Last month the Board of County Commissioners voted to send a letter to the Florida Department of Health urging the removal of Gulf County Health Department director Marsha Lindeman.
The answer came back swiftly and forcefully.
In a letter dated 12 days after the date of the BOCC’s letter to the FDOH, Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of the FDOH John Armstrong replied that the department and he had “full confidence” in Lindeman, he had found the original allegations “unsubstantiated” and listed a number of Lindeman’s accomplishments during her tenure of less than two years.
Commissioners had voted to send the letter requesting Lindeman’s removal after the termination of a 25-year employee. A committee selected by the BOCC examined the matter and recommended the board take no action and that the termination, was in fact, justified and within Lindeman’s discretion.
However, Commissioner Carmen McLemore insisted the termination would not have occurred if a local resident was in charge of the department – alluding to the FDOH decision two years ago to hire Lindeman over a Wewahitchka man – and insisted the BOCC express its displeasure.
Commissioners Tan Smiley and Warren Yeager joined the motion, Commissioner Bill Williams dissented stating the board had learned from the Lindeman hiring that this was a state matter and Commissioner Ward McDaniel abstained citing a conflict.
Armstrong stated in his reply that the department had looked into the allegations and found them unsubstantiated.
He cited a number of initiatives Lindeman had undertaken, including a community-wide rabies clinic when rabies was detected in the county; flu shot clinics in the public schools; collaboration with Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf to broaden access to health care and strategic planning for the community and department, among others.
“Marsha Lindeman is committed to protecting and promoting the health of those residing and visiting Gulf County,” Armstrong wrote. “I support the decisions she made and look forward to working with her as she continues to provide public health leadership in Gulf County.”
Williams, who had the county attorney read the letter for the board during Tuesday’s regular bi-monthly meeting – McLemore was absent due to a doctor’s appointment – hoped Armstrong’s letter would close the issue.
“We sent the letter, they sent a letter, I think it is closed,” Yeager said.
Cape San Blas Lighthouse
The BOCC approved moving forward with plans to make a claim for the Cape San Blas Lighthouse and keepers’ quarters as the process of federal government disposal of the land moves ahead. McDaniel, who offered the motion, said his idea was to move the lighthouse and quarters to Salinas Park.
Yeager said he had talked with city officials and also with representatives with the St. Joseph Historical Society, and said the common theme is to save the historical lighthouse, though there is are multiple opinions on a suitable location.
“It makes zero sense to me to move that (lighthouse) into town when we have a perfectly suitable area,” Williams said.
He cautioned, however, that the county needed to appoint a committee to craft concrete plans on logistics, costs, both for relocation but also ongoing maintenance.
County Road 386
Commissioners approved spending $38,000 from the Secondary Road and Bridge Fund to pay for middle-striping and the placing of nighttime reflectors on County Road 386 due to dangerous conditions on the dark and unlined road.
Commissioners also approved sending a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation that the agency take back ownership, and maintenance, of the road and the Overstreet Bridge on the road. At one time the bridge was a state responsibility, McDaniel noted, and in the small county where resources are tight the state should resume responsibility for the bridge and also the entire length of County Road 386.
The RESTORE Committee co-chair Loretta Costin reported that the committee had come up with a broad strokes plan for moving ahead on projects to spend the potential BP fine money coming the county’s way.
She said the committee had decided any funds be divided into two pots – one for environmental protection projects, the other for diversifying the economy. She said those numbers could be flexible.
She said the committee was prepared to accept pre-proposals from government entities and non-profit organizations – a one- or two-page summary of the project with timeline, costs, benefits, etc. That would give the committee an idea of what projects were being proposed.
Meanwhile the committee would develop a formal application process for both types of proposals. There would be a due date for all applications and they would be evaluated and scored by the committee.
The committee meets at 11 a.m. ET every Tuesday. The meetings are open to the public. Beginning next month, one meeting per month will be moved to 5 p.m. ET, said county attorney Jeremy Novak.