Below are the news briefs from the Leon County Commission meeting that took place on February 21, 2023.
Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil provided a presentation to the commission updating them on LCSO’s HOST Program, which is designed to address issues of homelessness in Leon County. McNeil said that he is well aware that the update may not lead to immediate solutions to many of the problems facing the community, but acknowledged that it is a host of problems that has led to Leon County’s homeless problem.
McNeil did conclude his thought by saying “arresting our way” out of homelessness “is not our preferred method” given how the detention facilities are near full and “defecation” along with “other minor violations” would set LCSO over the top.
The commissioners were afforded a short time to offer comment in response to McNeil’s report, and Commissioner Bill Proctor said that he did not feel compelled to offer up new ordinances. But he did say that he is hearing of a fair amount of “wanderers” in his district and that parents are growing afraid to have their children play in the yard because of “wanderers.” Also noting that he is not sure if it is “illegal to wander.”
Commissioner Brian Welch noted that one of the statistics that stood out to him during McNeil’s presentation was: of the hundreds of interactions with homeless individuals from the law enforcement officers as part of the HOST program, only seven individuals got permanent housing and only 39 percent of the homeless consider themselves “local.” The remaining homeless are not from the area.
Welch continued by saying that he is tired “of kicking the can down the road” and that “we need to do something” as the board agreed on a workshop to address the issue. Welch also said that there needs to be additional questions asked as to who are the claimed homeless and who are panhandlers. He witnessed, along with members of his district, people getting out of vans with bright vests that looked like they were conducting charitable work without a permit. Welch did not count out the possibility of fraud taking place by those organized panhandlers.
The board approved Agenda Item 24 which allows the county administrator to negotiate waste collection service with WastePro for 30,000 residential and 400 commercial sites. While WastePro was the lowest bid, it will still likely be a 54 percent rate increased to $278 per year for residences which accounts for “inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain costs.” The current monthly rate for residents is $15.03 per month and will increase to $23.17 per month. The commercial bid rate will also increase by at least 58 percent, one estimate will increase 116 percent for a compactor container servicing 18 customers.
The board considered and passed Agenda Item 31 which would rezone a 30+ acre parcel of land located at 3762 Capital Circle NW currently in possession by Northwoods Baptist Church. The rezoning would change it to residential allowing for the building and development of residential homes if the church opts to eventually sell the land.
Commissioners Rick Minor and David O’Keefe expressed their opposition to the rezoning while Commissioners Brian Welch, Carolyn Cummings, Bill Proctor, Christian Caban, and Nick Maddox supported it. The final vote was 5-2 in favor of rezoning.
The issue took over three hours to resolve which included commissioner comments and public comments.
The full discussion and debate can be viewed here.
The meeting can be viewed here.