (thought to be) on ST. George Island. The one in Alligator Point is a renter from New York. The one on SGI had recently traveled overseas, we’ve been told.

Scary? Yes and No. Let me explain. I am a statistician and a businessman. We have collected and analyzed both business starts and construction starts for about 25 years and we’ve seen many ups and downs and the interpretations made with this move or that. We don’t claim to have superior knowledge. But what we do know is that projections are worth what you pay for them; or maybe not. Projections often turn out to be more wrong than right.

The Coronavirus is a clear and present danger to our way of life either due to the Coronavirus and/or government actions. I won’t argue with the political decision. But I will state there is a tendency to underrate Unintended Consequences of your actions. Like in physics, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The calculus to break the back of this disease was made by others. We don’t have to agree, it’s the law and its policy. If you disagree, vote your leaders out at the next election. But, even then, be careful, that might be exactly what the political types are doing…playing the long game. I can’t speak for national leadership or how the scientists came to the conclusions that they did. Here’s what we all need to do to get back our lives.

  1. Embrace and don’t fight the leadership that has mandated many different changes in our behavior. The sooner its over, the sooner we get our lives back.
  2. Be vigilant both internally and externally. Not only do you have to do what’s necessary to keep you and yours safe. You have to worry about those that fight everything and do stupid things that endanger us all. Commissioners are you listening? The transmission path so far has been overwhelming willful and/or unthinking, not caring for others. If you are sick, stay away and God be with you. If everyone followed that advice, the virus would burn itself out quickly.
  3. Protect the elderly and those that are compromised. Not only because we love them, but also for the risk it puts others to when we have to take care of them because someone was not thinking!
  4. Just like Terrorism; if you see something, say something. Social shaming needs to be a part of the way we ward off new infections and contain those that are shopping in our stores and moving about in defiance of the law.
  5. Ask why the Health Departments statewide are not legally quarantining those with the virus? If everyone knew who had Coronavirus we and they would not be cavalierly coming here and otherwise spreading the infection. We would be arresting those breaking quarantine.
  6. Sooner, rather than later we will start to get back our lives. The vast majority of people who get the virus will have zero to moderate symptoms. Our medical care system will not get overwhelmed. We need to begin focusing on how we will reopen our businesses now, even as we wait for the actual date to do so.

Please consider working together as we have not done for at least 60 years. Only a nihilist or unthinking person will see things differently. America is the greatest nation on earth. Freedom and the independence that comes along with it are not free. We sometimes forget the terrible price current and former Soldiers, Deputies, Medical personnel and even Politicians have sometimes paid for what we have. Our future is not a given. The best among us will lead us back to prosperity. Applaud them, don’t throw roadblocks in front of them as they reinvent our country as this virus slowly fades.

One more thing. Now, more than ever everyone needs to respond to their Census Information Request. Go to my2020census.gov. This site permits you to use your street address to respond to the census. It's very easy to do at that point, even for couples or small families using iPhones and Androids. The telephone number is 1-844-330-2020 for English. For Spanish call 1-844-468-2020. It is best to call very early or very late to shorten the wait time. Act Now while you are thing about it. You’ll be participating in a vital national priority. Afterwards, you will know we are all united by our Americanism.

I’d love your feedback, good or bad.

God bless America and all of you!

Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

President
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.”

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner William Massey - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

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