By ALICIA LEONARD
During the June 8 DeFuniak City Council meeting, Council members discussed historic preservation, property purchases, and cemetery resolutions.
Mayor Harold Carpenter started the meeting off by appointing Julia Walker to a four-year term to the DeFuniak Springs Housing Authority. The Council approved the appointment unanimously.
DeFuniak Springs resident Ann Robinson requested permission to send in photos of DeFuniak Springs to in order to participate in the National Trust for Historic Preservation project, “This Place Matters.” The project takes photos submitted by residents of towns across the country in order to note their historical significance and preserve them in one place. The Council encouraged Robinson to send in photos of the city. Robinson also mentioned to the Council that she had spoken with officials from the National Parks Service and had been advised that Lake DeFuniak in the center of town, and its surrounding area could meet the criteria to be designated as a state park. Robinson told the Council that this designation would place DeFuniak on tourist guides and publications across the country and increase travel to the city.
The Council unanimously approved the purchase of four parcels near the DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport. The purchase of the land is designed, according to a memo by Assistant City Manager William Holloway, “for future improvements to the airport” and are “designed to minimize the disruption to the community.” The property purchase is funded by an 80/20 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The 20 percent to be funded by the city was included in this year’s budget. Three parcels are located on Gene Hurley Road and one is located on Squirrel Haven Road. The first three parcels were negotiated for purchase close to their appraisal price. The last property, on Squirrel Haven Road, was purchased for $45,000, with the appraisal price being $28,000. Councilman Don Harrison added that he understood the purchases were necessary for the airport to move forward, he felt the city “overpaid” for the property purchased on Squirrel Haven Road.
DeFuniak Springs Fire Chief Brian Coley and City Administrative Assistant Michelle Schack both made presentation to the Council on cost-saving measures to be considered in the future. Coley presented information on a frequency bridge between 800 MHz verses Vh radios, that he said could save a substantial amount of money for the city. Schack presented a study on how to make the rentals of the Chautauqua building and Community Center more cost effective. Both presentations were assignments that were part of the Leadership Walton class and the Dale Carnegie portion of the class, led by Dr. Joe Carnley. Schack and Coley were both praised heavily by Carnley, who told the Council that he traveled from Destin to introduce the two and expound on the excellent job they did as students of the program. The Council agreed that workshops would be in order to make the most of the assignment findings. Coley also received the Dale Carnegie Leadership award and Schack received the Dale Carnegie Innovation Award. City Manager Kim Kirby told the Council that these were the two highest honors one could receive from the program.
The Council unanimously agreed to sign an inter-local agreement with Walton County for a community block development grant project aimed at the extension of a sewer collection system to the Florida Transformer facility. The agreement states that the “extension will compliment the investments already made by the city and county in promoting inter-local community development cooperation, and will support and compliment local, state and regional comprehensive plans.”
The Council unanimously agreed to approve a resolution to be sent to the next Florida legislative session designating U.S. 331 as “The Beach Highway.” The resolution aims at increasing traffic back to U.S. 331 that has been diverted after construction of the Mid-Bay bridge in Okaloosa County.
The only real spirited part of the meeting came when the Council held the second reading and adoption of the new Magnolia Cemetery ordinance and resolution. No citizens came forward to speak in favor or against the resolution during the public hearing, but Council members were quite vocal on the issue.
Mayor Carpenter suggested rates to the Council that were lower than those originally proposed. Carpenter said he was making the suggested rate changes as chairman of the Cemetery Board. Carpenter suggest that the proposed rate of $1,000 per burial plot in the old section be lowered to $800. The $800 price for a plot in the new section be lower to $700 and a cremation niche in the columbarium be lower from $600 to $500. The resolution also called for a three-percent increase for all fees per year starting in October 2009.
Councilman James Huffman said he though the prices were still too high and that the city was out-pricing residents. “It’s getting to the point where it will be too expensive to move here or to leave here,” said Huffman. Councilman Henry Ennis said he agreed with Huffmans assessment. Both Huffman and Ennis said the lower prices were better, but they were still concerned that the average citizen would soon not be able to afford some of the city’s amenities. In the end, the Council passed the resolution for the price increase and the ordinance unanimously.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for June 22 at 6 p.m. to be held at City Hall.
By ALICIA LEONARD