CHIPLEY — The Washington County Board of County Commissioners voted to pay themselves $600 a month for mileage reimbursement during Thursday’s BOCC meeting in Chipley.
Commissioner Charles Brock made the motion that the commissioners renew their mileage reimbursement rate at the same amount as was set in 2012.
County Attorney Jeff Goodman said the commissioners had the legal right to reimbursement for travel expenses, and they could either be paid per mile or a flat rate. The board had settled on a flat rate in the past since mileage claims varied greatly from commissioner to commissioner.
“Most counties pay a flat rate,” Goodman said. “It’s my recommendation that if you are going to give reimbursement, you should use Subsection F,” he added, citing the state statute which allows for the flat rate reimbursement.
Goodman said be looked at surrounding counties, and most are paying a flat rate for mileage reimbursement to its county commissioners. “Jackson County pays $600 a month, and Walton County pays $1,046,” Goodman said. Holmes County, however, does not pay its commissioners mileage.
“This is down from the $1,144 per month that it used to be,” Commissioner Joel Pate said. “Keep in mind, before you vote, that we just talked about the county having a lack of money, and now we’re voting to give ourselves $600 a month.”
“Commissioners can decide to accept or decline the money as they see fit,” Chairman Alan Bush said.
The vote on the mileage reimbursement passed 3-2, with Commissioners Pate and Todd Abbott voting “No.”
The commissioners also heard from a county residents seeking assistance.
Ronald Small came before the board seeking their assistance in adding his auto repair business and towing service to the state and county official tow truck rotation, so he could be notified when accidents occur in Washington County by the Sheriff’s Office and the Highway Patrol.
“The Highway Patrol commander said there are only three listings allowed for our zone, and one of those companies is from Jackson County,” Small said. “I don’t want to run them off, but I am right here in Washington County and I would like a chance, too.”
Small said his facility and trucks meet the state requirements, and the Highway Patrol would need a request from the Board of County Commissioners to allow them to add him to the rotation.
Similarly, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office uses the Highway Patrol rotation, so Small would have to be added by the state before the county sheriff would being using his service, Small said.
Bush said the board would look into the situation and contact the Highway Patrol commander.
Vernon Elementary School parent and PTO member Tara Dockery also addressed the county commissioners to ask for their support in providing School Resource Officers and metal detectors at each of the district’s campuses.
“I believe as county leaders, you have a moral responsibility to help make our schools safer,” Dockery said.
She took her request to the Washington County School Board on Jan. 14, where she presented a petition with 400 signatures asking the school officials to make school security a higher priority.
Dockery said the PTO had been in contact with Sheriff Bobby Haddock and she would have more information from the sheriff as to what was needed to fund an officer for each campus.
“We saw where the governor is freeing up more money for the schools and giving teachers raises,” Bush said. “Hopefully there will be more money in the budget for school safety.”
Bush also suggested that Dockery attend the Legislative delegation meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 29, and present her information and petition to Rep. Marti Coley and Sen. Don Gaetz, who will be in town meeting with residents to discuss local concerns.