By BEN GRAFTON
In the first item of business at the Freeport City Council meeting of July 23, the election results for the open Council seat were certified. Following this, Mayor Mickey Marse administered the oath of office to newly-elected Councilwoman Elizabeth Brannon.
Brannon’s election created an opening on the Freeport Planning Board. Councilman Earl King nominated Greg Free to fill this post and the Council approved.
City Planner Latilda Henninger advised the Council that a development application for a shopping center with a new grocery store was on her desk. She said she expected the Planning Board to recommend this development for approval at the Council meeting in August.
Sheriff Mike Adkinson briefly addressed the Council, stating that it was his intent to provide good service to the city and that he looked forward to developing a good relationship with the city.
Fire Chief Ben Greenslait reported that the department answered 83 calls in June, compared to 89 calls in the same month of 2008. Total calls answered year-to-date are 48 more than in the same period last year. Greenslait said that he did not expect the number of calls to fall off any until possibly September, when traffic volume may decline. He also noted that from 47-to-49 percent of the calls were outside of the city limits and that a similar report had been presented at a recent Walton County budget meeting.
Greenslait said that he, Marse and City Clerk Robin Haynes had interviewed eight applicants for the full-time fireman vacancy in the department. The Council approved hiring Jasper Carter, who has been filling one of the department’s part-time positions, to fill the vacancy. This move creates two part-time vacancies and both Marse and Greenslait declared that correcting this situation constitutes an emergency in the department. After discussion, the Council approved filling the vacancies with Terry Ratffield and James Southern from the list of those interviewed for the full-time position.
Park Director Shane Supple advised the Council that the Freeport Sports Complex at Hammock Bay had been submitted to the League of Cities for a Florida Citizenship award. The complex was not selected for this award but it will be featured in a “best practices” publication that will be available at the League’s annual conference. It will also be included in the September/October issue of “Quality Cities.”
Supple said that three-on-three basketball and four-on-four football programs are starting up. He also said that ASP Sports of Pensacola will be holding one baseball tournament each month in August, September, October and November at the complex. These tournaments are expected to attract at least 20 teams to each event.
City Engineer Charles Peters told the Council that he expected to have the permit for paving Washington and Jefferson Streets within a week. In view of the relatively small scale of the job, the Council approved Marse’s request to ask several contractors to submit prices for the job instead of going through the full formal bidding process.
Peters said that work on No. 7 Well is about 65-percent complete. He estimates the project is going to overrun the contract completion date by about 90 days. He said the contractor had requested a 60-day extension, but this request has been denied because of performance considerations. The biggest problem is the electrical work. Some electrical equipment orders have just been placed. The contract’s liquidated damages clause will be held open. The prime contractor has been asked to submit a well thought-out estimate of the completion date.
Additional issues with turbidity in the irrigation effluent from the sewage plant project have arisen. Peters will work with the contractor to resolve these issues.
The Council set a tentative millage rate of 3.9 mils for the budget. This is the same as last year. This rate, coupled with real estate values, should produce enough revenue for the budget.
A budget workshop is scheduled for August 6 at 7 p.m., and the first public budget hearing will be held before the regular Council meeting that is scheduled on September 8. Bill Arnett, executive director for the Walton County Economic Development Alliance (EDA), addressed the Council. He said he will meet with employers to develop information about what they think is needed to retain and expand businesses in the county. An inventory of available buildings will be produced as well as a Web site and a news letter. Marse and Brannon are current members of the board of directors of EDA.
The Florida League of Cities is asking for input so that a letter containing the three top issues of concern to the cities may be sent to the legislature for the fall session.
The city attorney will send notices to the owners of empty dilapidated buildings advising them that if corrective action is not taken, legal action will be initiated.
Henninger said that the city will partner with the county to seek a grant for port improvements.
Kevin Chilcutt of radio station WZEP told the Council that the city’s vision in providing equipment that was available to respond to the fatal boating accident at the Clyde Wells bridge should be commended. The fire department’s equipment and divers were instrumental in recovering the body of the accident’s victim.
Contact Ben Grafton at email@example.com.