Below are the news briefs from the Leon County Commission meeting that took place on January 24, 2023.
The county approved Agenda Item 19 which gave the board direction to further seek out a resolution to issues facing many school bus stops in unincorporated Leon County. Chairman Nick Maddox took the time to note that he spoke about this issue with Leon County School Board Member Darryl Jones over how Highway 20 is “pitch black” for students who are getting picked up along that road.
According to the analysis the county provided, “High school students without their own transportation are most likely to be waiting for a school bus before sunrise,” and “Elementary school students must wait for the bus in the dark at certain times of the school year but are encouraged by LCS to be in the company of an adult.”
The county commission approved a $20,000 from Duke Energy to provide “for lighting enhancements to a portion of the History Walking Trail in the Fort Braden Community.” This was a part of the issue relating to Duke Energy seeking to replace 13.8 miles of existing power lines in the Fort Braden community. One of the easements expected to be replaced was the famous Fort Braden Tree which has stood for over 100 years. The community worked with Duke Energy and found a way to maintain the historic tree while also completing Duke Energy’s project.
The commission commended newly elected County Commissioner Christian Caban for his work within his district in hearing from members in his district who expressed their concern over the Fort Braden Tree from being removed.
The county commission accepted a $100,000 donation from Friends of the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library in order to support the Essential Libraries Initiative. “A large portion of the donation has been earmarked for books and media materials, and to support library cardholders’ increasing use of Kanopy, the on-demand streaming service,” the county stated.
The county commission approved an agreement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Springs Restoration Grant Agreement to add $1,111,111 of newly allocated funding for the Leon County Septic Upgrade Incentive Program to replace existing septic tanks with nitrogen-reducing enhancements in the Wakulla Springs Priority Focus Area.
Commissioners Bill Proctor, David O’Keefe, and Carolyn Cummings expressed excitement for this grant to be able to move forward with taking care of the environment, especially to the areas where Wakulla Springs might be affected by nitrogen and nutrient runoff from septic tanks.
The county commission approved seven names to be considered for the Children’s Services Council’s two open seats. Paul Mitchell and Carmen Connor had expiring seats, and the seven names were added to a pool of nominees proposed by the county commission including: Patty Ball Thomas, Wallisa Cobb, Stephen Gagne, Keshia Jenkins, Matt McKibbin, Michelle Miller, Richard Paul Mitchell, Daniel Parker, Bill Schack, John Sheetz, Lisa Thompson, Amanda Valter, Eric Whitehead, and Brenda Williams.
Commissioner Bill Proctor nominated Brenda Williams of the eligible names, Commissioner Carolyn Cummings nominated Paul Mitchell, Commissioner Brian Welch nominated Bill Schack, Commissioner David O’Keefe nominated Keshia Jenkins, Commissioner Rick Minor nominated Wallisa Cobb, Chairman Nick Maddox nominated Eric Whitehead, and Commissioner Christian Caban nominated Daniel Parker.
During a time of the meeting where commissioners were able to express their thoughts in discussion format, Commissioner Christian Caban put forward a motion to call together a workshop regarding the homeless issue in Leon County. Caban stated that he was getting emails weekly from constituents about the issue.
In response, Commissioner Bill Proctor said that he did not want to get together and just “hear themselves talk” but he is hoping the City of Tallahassee and the Leon County Sheriff “get off the fence” before the county commission begins taking action seeing that they have “chewed on the bone.”
The commission ended up deciding against a workshop and instead will be relying on the next visit from Sheriff Walt McNeil to give them an update on how a homelessness program they implemented has been working.
Commissioner Rick Minor said that he recalled a conversation he had regarding the homelessness issue and he remembered “Eighty percent of the homeless living in Leon County could be transitioned to stable housing but for just one or two variables whether it’s a missed prescription or a record in their history.” He emphasized a customizable resolution to Leon County’s homelessness issues.
Commissioner Bill Proctor took time to address the recent controversy between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and College Board after the Florida Department of Education denied approval of an AP African American history course. The course curriculum included subjects on “Black queer studies.”
“There is grave concern about the tone and the tenor of leadership’s voice from the highest spaces in our state being hostile to teaching of African American history,” Proctor said. “Well frankly I’m against the College Board’s curriculum. I think it’s trash. It’s not African American history. It is ideology. I’ve taught African American history, I’ve structed syllabuses for African American history. I am African American history. And talking about ‘queer’ and ‘feminism’ and all of that for the struggle for freedom and equality and justice has not been no tension with queerness and feminist thought at all.”
The full meeting can be viewed here.