By ASHLEY AMASON
Patrick Ballasch, senior design principal for DAG architects presented the final recommendations for the city of DeFuniak Springs public facilities space needs at the Sept. 27 meeting.
After an extensive study, DAG along with Preble-Rish Inc. recommended the site of the former Piggly Wiggly at the intersection of Baldwin Ave. and 10th St. for a new community center and city hall. The 15,873-square feet structure would cost approximately $6.1 million and offer more accessibility and amenities to the citizens of DeFuniak Springs.
The public works yard just west of the existing fire station by Harbeson Field would be the site of a newly constructed fire station. Unlike other city facilities, the fire station has ample square footage. The $2 million new construction is recommended based on the unlikelihood that it would withstand a major hurricane.
Currently, the city’s most pressing need is the relocation of the DeFuniak Springs Police Department, which operates in 5,000 square-feet, but according to the space needs survey, requires 13,476 square feet. Ballasch recommended demolishing the former health department building on U.S. 83 N. and constructing a new 15,988 square feet police department there, the cost of which is estimated at $4 million.
Chris Forehand of Preble-Rish Inc. presented methods to fund these projects. He suggested the Council look into a FEMA grant which awards up to $1 million. The application for this grant is due Jan. 15, 2011. He also suggested grants and low-interest loans from the USDA, in addition to bonds.
Councilman Don Harrison suggested the city begin looking into grants and demolition costs now, while construction costs are at 15-year lows. Mayor Pro-Tempore James Huffman agreed, stating, “[We need] to make a commitment, not piecemeal [the construction of these facilities] or we’ll be piecemealing for 20 years.” Huffman questioned the difference in borrowing $1 million for a water well or $3 million for new construction. Harrison answered the difference was the guarantee of repaying the loan from water line revenues.
The Council collectively directed City Manager Kim Kirby to move forward with the funding process, including the FEMA application due Jan. 2011, to research information on acquiring property for the site of the new city hall, and contact bond underwriters to learn what the city could afford.
The council unanimously approved Christmas Reflections Committeeman James Ash’s request to hire Melvin King to work with a second inmate crew to string lights. Likewise they awarded a bid for a 10-ton multi-purpose tilt trailer to Stonehenge Equipment in the amount of $9,850.
Regarding the staff’s recommendation to abandon the N. 18th St. right-of-way, which is owned to the east and west by Vista Properties of Fort Walton Beach and to the north by resident Helen Crenshaw, nearly two hours of discussion circled between Crenshaw, the Council, City Planner Greg Scoville and City Attorney Clayton Adkinson.
Helen Crenshaw addressed the Council saying, “I cannot believe you’re coming back again to abandon a road…you know the hurt and heartache I had in getting that road…I am a handicapped person, I am a taxpayer…This is my home and it’s very hurting to me that you’re even thinking of [abandoning] it…I need my roadway.”
Crenshaw’s son, Timothy Crenshaw, then told the Council the 18th St. right-of-way was the only drivable access his mother had to her home, and claimed the 19th St. access had been abandoned by the city over a decade ago. The Wabash Ave. access, he said, was inaccessible to vehicles because of ditches and swales.
Mayor Harold Carpenter affirmed he thought the 19th St. access had been abandoned.
Scoville told the Council the 19th St. access had not been abandoned and the request to abandon the 18th St. right-of-way was the result of the Crenshaws’ complaints about storm water runoff between 18th St. and 19th St.
Subsequently, Preble-Rish Inc. performed a topography survey and submitted a report to the Council Jan. 18, 2010 with the recommendation to place swales on the South side of the Crenshaw property and three other properties to resolve the runoff problem.
“What we’re trying to do is provide a solution to solve a drainage problem and at the same time make property more developable and provide access to the Crenshaw property,” Scoville said. “We’re trying to fix a multitude of problems….”
Read the full story in the September 30, 2010 edition of the Herald Breeze.