BONIFAY — Regional Director of Resource Development at United Way of Northwest Florida Ron Sharpe visited the Holmes County Board of County Commissioners during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Jan. 29.
“I’m looking to hold United Way campaigns throughout Holmes County,” said Sharpe. “To raise awareness to the services provided in Holmes County. There are over 31 agencies that are available to assist the residents of Holmes County like Life Management, Tri County Community Council.”
He said it was hard for people to become more knowledgeable about most of those agencies because they weren’t stationed in Holmes County.
“Even though they are located in Panama City, it’s the residents of Holmes County that receive the help,” he said. “One office in Panama City was able to help over 50,000 people. Some of those people were from Holmes County.”
10 calls a day are made from people who need help with their power bills, he said.
“95 cents of every dollar remains local,” said Sharpe. “A little bit out of each pay roll helps immensely and that money can go to the agency of your choice.”
A lot of that is possible because the United Way pulls resources from both state and federal.
“When someone gives to United Way over the course of a year it has a large impact,” he said. “When it comes to United Way it’s like a grant and someone, not a paid staff member, but someone within your community will look at the dollars, they will look at the grant request and our agencies will fill out an application, a grant application, they tell us how much we need, how they’re going to use the money and that whole process. For Holmes County those individuals are Julia Bullington with the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce, Melissa Willard with Regions Bank, Fran Haithcoat with Wells Fargo and Brenda Blitch from Doctors Memorial Hospital.”
Because of grant matches, Sharpe said, the money given through donations is matched and increased.
“For example Life Management has a foster care adoption program and $25 is given for every dollar donated,” he said. “Meals on Wheels gets $9 for every dollar and the Early Learning Coalition that funds daycare centers in Holmes County gets $17 for every dollar donated. The Red Cross has helped five people over this winter after loosing everything due to house fires and they don’t get any funding aside from agencies like ours.”
Commissioner David Whitaker asked how does the United Way keep people from abusing these services.
“We’ve learned a lot from past disasters,” said Sharpe. “We have a system set up that keeps people from double-dipping, so to speak, and all agencies have to be reviewed and audited on an annual basis. It’s all about accountability.”
Whitaker asked if it was possible to give a one-time donation.
“Yes,” said Sharpe. “You can go online and you can use cash, checks, credit cards or payroll deduction. Payroll deduction is the strength of United Way because you’ll never miss a dollar out of each paycheck.”
One of the most recent successes was Doctors Memorial Hospital, he said.
“Doctors Memorial Hospital had never done anything like this before but Blitch said she was interested in bringing it to her staff and giving it a shot,” he said. “The first year they raised $2,500 and last year they raised $3,330. They saw the needs in their community and decided to make a difference in their community.”
Chair Monty Merchant said that he has seen United Way successfully raise money for local agencies through a previous employer.
“This is a good opportunity to give to a local agency and make a difference in our community,” said Whitaker.
Sharpe added that Covenant Hospice was also an agency that received grant money from every dollar raised.
“A lot of times people can’t afford these services and heaven forbid you should need it but they’d never turn you away,” he said. “We’re in challenging times. We just need to raise awareness that these agencies are out there to help in these trying times of economic crisis.”
BOCC approved Commissioner Bobby Sasnett’s requested to pay a local beaver hunter for his services, saying he was charging the county $480 at a rate of $30 per beaver.
“I don’t know how much of a problem we’re having with these beavers but if killing them helps then we should see about it,” said Sasnett.
County employee Eddie Whitehurst verified that the beavers in Holmes County are an issue and one that the county should take note of because they’ve had the job of cleaning out the beaver dams but soon their work crew will be reduced.
Commissioner Kenneth Williams also concurred that the beavers are an issue in Holmes County.
“I’ve had roads washed out because of beaver dams,” said Williams.
Commissioner Bill Parish suggested going out to bid if they find that this service is beneficial to the county.
“If it’s beneficial for the county I’m all for it,” said Sasnett. “I’ll visit these areas to see just how bad these beavers are.”
Whitehurst brought before the BOCC an estimate to cover the new fuel tankards at Districts 3 and 4 Road Yard.
“Because of the newer and bigger fuel tankards we’re needing something bigger to cover them from the weather,” said Whitehurst. “We were using the old awning from the Bank of Bonifay’s old drive-thru but now we’re needing something more. I request that we table this matter because the present quote is for $12,484 and I think we can get it done for well less then a fraction of that price.”
BOCC agreed to table the matter until Whitehurst found a cheaper means of covering the tankards.
BOCC approved of accepting two vehicles handed down from the Tri County Community Council for the Holmes County Public Library and the road department.
“We’ve never had a vehicle for the library,” said Susan Harris from the HCPL. “We’ve been striving for a vehicle to take to the rural areas. We want to provide what services we have in the library, such as the Internet, to those areas who can’t afford to make it to the library.”
Merchant asked her if she had the funds in her budget to maintain the vehicle.
“Some how we’ll make it work to where we can do what we got to do,” said Harris. “It will be a most needed service to the people in our community.”
BOCC approved of getting an assessment and a recommendation for what should be done with faulty air conditioning unit at the Holmes County Agricultural building.
“This is a problem where we have had it break down, then we fix it, have it running for a while until we rent it out again and it breaks down again shortly after renting it out,” said Williams.
Parish recommended because it was a larger financial decision then just replacing a simple window air conditioning unit that they should get a professional recommendation before replacing the entire unit.
BOCC approved of The Northwest Florida Regional Planning to continue offering the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program after receiving word that program has received funding for the new year.
BOCC approved Tri County Community Council representative Joel Paul’s request for TCCC to submit a Transportation Service Development Grant.
“The Department of Transportation has a grant available to improve our transportation programs,” said Paul. “For us it has already been approved we just need to show we the approval of the board. We’ll be using it to update our software for better scheduling, mapping, routes, GPS, etc.”
County Engineer Cliff Knauer approached the board to remind them about deadlines for the Florida Boating Improvement Program grant.
“One of our former commissioners, Jim King, was trying to push for a boat ramp at the Chactahachi River in Holmes County on the west end of Highway 90,” said Knauer. “Because it didn’t score high enough we weren’t able to get the grant. First of all we couldn’t get a letter from the DOT to allow access through their right-of-way and second of all everyone who submitted an application and was accepted was fully prepared before hand with survey analyses, etc.”
Parish asked what the concerns with DOT were to prohibit them from allowing the county access to their right-of-way.
Knauer explained it was concerns they had with the wetlands and environmental impact.
“We didn’t have any surveying or impact studies,” said Knauer. “We can get those without any problem it just takes time. So if anyone has any boat ramp, parking lot or restroom issues we’ve got to get on it soon so we can get what we need for this grant.”
Parish asked County Attorney Jeff Goodman what the status was for the Holmes County Comprehension Plan.
Goodman said that the county had been through the painstaking process of updating the Comprehensive Plan to meet legislative requirements and now all that was required was to see if they are still in compliance and if they want to update their Evaluation and Appraisal Report.
Parish also said that there are issues with erosion on North and South Ride.
Knauer said that the previous commissioners had addressed the issue and a plan was created for addressing those issues but the commissioners had chose to decline the plan.
“It was well over what we originally thought it was going to cost,” said Williams. “That’s why we weren’t able to follow through with it.”
Knauer agreed to review the plan with Parish.
“We’re ready when you are,” said Knauer.
Merchant told the board that a local church approached him about building a new sanctuary for the church.
“A local church is building a new sanctuary and asked about waiving the building fee and I told them that is how the building department was able to run, through their fees, but I told them I’d bring it before the board,” said Merchant.
The board members agreed that it wasn’t a good idea to waive the fees.
“If we waive it for one, we’ll have to waive it for all,” said Williams. “Even I had to tell the same thing to my church when they asked.”
BOCC approved of consent items Minutes for January 8, 2013 Workshop & Regular Session, Real Property Lease with Reba Sconiers for District 1 Road Yard, Travel Request for Wanda Stafford to go to the Annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference and Miscellaneous Appropriations Agreement with the Council on Aging.
The next regularly scheduled HC BOCC meeting is set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the Holmes County BOCC Chamber located behind the Holmes County Courthouse.