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Code board pushed under the bus

The Baker County Commission printed out a road map last week on how to beat a fine by the Baker County Code Enforcement Board for non-compliance.

Wait until an election year and plead hardship.

In a textbook example of how to set a horrible precedent, the county board reduced a non-compliance fine from $1410 down to $187.84, the lower amount equal to what the county zoning department spent processing the case plus a $50 fine.

The code board, at its April meeting, cut the original $2820 fine owed by Roger Harvey for non-skirting of a mobile home in half (by a 5-2 vote) and the defendant, as he has the right to do, appealed it to the commission.

Mr. Harvey, who showed up at the code board meeting with a bit of an attitude, had no credible defense as to why he ignored the initial complaint in 2010, why he did not attend a hearing on the case or why he let the fine accumulate during the maximum 180 days.

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Decline to be lobbied

My guess is that county commissioners have already figured out that part of the reason opposition to the medical waste incinerator east of Macclenny grew legs so swiftly is be­­­cause of the perception that the wheeling and dealing had taken place out of the sunshine.

That’s not to diminish the environmental concerns held by opponents, but that perception of “good ole’ boy” deal making didn’t help matters for the proponents of the plan.

First some background.

Yes, officials of Integrated Waste Management Systems [IWMS], along with Darryl Register, director of the both Chamber of Commerce and Baker County Development Commission, lobbied individual commissioners before the plan surfaced two months ago.

Others, including yours truly, were aware the company was seeking support, both financially and otherwise, to locate the incinerator at Enterprise East. The plan had been floated the better part of one year.

Mr. Register, in fact, sought to delay the initial press coverage of the initiative for a brief period, citing fear of losing state funding for infrastructure. That was the week the legal notices for public hearings on the company’s development agreement were scheduled to publish. We declined the request and published the initial article that ignited a storm of protest.

Many yelled that there was a Sunshine Law violation lurking somewhere in that incinerator plan because it was obvious officials, both city and county, were aware of it.

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Which drugs are the worst?

An acquaintance queried the other day: which is harming Baker County more — prescription pill abuse or methamphetamine?

Hmmm.

The correct response is, I suppose, who cares? They both are taking a toll destined to bring misery to users and heartache to their families. They merely do so to varying degrees.

Is the abuse worse here than elsewhere? The correct response to that, I suppose, also is who cares? Whether it’s worse here than, say, in Clay or St. Johns counties misses the point. We don’t live in Clay or St. Johns counties, and whatever problems beset us because so many people chase drug habits are our problems.

Here’s what we do know.

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Waive off enviro-risk prospects

The medical waste incinerator looks to be, well, cooked.

Last week the Pennsylvania company proposing to place what it says would be a $27 million operation east of Macclenny called for a breather before proceeding with its request for both Baker County and the city’s approval.

A delay, in this case, is tantamount to throwing a bucket of ice water on a burning book of matches.

Two county commissioners declared this week they, like dozens and probably hundreds of constituents, don’t want to have anything to do with the burning of medical waste in or near Baker County. Assuming they don’t change their mind, that means only a single vote separates the plan and its demise.

The others, we can assume, are sniffing the air (excuse the pun) and appeared noncommittal for now. Maybe they want to give (or appear so) Integrated Waste Management Systems more time to gel up its effort to quell fears that the incinerator will be an environmental freak show.

The company insists that, with approval from the multi-layered environmental regulation agencies, what it will send into the air is harmless.

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