As most of you may have read in the Jasper News Articles, the Town Council of the Town of White Springs, since October 1, of 2018, has not entered into the Fire Protection and Related Emergency Services Agreement mainly because Henry Land, Fire Coordinator for Hamilton County, wished for a performance related contract, rather than just paying White Springs $17,000 for no or inadequate services.

Part of the reason for the Town’s reluctance to enter into the contract is due to the fact that technically the Town of White Springs does not have a viable Fire Department since former Chief Pittman was removed and the remaining volunteers quit by reason of the Town’s treatment of these volunteers and their chief. Since that time, we have a roster of members from areas from Callahan, the Miami area, Alachua and Lake City, (All of which work for Century Ambulance under Chief Stith) none of which will serve the Town of White Springs’ citizens. Again, White Springs has not had a viable fire department under Chief Stith for two years.

Since the last reporting, Randy Ogburn, District 4 Commissioner of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, has been attempting to appease the requests of White Springs by allowing our Town Manager Stacy Tebo and Mayor Spencer Lofton to plea bargain the Agreement by an open ended addition to the agenda. A consensus was finally enacted not because White Springs had any ability to negotiate under the circumstances and not because White Springs is considered favored over Jennings who signed the contract in October of 2018, but because of Randy Ogburn’s love for the people of White Springs and Hamilton County. In other words, our gratitude for any such concessions is only because of Commissioner Ogburn and the remaining Board of Commissioners.

At the April 9th Council Meeting, Commissioner Ogburn, Hamilton County Coordinator Louie Goodin and Fire Coordinator for Hamilton County, Henry Land, attended our meeting. Instead of moving these distinguished guests up to an earlier point in the agenda, they had to wait until the Fire Protection Agreement was brought up later on in the meeting. There was no gratitude for the concessions made by these distinguished officials but rather Henry Land was called up to the Podium to just stand there while Commissioner Ogburn was recognized only to stand next to his chair without being allowed to speak. Instead Mayor Lofton went into a brag fest about how wonderfully he, on behalf of the town, negotiated the terms that manifested into the new agreement. Lofton also gave recognition to Stacy Tebo, but there was no Thanks and recognition given to the distinguished members of Hamilton County.

In fact, since Councilman McKenzie, asked what the changes were, instead of allowing Mr. Land to speak by turning it over to the County, Lofton stated they would be receiving $2,500 per quarter guaranteed, with the rest to be prorated on number of calls and he was especially elated that only one firefighter had to respond to calls of service instead of Two. The absurdity of this situation is that the ISO requires four (4) certified firefighters and the County asked for Two, and White Springs actually believes they only have to have one firefighter for calls of service outside of White Springs.

But since our Council members with the exception of Councilor Helen Miller, do not read contracts, the Town may have been given a concession by one person for calls of service but two are required for danger to life or health.

The paragraph the Town Missed is as follows:

FIRE PROTECTION AND RELATED EMERGENCY SERVICES AGREEMENT

One (1) appropriately trained responder from “Town” must respond to all calls of service. For calls involving Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) atmospheres, two (2) Certified Firefighters must respond in the initial call for credit as a response. A Certified Firefighter is an individual who holds a current and valid Firefighter Certificate of Completion issued by the Division of State Fire Marshal under s. 633.408, Florida Statutes. When Four (4) certified firefighters are required under state law, “Town” will request additional firefighters from another Department.

Now Mayor Lofton can pat himself on the back, taking full credit for being a real negotiator, but many of the Town’s people are aware that it was not Lofton’s “art of the deal” which promulgated a revised agreement for the Town but rather the kindness and pity by the Board of County Commissioners, Henry Land and Louie Goodin who made this possible for the Town to receive some funds even though we do not have Firefighters to serve the areas outside of White Springs much less our town.

Karin Griffin

White Springs

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