The 2017 legislative session has come to a close and Jackson County will be the benefactor of several large sums of money that will benefit the Jackson County School Board, Jackson Adults with Disabilities, Chipola College, City of Marianna, and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.
Senator George Gainer said of the legislative actions, “I’m proud that we were able to deliver for the residents of Jackson County and throughout Northwest Florida. As I promised when I was running for the Florida Senate, I didn’t forget about Jackson County when I was in Tallahassee. I’m thankful for a good partner in Representative Brad Drake who also fought for these projects over in the House.”
Representative Brad Drake was more than happy to help Jackson County, “With more than $20 million dollars of our state budget directed toward Jackson County, I am very proud of the hard work that went into funding these worthwhile projects. Senator George Gainer and I worked together to ensure that our area received the attention it deserves. Our Marianna Public Safety Administration Building ($350,000), the Sunland Adults with Disabilities program ($1,019,247), the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch System ($150,000), Chipola College ($526,541), and the new k-8 school ($19,059,807) will serve the needs of our community well, and I cannot thank Senator Gainer enough for working with me this year to help meet the needs of the people here in Jackson County.”
The biggest windfall came to the Jackson County School Board with the approval of $19,059,807 for the construction of the K-8 school for this year. The School District will receive two additional years of funding at the same level to replace Golson and Riverside Elementary Schools and Marianna Middle School with one combined K-8 school. Superintendent Larry Moore said of the news, “We are very excited about it and so thankful to Senator Gainer, Senator Montford, and Senator Latvala as well as Representative Drake for their commitment to Jackson County and our schools. We are cautiously optimistic about the funding.”
The Jackson Adults with Disability Programs will receive $1,019,247 that will be used to serve county residents with disabilities. This will benefit both Sunland and JCARC (Jackson County Association for Retarded Citizens). This is reoccurring funds for vocational rehab programs as part of the Federal Rehab Act of 1973. It is an appropriation from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation through the Department of Education. Sunland Superintendent Gerri Williams was all smiles about the possibility of the funding coming through, “This is positively impactful for this population. It will certainly make a difference and we are very grateful for the strong legislative delegation and Governor Scott.” In an interview with Superintendent of Schools Larry Moore in reference to funding for next year’s staffing at Sunland, Moore said, “We are still in the process of completing the application that is required but we feel pretty confident that we will receive that funding and we are recommending that those individuals not be terminated so that their insurance will not lapse.”
The City of Marianna will receive $350,000 for a public safety administration building. City Manager Jim Dean said of his potential windfall, “We give a big thank you to Senator Gainer and Representative Brad Drake for their hard work in pushing this through for us. This building was built in 1942 and the flooring is coming apart in some places, and it’s been a hodge podge of reconstruction. We have got to do something because it’s no longer functional.” When asked about the location of the new public administration building, Dean said “We are looking at where the Nifty Cleaner’s Building was, and we are looking at facing Green Street, removing the police department with a drive through bay for the fire department. We have some conceptional site plans and needs analysis for the building. We don’t have anything definite at this point but we are very thankful.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department is scheduled to receive $150,000 to replace its aging and outdated radio dispatch system. Sheriff Lou Roberts was a happy camper when he received the news of the allocation of the money to JCSO, “I have not been told officially the sheriff’s department was in the budget and we certainly appreciate any funding. I know the hard work that was put in by Senator Gainer and Representative Drake for us and I look forward to the official news.”
Last and certainly not least on the list of scheduled monies coming to Jackson County was $526,541 for Chipola College for installation of underground utilities and another $200,000 for its civil and industrial engineering program.
The Legislature approved returning just over 300 acres of the former Dozier School for Boys to Jackson County. Senator Gainer is working to ensure that any ground or building contamination be cleaned up at the state’s expense before the property is deeded to the county.
In statewide business, all state employees will receive a pay increase for the first time in eleven years. State employees who make less than $40,000 per year will receive an annual increase of $1,400. Those making more than $40,000 will receive $1,000 per year. Law enforcement and corrections officers will get larger raises. Law enforcement will receive a 5% increase in pay while corrections officers will get a $2,500 a year raise. In addition to the pay increases, the starting salary for corrections officers will increase to $33,500. These pay raises must be approved by Governor Rick Scott and if approved, will take effect October 01, 2017.
All items are awaiting signature by Governor Rick Scott. The Times will cover what items are approved and not approved by Governor Rick Scott when that occurs.