State legislators hear the concerns of Jackson County

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    Senator George Gainer

    Jackson County and Washington County have shared many customs and ideas through the years. Their agriculture is almost parallel as are many other avenues of their enterprises. As of last October 10, they now share another common bond – the need to improve their organization in the event of a catastrophic event such as Michael.
    Senator George Gainer and Representative Brad Drake met with local leaders and constituents in both counties Wednesday.​ The Times caught up with them at the board room of the Jackson County School Board office where their second meeting of the day was held.
    Following the meeting, the Times asked Senator George Gainer about his position on assisting with Jackson County being given money to repave the Dozier property, “That is ultimately a decision that will be made in Chipley (FDOT headquarters) and although I haven’t seen the plans, I am sure I would look favorably on anything that would approve that and get it ready for future use.”
    Jackson County residents inquired about help from the legislature to aide with better wages for teachers.
    Representative Brad Drake made it clear that he recognizes the hard work and dedication of educators, and also acknowledged that funding is not always readily available. “If there is an opportunity that we can do anything, the Florida legislature can do anything to recognize and show appreciation to our teachers for what they do for us and our children day in and day out, I certainly want to be a part of it,” Representative Drake said.
    Gainer’s thoughts on increased wages for teachers, “I definitely think there is some validity in that. But I think we can take some of these existing dollars we have and put in their fund and that will take care of their retirement, will cover their raises and everything without raising Floridians taxes. But yes, teachers do need to make more money.”
    Jackson Hospital CEO James Platt addressed the legislators concerning a bill that would allow Jackson Hospital to expand their service area to Campbellton and Graceville, all contingent on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners providing support for this action. Senator Gainer was in support of this move, “This is where they want a special tax district which would not levy a tax, but would actually expand the area of service for the hospital. The benefit of this would be that Jackson Hospital would have the availability to treat more people outside of the established area they have now. It wouldn’t cost anyone any money and it could very possibly give them the opportunity to offer better health care.”
    “When we have these types of meetings, it allows us to come to the communities, come to the doorsteps of the citizens who live in small towns and small areas who may not have the opportunity to travel to Tallahassee,” said Representative Brad Drake.​
    Jackson County Administrator Wilanne Daniels talked about plans for Endeavor, “We have been looking at an overall plan for the Endeavor property, specifically it being a major piece to our recovery post Hurricane. We have several projects we are looking at but one thing we will be looking at from state funding is the paving of Pooser Road which is a key road that runs through that property. We are also looking at other infrastructure to that property, whether that be roads, utilities, etcetera.”
    The need to improve their organizational charts became very apparent and they felt the solution for both counties was to consolidate government offices.​​
    In clarifying the consolidation of government offices, Daniels said, “It has been a long-term aspiration of the county commissioners to consolidate government offices under one roof as much as possible. Not all government offices can go under one area but after the hurricane more than ever we saw the need for that. Our goal is not only to make it more efficient and time effective for citizens but it’s also to be more efficient with funding and it’s also just practical.”​
    Senator Gainer and Representative Drake said they will take the information from their meetings to Tallahassee.

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