Crowd small at town hall gathering

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Meeting was held at Station 20

By Jim Clark
County Commissioners and staff held a town hall meeting on Friday, Aug. 9, at Fire Station 20 near U.S. 27, but there were almost as many officials there as members of the general public.
Commissioners each gave a report, starting with Earl Arnett, in whose district the meeting was held.
He spoke of road improvements in his area, the two new ladder trucks for Marion County Fire Rescue, one of which was on display, parks and recreation and library activities.
Chairman Kathy Bryant spoke of the gains in employment, and added that commissioners “have worked very hard on economic development.” She noted that Forbes Magazine had just rated Marion County as one of the top places in the country in job growth rate.
She continued along that line, citing the commerce park at U.S. 27 and Interstate 75, and said she was “excited to see FedEx plans come to fruition.”
Bryant spoke about the budget, saying that things “have been a little challenging” as the county prepares the budget. She spoke of various reductions in personnel and praised the installation of solar panels to produce hot water at the jail.
The production of compressed natural gas was a key topic of conversation, who also noted that the county wouldn’t “ever have to site another landfill in Marion County” because of an agreement with Sumter County.
Carl Zalak continued discussion of the compressed natural gas, saying he originally wondered if the county could “wean ourselves off foreign oil.” He spearheaded the plan to create a natural gas station, putting a plan together that received state funding for the project. The county will convert vehicles to the natural gas, and Zalak said the county “is working with the School Board” to get school buses into the fold.
Stan McClain said that he campaigned to “find a long term solution to solid waste,” and echoed the sentiments of others that the goal had been reached with the Sumter County plan. “We were able; to buy into that project from the beginning.”
David Moore thanked Station 20 for hosting, and said they were maintaining dialogue with the Legislative Delegation, although it was “off season” and there was no session in progress. “We’re still talking to state officials.”
Brian Dotten, commander of the Northwest District for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, warned people about scams that were targeting the elderly.
In the portion open to the public, only a few people spoke. Linda Miller asked commissioners to make sure that they would not take part in any “Agenda 21 nonsense.” Bryant told her, “To my knowledge we don’t have any of those initiatives.
Vern Uhlinger suggested that just a few vehicles at a time be converted to natural gas to make sure it worked as advertised.
Sandy Wingerter asked about Silver Springs, and McClain responded, noting that the state takes over on Oct. 1. He said he would be part of an advisory group that would meet in September.
Bryant talked about campers having access to the water. “That’s a game-changer,” she said.